Warren Beatty Interview

AFI Night at the MoviesHere’s a goodie – a vintage Video Business Magazine interview with Warren Beatty from the fall of 2006 regarding Paramount’s release of the 25th Anniversary DVD Edition his 1981 film Reds. It marked the actor/director/producer’s first plunge into the world of Digital Video Discs.

Disc Dish: We’re excited to be talking to you about your first big DVD experience!

Warren Beatty: My only DVD experience, that’s right. I hadn’t realized the importance of DVD before. But now I know that it’s terribly important.

DD: And what has led you to realize that it’s so vital, business aside?

Beatty: I believe that DVD is that which gives some hope to retaining some content in movies that will appeal to an older audience or the more sophisticated audience or the audience that doesn’t need or
desire to see a movie on a Friday night that audiences in three thousand other theaters can understand. DVD delivers such a large portion of the pie that it’s time for us to face the facts coupled with these new technologies.

DD: What was it like sitting down and examining a film that you wrote, produced, directed and starred in over 25 years ago?

Beatty: It was a pleasure, a real pleasure.

DD: You famously did not conduct any interviews to promote the film when it was released theatrically back in 1981.

Beatty: I don’t feel that I get in the way of the film now like I did back then. Reds stands on its own today. I really have the feeling after seeing at the Director’s Guild the other night with an audience of
seven hundred people that the issues in the film are more accessible because we are now in a war, which were the conditions that existed during the times that the movie covers. The words are clearer—“profits”
is a subject that’s clearer.

Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton in Reds

Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton in Reds

DD: “Profits”—your character’s first line of dialog in the film.

Beatty: “Patriotism” or the perception of what is patriotic or not patriotic is also clearer now. It makes you feel good when a movie works. Usually when I see an old movie I’ve made, I say to myself, ‘Oh God, why did I do this?’ and ‘Why didn’t I change that?’ and things like that. With Reds, I didn’t see anything in it that I would change. And that’s an unusual feeling.

DD: I got that feeling after seeing what you had to say in Laurent Bouzereau’s supplemental documentaries. It was great to see [co-star] Jack Nicholson and [editor’ Dede Allen and [cinematographer] Vittorio Storraro appearing in new interviews about the film. Did you have to
twist their arms to get them on board?

Beatty: No, not at all.

DD: Not even Mr. Nicholson?

Beatty: No, no (laughs). It was a good experience for everybody and they were all happy to do it. Sadly, [production designer] Dick Sylbert and [costume designer] Shirley Russell are no longer alive and others are also gone.

DD: Do you consider recording a director’s commentary track?

Beatty: I don’t think you should talk while the movie was going on and say, ’Oh, look at that—look how smart I was’ or ‘What a brilliant shot that is!’ I don’t believe in that. Then again, I didn’t believe in doing
any of this DVD stuff and now I do.

DD: What prompted you to jump on the DVD train at this point in your career?

Beatty: I began to realize that if one was able to do this, then one owes it to the film itself so that the film can take the same advantages that books take. Now, like books, we that we can put it in our library and we can read it when we want to and we can put it down and then come back to it if we want to go to the bathroom or kitchen. We can do it at our own pace and it’s a more interactive experience then going to a movie at the theater and waiting for a boring scene until we can go to the candy counter.

RedsDVDDD: And who’s to say if it’s a boring scene or not until the movie’s over?

Beatty: That’s right. So, I mourn the loss of the gigantic screen, but I guess you can’t have everything.

DD: I don’t know if I’d consider it a loss. Maybe DVD is just accessory to the giant screen.

Beatty: Or the giant screen will be the accessory to the picture that you watch at home.

DD: You have so many other films that warrant the kind of Special Edition treatment that Reds has received. What film would you like to tackle for your next DVD?

Beatty: That’s like asking which of your children do you like the most!

DD: Oh come on, I’m sure all parents have a favorite child! Certainly, there are some films that mean a bit more to you than others?

Beatty: Well, the pictures that I produced I feel very close to. Whether it’s Bonnie and Clyde or Bugsy or Bulworth or Heaven Can Wait or Reds or Shampoo or Dick Tracy—I believe they’re all very good movies and worth the attention.

DD: That said, do you see yourself working on the DVD for some of these films over the next couple of years?

Beatty: Yes, I think I’ll be much more actively interested in doing that now. After I finished doing Reds, then I got very interested in doing the DVD for Bugsy, which I just did with Sony.

DD: Yes, it’s coming out in December. Maybe we’ll talk to you again about that one when the time comes.

Beatty: Well, that would be fine.

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.