On this day in 1981, Reds, a movie about an American Communist and the Russian Revolution written by, directed and starring Warren Beatty–an actor who became a prominent Hollywood leading man in the 1960s with such movies as Bonnie and Clyde–premieres in U.S. theaters. Reds, based on a true story, received 12 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Beatty) and Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor for Beatty’s co-stars Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Beatty took home an Oscar for Best Director, his inaugural win in that category. He had received his first Best Director Oscar nomination several years earlier for his directorial debut, 1978’s Heaven Can Wait.
Beatty was born on March 30, 1937, in Richmond, Virginia, and studied acting at Northwestern University and later with the legendary teacher Stella Adler in New York City. After a string of early roles in TV and theater, he made his big-screen debut in 1961’s Splendor in the Grass, directed by Elia Kazan and co-starring Natalie Wood. In 1967, he and Faye Dunaway co-starred as the notorious outlaw lovers portrayed in the box-office hit Bonnie and Clyde. During the 1970s, Beatty appeared in such films as McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), with Julie Christie; Shampoo (1975), a satire he co-wrote about a womanizing Beverly Hills hairdresser; and Heaven Can Wait (1978), in which he portrayed a pro football player who inhabits another man’s body following an accident. The film, which Beatty directed, was nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Beatty), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Warden) and Best Supporting Actress (Dyan Cannon).
Beatty’s next movie was 1981’s ambitious Reds, a historical epic running more than three hours in which he played the real-life radical journalist John Reed. Diane Keaton co-starred as Reed’s colleague and wife Louise Bryant, while Jack Nicholson played the playwright Eugene O’Neill and Maureen Stapleton (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance) was the anarchist Emma Goldman. Beatty followed Reds, which lost the Best Picture Oscar to Chariots of Fire, with the now-infamous big-budget box-office bomb Ishtar (1987), in which he and Dustin Hoffman starred as lounge singers who travel to Morocco.
During the 1990s, Beatty appeared in such films as Dick Tracy (1991), Bugsy (1992), in which he played the title role of the real-life gangster, and the political satire Bulworth (1998), which featured Halle Berry. Off screen, the actor was known for his political activism and his high-profile romances with such actresses as Julie Christie, Diane Keaton and Madonna. Beatty appears briefly in the pop star’s 1991 documentary Madonna: True or Dare. Since 1992, he has been married to the actress Annette Bening (The Grifters, American Beauty), his co-star in Bugsy and 1994’s An Affair to Remember. Beatty is the younger sibling of the actress Shirley MacLaine, the Oscar-winning star of Terms of Endearment (1984) and such films as The Apartment (1960), Steel Magnolias (1989) and Bewitched (2005).