San Francisco Fest gives thesp Kurosawa Award

SAN FRANCISCO — Even wonder why Warren Beatty has made so few films? The man himself had a typically frank yet vague answer last Friday: “It’s tough to make a movie — particularly if you’ve got something better to do.”

The occasion was his San Francisco Intl. Film Festival Akira Kurosawa Award for “lifetime achievement in directing” — yes, despite a scant 3½ features (“Heaven Can Wait” was co-directed with Buck Henry).

During an hourlong stage chat with New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell, a genial, softspoken, sometimes skittish Beatty mused on 40 years in the biz. Among the more fascinating tidbits:

? Francois Truffaut first recommended “Bonnie & Clyde” to him (after ean-Luc Godard had given up on the idea). Beatty at first intended only to direct, with his ideal male lead being Bob Dylan.

? “Heaven Can Wait” was designed as a vehicle for close friend Muhammad Ali, who eventually turned it down.

? “Reds,” screened after the interview, evolved in similarly unexpected fashion. The star visited Moscow hoping to make another film there, only to encounter static from the Soviet government. However, the Soviets did solicit his interest in a planned John Reed bio to be directed by epic “War and Peace” helmer Sergei Bondarchuk. (He declined.)

The fest also gave Kevin Spacey a nod on Wednesday. He and Beatty were feted at a big-ticket Film Society Awards Night dinner Thursday also attended by local residents Sean Penn, Sharon Stone and state Sen. John Burton (D-San Francisco).

SFIFF’s 45th edition winds down Thursday with Woody Allen<'s "Hollywood Ending."

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more