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Beatifying Beatty

Hollywood icon honored by AFI

Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Diane Keaton, Faye Dunaway and Robert Downey Jr. were among the stars who graced the Kodak Theater stage Thursday to toast and slightly roast their friend, Warren Beatty, as he received the 36th AFI Life Achievement Award.

Of course, the test of true friendship may have been sitting through the more-than-four-hour kudofest waiting for the man of the night to finally take the stage.

The big question of the night — would the Lakers game end in time for Jack Nicholson to make an appearance — was answered at 10:37 p.m. when Nicholson strolled on stage and put on a brave face despite the Lakers loss. “You may wonder why I call him a pro,” Nicholson said of Beatty, “What else are you going to call a guy that’s won more awards than he has made pictures?”

Along with his screen work — “Reds,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Bulworth” and “Shampoo,” among others titles, were all highlighted in clip form (they even kept “Ishtar” in the mix) — Beatty’s work in politics was well represented by guests such as George McGovern, Jerry Brown and Gary Hart.

But the standing ovation was reserved for Bill Clinton, who told the aud, “I saw ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and it made me feel grateful that I had found a less lethal way to escape rural poverty and obscurity. I later learned it was only slightly less lethal.” He also heaped praise upon “Heaven Can Wait,” saying he loved the film because, “it was the first time in my life that I realized that sometimes you do get second chances and later on I realized how much we all need them.”Beatty lapped up the lauds while sitting next to wife Annette Bening and sister Shirley MacLaine.

“Somebody told me that tonight would put me back in psychoanalysis but I think they are wrong,” said Beatty. “This night is psychoanalysis,”

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