Diane Keaton on Warren Beatty: ‘Sexy,’ ‘Mysterious’ and ‘Extremely Gifted’

Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton Reds

Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton carried on a famous romance, on and off the screen, around the making of “Reds.” Beatty wrote, directed and starred in the 1981 epic about American communist John Reed. Keaton played his lover, Louise Bryant.

The offscreen romance didn’t last. But 35 years later, Keaton is still a big fan – of the talent, charisma and obsessions that she says are all part of the essential Beatty. Keaton pronounced herself “thrilled” that Beatty’s long-planned turn as Howard Hughes is finally coming to the screen on Nov. 23.

In the run-up to the premiere of “Rules Don’t Apply,” Keaton talked about the her former lover and longtime friend.

Variety: What makes Warren Beatty such a unique figure?

Keaton: “The first time I saw Warren was in ‘Splendor in the Grass’ [in 1961.] I mean, come on! He was, I mean, to die for. A Dream. I mean, ‘Bonnie and Clyde?’ Come on. And not only was he beautiful, gorgeous and sexy and captivating and mysterious and a great movie star but he was also an unbelievable producer and director, or is rather, is also an unbelievable director and producer. All of this is just so unique.”

A Howard Hughes movie has been on his mind for a long time, right?

Keaton: “Right before we did ‘Reds’ [in 1981] he was grappling with the idea. It was very early on but it was on his mind. It has been on his mind for a very, very long time. But he did it! He pulled it off! I am excited for him. I am really happy for him. I mean, come on, it’s really an accomplishment among his many other accomplishments.”

Why does it take him so long to make a movie?

Keaton: “Work has always been a very complex proposition for Warren because he is a detail-oriented person. Everything receives microscopic review. . . . Warren rethinks and rethinks and then he rethinks some more. He’s highly unique and he’s extremely gifted…He really works on one project until, you know, he could just fall over.”

But are other people falling over, too? Does he wear people out?

Keaton: “So what? So what? My feeling is ‘Who cares?’ I mean life is short and experiences with remarkable people are rare so, hello, forget it. You know? I mean, the guy is amazing.”

He long mused about going into politics. Would Warren and government have been a good fit?

Keaton: “I think it would have been hard for Warren to be President of the United States, because of this thing of having to know every single aspect of an issue in order to make that all-important decision. … I have never seen anything like that kind of focus… ever, ever. I have been a witness.”

Why is nearly everyone charmed by Warren Beatty?

Keaton: “He is curious about everyone. He is so seductive in that regard. He makes you feel like you are the only one, the person that matters; that you are just absolutely fascinating, you know?” (Laughing). And it’s with everyone, across the board. He just has this presence.”