Monday 19 March 2018

Wily Warren Beatty and the universal art of ass-covering

The Oscars debacle was reflective of how the world works these days, and its handling was a masterclass in how to play the game, writes Brendan O'Connor

Warren Beatty and host Jimmy Kimmel on stage at the Oscars after the mix-up. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Warren Beatty and host Jimmy Kimmel on stage at the Oscars after the mix-up. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Like many of you, I initially put it down to Warren Beatty's legendary alleged vanity. It wasn't just the way he examined the card for a moment before passing it off ungallantly to Faye Dunaway so that she would be the one to make the wrong announcement. It was the way he then hogged the mike to explain, exactly and forensically, why it wasn't his fault. The Moonlight people had already been denied their moment in the sun, and now Beatty seemed to be compounding it by stealing their moment again to cover his ass.

But then you heard afterwards that Beatty had refused to hand over the wrong card they gave him. And you realised that Beatty was not just being vain here. Beatty was being sharp. This ain't Beatty's first time at the rodeo. Beatty knows the game. Beatty knows how the world works. And Beatty wasn't going to be caught on the wrong side of this thing. Beatty knows that if he handed over the card, there was a strong likelihood that someone would be telling him five minutes later that he wasn't in fact given the wrong card. Beatty didn't come down with the last shower, and he knows that neither did the notion of alternative facts. Most of all, Beatty knows that in the world we live in, the most important thing is not what went wrong but whose fault it is.

After all, this is a man who didn't work again for a decade after the 2001 disaster that was Town and Country, even though he wasn't even the director. Then again, it is thought that Beatty effectively wrestled control of the movie from the actual director after getting in a fist fight with him. He would have had him fired only he had done that on his previous movie - another disaster, Love Affair - so he didn't want anyone to see a pattern. So Beatty knows what it's like to get the blame. And he avoids it at all cost. This is a man who hired his own editor to edit his own cut of Ishtar (he was not the director of the movie), only acceding to the director actually cutting the film because he was worried she was spreading malicious stories about him.

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