Beatty Blitzes Media To Hype 'Dick Tracy'

Posted: June 24, 1990

Back in February, when the ever-reticent Warren Beatty agreed to spend time with Premiere executive editor Peter Biskind for a story on the star's $32 million baby, Dick Tracy, Beatty informed Biskind that he had not done a substantial interview in 14 years, "but he decided to do this one and a few others."

Beatty - along with co-stars Madonna and Al Pacino (as the prosthetically reconfigured gangster Big Boy Caprice) - ended up on the cover of the movie monthly's current issue. He also ended up on the cover of Newsweek, again alongside Madonna.

Solo, Beatty's mug can be found on a recent Rolling Stone and inside the July Vanity Fair. Hollywood's acclaimed hyphenate (actor-writer-director- producer-lover) sat down for interviews with each of the publications, as he did again several weeks ago, for a half-dozen or so journalists who traipsed west to assess his stylized crimestopper picture and its rakish creator.

There was Entertainment Weekly (which used Chester Gould's hawk-nosed, square-jawed rendering of the comic strip flatfoot for its cover) and The Philadelphia Inquirer. There was the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun, the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit Free Press. The Los Angeles Times' Jack Mathews spent nine hours and $56 on a Chinese dinner with the man.

On television, Beatty was first sighted on Oscar night in a tete-a-tete with Barbara Walters. Walters recounted how awful their first interview (20 years ago on the Today show) had been, and Beatty rolled his eyes and fluttered his eyelashes. Pregnant with pauses, the interview seemed to be about how lousy an interview he was.

As the Disney studio release crept nearer to its June 15 opening on 2,332 screens - fueled by a fevered marketing and media campaign that some pundits have tagged as high as the film's cost itself - Beatty returned to television: he read his own Top Ten list on Late Night With David Letterman; he was the subject of a 20/20 report, and he sat down with Joan Lunden for a two-parter on Good Morning America.

On Thursday night, June 14, at the gala "world premiere" of Dick Tracy at Disney World, Beatty, upset that he wasn't being questioned by co-anchors Sam Donaldson or Diane Sawyer, berated his interrogator, PrimeTime Live correspondent Judd Rose. ("You're not even a correspondent - unless, of course, in some divorce trial," Beatty jabbed, none too pleasantly.)

There were, too, a slew of segments - including ones for Entertainment Tonight, CBS This Morning and Evening Magazine - produced at the Orlando junket.

There are large chunks from these "few" interviews that are interchangeable - Beatty declining to discuss his offscreen relationship with Madonna, or dishing platitudes about Tracy's cast of funny-faced bad guys.

In a sense, the actor has just been giving the same one-on-one for the last few months. The backdrop changes, as do the writers or TV reporters, but the substance, pretty much, is identical.

Beatty has submitted to this evidently painful process to plug his movie. (In Premiere, he likened being interviewed to having a prostate examination - "the whole idea of it offends me.") It is something, he realized after the debacle that was Ishtar, that every star - even Warren Beatty - has to do.

When the only publicity about the 1987 Dustin Hoffman/Beatty road movie was bad publicity - its $40 million budget and its petulant stars - the movie sank. There were loads of Ishtar stories, and they flashed onto the media wires and infotainment programs, but they all focused on the negative stuff. Beatty did not want a repeat performance.

Talking to the Los Angeles Times' Mathews, Beatty noted that the communications revolution has made the speed with which information can move more important than the information itself.

"Because you can't cut down on the technology," Beatty explained, "there has to be a lot more talk. I've decided that it's stingy of me not to participate in that talk. . . . It's self-defeating, noncontributive and ultimately antisocial not to participate."

Maybe so. But the mere fact that Beatty, in the service of hype, performs his public dance doesn't by rights make what he has to say any more contributive. Except, perhaps, to the movie's box office.

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