As Warren Beatty puts it, ”We like to do a lot of takes.” He isn’t indulging in understatement. Still as much of a perfectionist as ever, Beatty, 56, has turned Love Affair — the $30 million remake of An Affair to Remember, in which he costars with his wife, Annette Bening — into a production its cast and crew won’t soon forget.
Like Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, Beatty is known for his meticulous approach to filmmaking, and Love Affair will only enhance this reputation. He’s producing the movie, not directing it (that task is left to Moonlighting creator Glenn Gordon Caron), but he’s overseeing all aspects of the film. On-set observers say that long discussions between Beatty, Caron, and Oscar-winning cinematographer Conrad Hall about every shot are the order of the day. ”Warren is very sweet,” notes Affair costar Pierce Brosnan (Mrs. Doubtfire), ”but once he gets obsessed with something, he’s obsessed.”
According to reports from the Warner Bros. lot, the atmosphere is congenial — Beatty and Bening, who enjoy playing with their 22-month-old baby, Kathlyn, when not on camera, have great chemistry — but there is much improvising and many, many takes. ”The first day of work I couldn’t believe it,” says Brosnan. ”I thought it would be a simple scene between Annette, myself, and Warren. Suddenly, we were on the twentieth take. Warren likes to get to the marrow of the scene.” Confirms one New York crew member, a simple restaurant scene with Beatty and costars Kate Capshaw and Garry Shandling took 12 hours: ”They shot it from every conceivable angle.”
Maybe the project itself is fueling Beatty’s quest for perfection: He’s been passionate about retelling 1957’s Cary Grant–Deborah Kerr tale and its 1939 precursor, Love Affair, for more years than even he can remember. Two years ago, he started working with writer Robert Towne on four drafts of the script before Towne bailed to write The Firm. As momentum for a remake grew — thanks to the original’s prominence in the hit Sleepless in Seattle — Warner Bros. seriously considered teaming up that now-defunct couple Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson. ”Ted and Whoopi’s interest goosed Warren into committing to it,” says one production source. Responds Beatty, ”I heard about their interest after I committed.”
Even after getting the green light, Beatty still tinkered with the script. Caron penned numerous rewrites after production began in August, often delivering top secret pages to actors the nights before filming. Most recently, James Toback (Bugsy) was called in to polish dialogue. ”There’s probably anxiety because it’s not a heavyweight piece of material,” says Towne. ”It’s going to be sentimental, but they also want it to be funny. You’ll either get away with it or you won’t.”
Beatty says the film is only three days over its 67-day schedule and that its post-Thanksgiving hiatus was planned from the start. As for the excessive takes, ”There’s been no blanket on people’s creativity, ” says Beatty. ”A lot of takes is part of the creative process. Talk to Stanley Kubrick, he’ll do 90 takes.”
Caron, who tangled with the artistic temperaments of Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd on Moonlighting, seems to be taking the situation in stride. ”I’ve & never been [on a set] where an actor hasn’t said, ‘Can I do one more?”’ he says. ”I’m making sure everybody is happy. It beats working at Kmart.” — Additional reporting by Jeffrey Wells, with Cindy Pearlman and Bobby Rivers