Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America

January 04, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST

Warren Beatty hasn’t starred in a movie in nine years, a good movie in 12 years, and a great movie in 29 years, but this exhaustively researched bio is as undeniably compelling as the man himself. A pout-faced lothario and master manipulator, Beatty charmed his way through a glitzy list of conquests (Leslie Caron, Julie Christie, Diane Keaton) and used that same focused charisma to crack the studios’ vise grip on production — maintaining absolute control over any film he took part in. He even seduced himself, his famed narcissism feeding everything he did. (He’s believed to be the subject of Carly Simon’s ”You’re So Vain.”) In Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America, Peter Biskind recounts endless on-the-set tales, some from Beatty himself, with an impressive lack of judgment, airing out the contradictions between memory and apocrypha that inevitably arise. In the process, he cleverly expands his scope until it’s less the story of a single star than the workings of the Hollywood firmament, where writers, producers, and lesser stellar bodies orbit blazing figures like Beatty, dragged in by their gravitational pull but constantly at risk of getting burned. A

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