Suave, dashingly handsome, intelligent, and talented. Mix that with being one of the biggest eligiable bachelors in Hollywood (until his marriage to Annette Bening) and you’ve got a star. Warren Beatty made his breakout in 1961 under Elia Kazan’s direction and opposite Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass (1961), though he had previous television experience in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959). At age 30 he achieved critical acclaim and power as a producer and star of Bonnie and Clyde (1967) which was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.
Because of his work on Bonnie and Clyde, Beatty is generally regarded as the precursor of the New Hollywood generation, which included such filmmakers as Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese.
Beatty was born in Richmond, Virginia’s Bellevue neighborhood. His father, Ira Owens Beaty, was a professor of psychology, public school administrator and real estate agent, and his mother, Kathlyn Corinne MacLean, was a Nova Scotia-born drama teacher; his grandparents were also teachers. The family was devoutly Baptist. His father moved the family from Richmond to Norfolk, Virginia and then Arlington, Virginia where he became a middle school principal. Beatty’s elder sister of three years is the actress and writer Shirley MacLaine.
Beatty was a star football player at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. He studied acting at Northwestern University but dropped out after his freshman year. While at Northwestern University, he appeared in the annual Dolphin show. Encouraged toward acting by his older sister, who had recently established herself as a Hollywood star, he decided to work as a stagehand at the National Theater in Washington, D.C., during the summer prior to his senior year. This enabled him to establish contact with a few famous actors. Upon graduation from high school, he turned down 10 football scholarships to enroll in drama school.