Initial reports were pretty vague, but we at least knew Warren Beatty was about to direct a new movie. Deadline carried a quote from Brad Grey, CEO of Paramount. This was all he had to say about the film:
Warren’s script is quintessential Beatty, elegantly written and wonderfully entertaining. It is our privilege to have one of the great artists in the history of the film industry come home to Paramount.
The only other clue in that story as to what the film might be about? That it would be a “comedy”.
It was up to Showbiz 411, then, to be rather more specific:
Beatty will finally deliver his Howard Hughes biopic, in the works for at least 25 years.
Indeed, reading between the lines, it seems that Beatty’s Hughes film actually really could have at least a slight comedic bent.
Back in the 80s, there was a script for the project written by Elaine May, half of the Nichols and May comedy duo and a true champ with the funny stuff.* I’d imagine she’d at least make it wry, if not necessarily packed full of chuckles.
Grey seems to be suggesting that the current script is a full-on By Warren Beatty affair, but that doesn’t mean Mr. B would have changed his basic intent for the film in the last two and a half decades. Once meant to be funny, always meant to be funny? Very possibly.
Still, it remains to be seen what kind of comedy. Somehow I don’t think we’ll be expected to hoot and holler as Howard fills yet another jar with pee, screws on the lid with his clawed hands and adds it to his massive collection. Maybe the film will go as far as pea-sorting slapstick, but if it’s really supposed to be funny, I expect the sad decline of Hughes into mental illness and obsession will be left outside of the frame.
The 411 report notes that a young version of Hughes is featured in the script, and that a lookalike for Beatty will be sought for those scenes. This is the only indication, indirect as it is, that Beatty wants to play the title role himself. I guess we were just supposed to assume this.
Sure. Why not.
*And I’m counting her film Ishtar which, despite everything else, and all of the bitter ink spilled over it, is often very funny indeed.