REPORT: Hero Complex Film Festival, Day 1: Dick Tracy and Warren Beatty

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Travis Walecka
Hello-hello, my loyal geeks and geekettes. Thursday was Day One of the Los Angeles Times (dun-dun-dun-duhhh—more on that later) Hero Complex Film Festival. The event ever-so-conveniently takes place a block and a half away from yours truly, at the Mann’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd.

Day One was the screening of Dick Tracy, a pulpy, family/romantic-crime/action film. Yes, the 1930s comic strip adaptation pretty much had it all. Of course, there’s no better human being on Earth to articulate afterwards than Warren Beatty, who both starred and directed the cultish flick.

First off, there was a stellar arrival for this opening Thursday night. Times pop culture writer Geoff Boucher did a fine job emceeing the event, soothing a then Beatty-less crowd minutes before the screening. After the 1990 Disney film finished -- did anyone else have any of those wonderful action figures? Cards? --both Geoff and Warren sat down with the glaring fluorescents blinding them profusely.

“Is there any reason to look like Vincent Price?” an electrifyingly charming and unexpectedly humbling Beatty goofed about the ridiculous luminescence of the ground lamps.

After the light adjustment, it was if Beatty threw on his director’s hat right then and there. Dick Tracy was the first comic strip he read as a child, since it was in the funny papers as one of the few non-comedic funnies. Not intentionally, anyway. When Beatty joked that he read them by his fireplace, Boucher threatened to turn the lamps back up.

The two played nice together despite Beatty’s previous issues with the L.A. Times, as its parent company squabbled with the actor/director over the rights to Dick Tracy for a protracted amount of time. Oh, Beatty won… and referred to moviemaking as being like vomiting, except that directing Dick Tracy avoided that grotesque notion due to its wonderful ensemble cast.

Casting proved to be Warren’s most important measure of filmmaking. He relates the actual casting of actors to writing; if you take your time choosing the right person for the role -- which Beatty certainly does -- then casting will become plot. He also doesn’t interfere with actors on-set. Seeing how he was an esteemed actor himself, Warren listens to his actors and even jokes that he “doesn’t give direction to anybody” -- except, perhaps to Mumbles, the purple-clad scene-stealing mobster played by Dustin Hoffman. With a 102 temperature the night after winning an Academy Award for Rain Man, Beatty recommended that Hoffman imitate someone they both knew. Who? Beatty won’t say. Why? (The L.A. Times, of course).
Nonetheless to say, there were a lot of takes. Mumbles’ end result would have Kathy Bates in stitches.

Beatty claimed there will be a Dick Tracy 2. Why a sequel would come to fruition nearly 25 years later, no one knows. Not even Warren. And that didn’t stop the press -- or the fanboys -- from asking. Over and over.

When asked who Warren would cast as Dick Tracy, he said “I don’t know. A Romanian?”

Beatty said he doesn’t talk about movies that he hasn’t made yet, seeing how, previously, a Times article hurt the critically panned Ishtar. By the way there was sarcastic mention of a future “apologetic” screening -- sponsored by the L.A. Times -- of that very musical comedy with Hoffman.

Other highlights from Boucher’s Q&A included how important the marriage of lighting and coloring was to the film, considering the overall lack for more than primary pigmentation used in those days and how Beatty saw Al Pacino having breakfast one morning in Burbank, and asked the legendary actor who he would recommend to play Big Boy Caprise.

After several days of agonizing, Pacino returned to Beatty: “Are you serious…about me playing the part?”

Beatty retorted, “Well, I am now!”

Beatty also loved Dick Van Dyke, who played D.A. Fletcher, and especially loved how the veteran actor could take incredible falls without hurting himself. Well, in Dick Tracy, Van Dyke actually hurt himself, which then led a responsible Beatty to “send him to the Stairmaster, or something.”

When it came to the audience Q&A, one of the highlights was certainly not my question. After Beatty retorted that Charlie Korsmo, who played “Kid,” is now teaching law, and that “Director’s Cut” is a baffling term to the filmmaker, considering Beatty’s had final cut over every movie he’s made, I asked if the 1960s cartoon had any influence for the film. Without hesitation I was put down: No. Next! So much for a career in reporting.

Thankfully, after responding to questions about having no regrets in his career or “waste of spirit” as Boucher teasingly mentioned, or how there was no conflict with Tim Burton’s Batman which was a “lot more expensive and made a lot more money” the year before, or how there were no issues with the rating process, considering Dick Tracy was a Disney film that often took place in a hail of Tommy Gunfire (not to mention Madonna’s array of revealing garments), I got my comeback.

A fellow journalist asked: “Are there any particular movies or performances in the past few years that you have followed or admired?”

Lost for, perhaps, a politically correct answer, Warren stuttered. I shouted, “Anything with Annette!” BOOM. Warren loved it and so did the crowd.

Maybe Comics Bulletin will have me back at the Hero Complex Saturday, after all.

For more coverage of the Hero Complex Film Festival, check out our special report on Day Three!

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