From the S&S archives: Hairdresser's story no soap opera, says star Warren Beatty
FRANKFURT — "I think women are less frightened by `Shampoo' than men are," said producer-star Warren Beatty, here to thump the tub for the film that has been cleaning up at U.S. box offices.
"Men of my generation and older like to think that women are more subdued, not so able to take a male as a sex object," he explained. "Men don't like to think their women's capacity for promiscuity is equal to theirs."
"Shampoo" has drawn some criticism because of its raw sex angle and blunt language, but most reviewers feel that it has helped Beatty capture the essence of the characters being portrayed.
The R-rated sex farce marks the 38-year-old bachelor's first independent production since "Bonnie and Clyde" eight years ago. In the meantime, he has acted in six so-so productions for other filmmakers.
He feels the latest film — which the star produced and also co-wrote with Robert Towne — was worth the wait. Beatty portrays the plot's protagonist, a Beverly Hills coiffeur who selves his clients both in the boudoir and beauty salon, making his rounds on a motorcycle.
"We wanted to do a picture about Southern California, a place where we both lived for a long time," said Beatty. "We also wanted to do something about a Don Juan character, something that wasn't so nasty, that didn't say Don Juan was a latent homosexual, a masochist or someone who hated women."
In reply to an astounded German newswoman, Beatty explained that he has found that many modern psychiatrists feel that maybe Don Juan's amorous character was a cover-up for other repressed desires.
"I liked the idea of the hairdresser because it has to do with superficial appearances, and of doing the hairdresser in Beverly Hills because Southern California is so concerned with superficial appearances," Beatty explained.
Another factor in deciding the movie's locale was Beatty's recognition of the area as "the spawning ground of Conservatism ... and Nixon Republicanism."
Politically, Beatty leans to the left and has actively supported the candidacies of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. He manages some pot-shots at the former administration by interspersing TV coverage of the Nixon-Agnew campaign throughout "Shampoo," letting the politicians' own words supply the humor.
The politically active Beatty spent a year and half promoting McGovern's campaign in 1972. He says he will participate less in the 1976 elections.
"I expect to be active, though, by the time of the nominations. My choice? At this point, I would say it probably will be Kennedy or Humphrey."
Although Beatty denies it is so, UPI's Vernon Scott, who Beatty says is "a personal friend," wrote, "Inasmuch as Beatty wrote and produced the film, it is not impossible that he has captured on celluloid his own sexual fantasies."
The actor takes on a pained expression when reporters persist in asking about his personal life. Yet his name has been linked romantically with such glamour girls as Joan Collins, Natalie Wood, Jean Seberg, Leslie Caron, Julie Christie and even rock star Michelle Phillips, formerly of the Mamas and Papas.
Prior to his Frankfurt stop, Beatty had plugged his picture in Stockholm and Copenhagen. He is slated to visit Rome and Paris. Refreshingly enough, there was no big entourage accompanying the Hollywood star, only Robert Beerman, Columbia Pictures' European chief distributor of the film.
Privately and professionally, Beatty surrounds himself with the best talent. In addition to Towne (who wrote the "Chinatown" screenplay) his "Shampoo" staff consists of director Hal Ashby, who scored last year with "The Last Detail," and stylishly chic co-stars Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant and his sometime girl friend Christie.
Though by no means the masterpiece that some critics have overstated, "Shampoo" is nonetheless an important new American movie.
It provides an unvarnished glimpse of the sexual gamesmanship that goes on among a certain rarefied strata of Beverly Hills and Hollywood society. At times it seems to be characteristically and intimately a California movie but it is always a brisk, witty sex comedy.
More than that, it attempts to expose the American pipe dreams of the late 1960s, tearing into our moral, social and political hypocrisies. New generation filmmakers, such as the freckle-faced Beatty, are not primarily interested in making happy pictures for happy people.
"It's a very tough movie, an ugly movie. It certainly isn't supposed to keep you laughing all the time," said Beatty, "To me, it's sad and depressing, but not to be taken too seriously."
Like his actress-sister Shirley MacLaine, Beatty hails from Virginia. He dropped out of Northwestern University.