Hollywood Flashback: When Warren Beatty Suited Up for the Los Angeles Rams

Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection
From left: Dick Enberg, Will Hare, Beatty and Dolph Sweet in a scene from 'Heaven Can Wait.'

"I'm more than ready to rejoin the Rams, but I'll need a week or so to get back in shape," Beatty quips to THR, nearly three decades after his Oscar-nominated football movie 'Heaven Can Wait' hit theaters.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Warren Beatty once played for the Rams. Or at least he did in Heaven Can Wait.

But that was back in 1978, before the football team left Los Angeles for Anaheim, moved on to St. Louis and then announced Jan. 12 its return to a new $2 billion-plus stadium in Inglewood, Calif. The romantic comedy’s plot centers on a Rams quarterback (Beatty) who dies in a Malibu bicycle accident. After his guardian angel (Buck Henry) removes his soul prematurely, the QB learns he was supposed to live much longer. But his body already has been cremated, so he returns to Earth, where he assumes the body of a wealthy industrialist who buys the Rams, becomes the new signal caller and leads his team to the Super Bowl against the Steelers.

The film is loosely based on the Harry Segall play that was turned into the 1941 feature Here Comes Mr. Jordan. THR said Beatty’s 1978 movie “manages to be faithful to the spirit of the original and also … thoroughly contemporary in tone.” It was released as Paramount was having megahits with Grease and Saturday Night Fever.

Heaven joined that club: The $15 million film had a domes tic gross of $82 million (roughly $300 million today) and received nine Oscar nominations (including four for Beatty, then 40, as producer, director, writer and actor). Its success gave Beatty, who co-directed with Henry and co-wrote with Elaine May, the leverage to get Paramount to greenlight Reds — for which he again received noms in the same four categories and won the best director Oscar in 1982.

The Rams had their own uplift after Heaven: Two years later, the team actually played the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV. (Unfortunately, in the real-world version, they lost.) When asked about the team’s move back to L.A., Beatty (now working on a film about a boy, a girl and Howard Hughes) tells THR, “I’m more than ready to rejoin the Rams, but I’ll need a week or so to get back in shape.”

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