Elia Kazan's Private Letters: Warren Beatty Chastised for Diva Behavior

Warren Beatty, far left, and Kazan

"It's very regrettable that so many people think of you as a special problem," Kazan wrote to the "Splender in the Grass" star in 1963.

This story first appeared in the April 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

After he was cast in 1961's Splendor in the Grass, Warren Beatty saw Kazan as a mentor and turned to him for advice and help -- but the director could be candid in his criticism, as seen in this letter, in which he tells the actor to behave less like a diva.

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May 22, 1963

To Warren Beatty

Forgive the impertinence of a friend. I really do like you, and it disheartens me when I hear from the underground that you are giving everybody a bad time in Maryland. I know rumors are unreliable and it's not right to repeat them. But, damn it, they dishearten me. I always say: "Warren at bottom is a damn fine guy!" But there's some contradiction all through your behavior. On the one hand you say that you want to be a movie star. You've said it again and again not only to me but to lots of people. But I must tell you that becoming a first flight movie star depends, as you well know, on working with the elite directors on the real good stories. And when these director-glamour boys hear that you are being "difficult" their only reaction can be: "Who needs it?"

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It seems to me that you must find a way of legitimately asserting yourself and even forcibly making your opinions and impulses felt. While, at the same time, being agreeable to work with, decent to deal with, fun to be with, and a contributor to an overall effort. It's very regrettable that so many people think of you as a special problem. You have so much: intelligence, talent, sensitivity. You are handsome, vigorous, physically able. But all this can be nullified or badly handicapped by the kind of stories -- true, part true, quite false, whatever -- that have been getting back to me here.

As I said, it's possibly impertinent of me to write you this way. I am not your father or your brother, only a friend. But think about what I say.


Excerpted from THE SELECTED LETTERS OF ELIA KAZAN, edited by Albert J. Devlin with Marlene J. Devlin. copyright © 2014 by FrancesKazan published by Arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf, An imprint of the Knopf DoubledAy publishing group, A division of Random House LLC