Velvet Loungers and a Bonnie and Clyde Shrine: Warren Beatty's Former Hilltop Home Debuts $5M Renovation
A Hamptons hotelier buys the star's property of 22 years, sinks in millions, meets top filmmakers and makes a movie: The actor "helped me at every stage of the way."
When New York hotel owner and producer Jonathan Baker (FSN's World Poker Tour) first visited the Beverly Hills hilltop estate that Warren Beatty and Annette Bening had put on the market after 22 years, the seller happened to be at home. "Four and a half hours later, nobody — not our brokers, the lawyer or security — was talking except for me and him," says Baker, 57, of Beatty. "He is Hollywood royalty to me."
Along with acquiring keys to the 10,500-square-foot, ultra-private property (for $6.7 million in 2012, per public records), Baker, who was a reality TV villain on The Amazing Race 6, gained another asset: Beatty's interest in his movie dreams. "He said, 'Come back tomorrow [with] your scripts,' " says Baker, who returned to the top of Mulholland Drive four times before closing on the home. "I tried to convince him to be the executive producer of my world."
Over the next five years, the hotelier transformed the Beatty-Bening estate into a compound fit for a media mogul while working toward achieving that status himself. Both projects hit obstacles: The renovation of the property he shares with his wife, Jenny, and three daughters cost $5 million (architect Marc Whipple declined to comment), and the house was put on the market three times during construction (in 2015, 2016 and 2017, when it was listed for $12.9 million, $9.95 million and $8.995 respectively, says The Agency's Emil Hartoonian). The ivy-covered Mediterranean is now a chrome-finished art deco residence with dark stained floors, deeply colored walls and lots of velvet, referencing old Hollywood, hospitality and the Playboy Mansion, where Baker says he first met Beatty. (The actor declined to comment but Baker's publicist provides this statement from him: "I was honored to be part of Jonathan's journey both in film and with his redesign of the beloved house I lived in for 22 years.")
One of the biggest changes Baker made was converting Beatty's office into a 17-person theater outfitted with purple velvet loungers and a back wall devoted to the star's 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. Of the room dubbed Beatty Theater, the hotelier says, "This is ... a head of studio's screening room."
Baker concealed the star's own drop-down screen in the ceiling of the deep-blue living room, which resembles a lounge at Maidstone, the East Hampton hotel that the Bakers have owned since 2008 and where Hillary and Bill Clinton, Will Smith and Meryl Streep have visited.
During the renovation, Baker also was launching his film career, driven in large part by his relationship with Beatty. "He's showing me how to be a great director," recalls Baker. "He's telling me who to call. I start thinking, 'What would it be like to get this information from different people?' " That idea turned into Becoming Iconic, a 2018 straight-to-iTunes documentary that includes interviews with directors introduced to Baker by Beatty: Jodie Foster, Adrian Lyne, John Badham and Taylor Hackford, who all recount their first-time filmmaking experiences. Says Baker, Beatty "helped me at every stage of the way."
Also showcased in the doc are Baker's struggles with his own directorial debut, Inconceivable (a 2017 suburban thriller starring Nicolas Cage, Gina Gershon and Faye Dunaway), which he worked on in tandem with Becoming Iconic. Scenes in the documentary include Baker walking through his then-under-construction home, which was used as collateral to complete Inconceivable.
"I had problems with the movies," admits Baker. "Beatty was in the middle of his Howard Hughes movie [Rules Don't Apply]. I'd call his office and he'd send me a [gift] basket saying, 'Good luck.' "
While his Hollywood future is unclear, Baker's timing with Los Angeles' luxury home market is an inarguable success. "This house has incredible privacy and amazing views," says Hartoonian. "It could bring in $16 million, and that's conservative. It was definitely a great buy in 2012."
Whether or not he keeps the home, Baker does have one L.A. real estate holding guaranteed to endure. Eight years ago, he purchased the crypt at Westwood Village Memorial Park adjacent to Marilyn Monroe's and near Hugh Hefner's. "I'm the only living person [who has a spot] in this graveyard — I get to be immortal," says Baker, who actually has no plans to be buried at the site, having bought it for bragging rights: "That's just for Hollywood."
This story first appeared in the June 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.