Leslie Caron Reveals Why She Turned Down Multiple Proposals From Warren Beatty
The An American in Paris star has been outspoken about their love affair.
Warren Beatty is, of course, known for his career as an actor and director, but during his 60-plus years in Hollywood, his personal life, including the many famous women he's dated and been linked to, has also generated a lot of conversation. One of these women is An American in Paris star Leslie Caron, with whom Beatty had an affair while she was still married to her second husband, theater director Peter Hall. Caron split from Hall when she was romantically entangled with Beatty, but that didn't mean she was ready to re-marry… at least not to the Bonnie and Clyde actor.
Now 91, Caron has shared why she turned down several proposals from Beatty and what went wrong in their relationship. Read on to find out more about this 1960s romance, including her feeling that she was being compared to his sister, Shirley MacLaine.
Caron was married when she met Beatty.
Caron first met Beatty in 1963. At the time, she was seven years into her marriage to Hall, and they had welcomed two children together. The dancer and actor had already starred in movies including An American in Paris (1951) and Gigi (1958), and had most recently appeared in 1962's The L-Shaped Room, for which she was nominated for a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and an Oscar for Best Actress. Beatty, meanwhile, had appeared in Splendor in the Grass and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (both 1961), but his biggest roles were yet to come.
In her 2009 memoir, Thank Heaven, Caron explained that she was in Los Angeles for the Globes and Oscars when she met Beatty at a party given in her honor.
"He was five-and-a-half years younger than me, irresistibly handsome and intelligent," she wrote in an except published by the Daily Mail. (Caron would have been in her early 30s and Beatty in his late 20s). "Flirtatious banter flew back and forth. After dinner, he offered to take me back to the Beverly Hills Hotel and swept me off my feet. I never arrived at my hotel room. Indeed, I lingered another week and had what they call a 'good time.'"
She said that back in England, where she and Hall lived, she told her husband about Beatty and said she wanted to separate. She also wrote in the book that their marriage was already strained. Hall tried to "salvage" their marriage with a "disastrous" trip to Marrakech before they split.
She found Beatty controlling and needy.
Caron writes in her book that when she and Beatty got together they became "the flavor of the year" and lived in the high style expected of them. "We moved into a penthouse suite at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, drove around in a black convertible Lincoln Continental and—when we weren't going to parties or premieres—ate at the 'in' restaurant, Frascati's, three times a week."
But, as the relationship continued, she encountered aspects of Beatty's personality that complicated their glamorous romance. She said that he called constantly when they were away from each other and that he otherwise was very controlling. "He told me what to wear, how to make up and how to comb my hair; he even suggested I go to his analyst to redress my imperfect personality," Caron wrote. She also said he told her to refuse a part in Mirage (1965) with Gregory Peck, which she would have otherwise accepted.
In a 2021 interview with The Guardian, Caron told a story about Beatty waking her up to ask if she was thinking of him while she slept. She thought it was "funny."
"Yes, it's romantic when you're young and somebody is thinking obsessively about you in the middle of the night. You are quite flattered," she explained.
She felt compared to his sister.
Caron also expressed that she felt Beatty was comparing her to his sister.
"If you really want the truth, Warren always had girlfriends who resembled his sister and I had many of her qualities," Caron told The Guardian. "I was a dancer, I had a very good figure, I was independent. Until he was a fully grown man, his sister was the center point of his life."
Similarly, she wrote in her book, "[H]e longed for the approval of his movie-star sister, Shirley MacLaine—and he once admitted that he thought I looked a bit like her. 'Neither of you is beautiful, but you're both dancers, after all,' he said."
For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
She turned down his proposals.
All of that said, the main reason Caron gave for why she turned down proposals from Beatty was that their lifestyles didn't mesh well.
"He kept asking me and I kept saying: 'No, Warren, no,'" she told The Guardian. "Everything with him was too dramatic. I didn't think I could keep up the pace. And I couldn't, and eventually I left him because of that. He wanted everything to be so well announced. He loved to be trailed around by journalists and to have everything you did photographed. I just couldn't accept that kind of life."
She added, "I'm not somebody who likes public life. In fact, it's amazing that I became a movie star, because I am very shy and retiring."
"I had two years of this, but even at an early stage I wasn't sure I could cope with the pace," she wrote in her book. "I started suffering from stress and tipping into anorexia. It was a clear signal that I might soon be turning to drink or drugs—anything to escape. Not good."
They remained cordial.
During their two-year relationship, Caron and Beatty co-starred in the movie Promise Her Anything, and their breakup happened around the time of its 1965 release.
In her memoir, Caron wrote, "Inevitably, we drifted apart: Warren stayed in Hollywood … I stayed in London, close to my children. Good luck, Warren. We've stayed friends all these years, in a loose sort of way—and I'm still always very pleased to see you."
Warren hasn't been as forthcoming about the relationship as Caron, but he did mention her in a 1967 interview with Esquire: "Three years ago I had a big Hollywood house with two pools and a tennis court, but I gave it up. I only had it so when Leslie's kids were in town they'd have room to play."
Caron went on to marry for the third time to director and producer Michael Laughlin. The marriage lasted from 1969 to 1980. Beatty, now 86, married his wife, actor Annette Bening, in 1992. They are still together today and have four children.