Silence instead of cheers greeted Beatty's 'Bugsy'

April 01, 1992|By Robert B. Welkos | Robert B. Welkos,Los Angeles Times

Hollywood -- It was as if the legendary mobster himself had rolled the dice and come up snake eyes.

"Bugsy" -- the TriStar film directed by Barry Levinson that pulled in a leading 10 Academy Award nominations -- won only two Oscars Monday night. And those were for art direction and costume design.

This occurred despite some high-powered promotion and after the film's normally publicity-shy star and co-producer Warren Beatty conducted numerous interviews on behalf of the movie, the story of mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, who the film credits with dreaming up the idea of a gambling capital in Las Vegas, Nev.

TriStar chairman Mike Medavoy said yesterday that even though "The Silence of the Lambs" captured Oscars for best picture, best actor, best actress, best director and best adapted screenplay at the 64th annual Academy Awards ceremony, he was still "very proud of 'Bugsy.'

"Having got 10 nominations certainly tells you this is a picture the academy in general considered to be excellent in all its regards," Mr. Medavoy said. "And probably when it came down to the choice, it would probably be either one or the other picture. What might have happened, it might have swung by one vote."

The film's 10 nominations included best picture, best actor (Mr. Beatty), best supporting actors (Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley), best director (Mr. Levinson), best original screenplay, cinematography and original score in addition to the two it won.

But on the morning after the awards, some industry experts said that the intense hype for "Bugsy" may have backfired with academy members.

"For a movie that had such incredible momentum, this certainly is not a win [for TriStar]," said one studio executive, who asked not to be identified.

"People in the academy felt 'Bugsy' was being jammed down their throats, what with the overwhelming amount of ads and brochures [touting the film]. 'Bugsy' was being jammed at the academy rather than being offered. . . . Something went awry," he said.

Another Hollywood insider said that many people in the industry loved "Bugsy" but didn't believe it was director Levinson's best movie.

"On the other hand, people think 'The Silence of the Lambs,' for what it was, was a great movie," the source said.

As for Mr. Beatty's critically praised performance as Siegel, the source said that no matter how good he was, many academy members still could not forget the riveting performance by Anthony Hopkins as the cannibalistic killer in "The Silence of the Lambs."

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