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Scott's World: Hollywood's Other Beatty

By VERNON SCOTT, UPI Hollywood Reporter

HOLLYWOOD -- Ned Beatty is no relation to Warren Beatty who is nominated for four Oscars this year -- best actor, best director, best writer and producer of the best picture, 'Reds.'

Ned wasn't nominated for anything, although he was a nominee for best supporting actor in 1976 for his board chairman role in 'Network.' He lost to Jason Robards in 'All The President's Men.'

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Neither Beatty has ever won an Oscar, although Warren's been nominated seven times in five different categories. Their names and losing Oscar ways are just about all the Beatty boys have in common.

Warren is tall, handsome and romantic. Ned is short, plain and not renowned for breaking hearts. Warren plays dashing leading men. Ned must content himself with losers, heavies and dumbbells.

Even so, Ned is far more visible in movies and TV than Warren. Ned works all the time, jumping from films to TV and back again. Most recently he starred in 'Pray TV,' playing a sinister media minister. Warren eschews the tube.

Perhaps Ned's most memorable roles, aside from 'Network,' were in the TV movie 'Friendly Fire' and 'Deliverance' and 'Superman' in which he played the numbskull sidekick villain with Gene Hackman.

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Although Ned and Warren bear absolutely no resemblance to one another, people still ask Ned if he and his famous namesake are related.

'I tell them he's my illegitimate uncle and they actually try to figure it out,' Ned said, grinning.

'I know the public thinks of me as a heavy. It's the parts I get and the way I look. But the important thing is to play the villain so convincingly audiences will hate him but understand what makes him tick.

'You might say I don't often have the opportunity to play the most admired character in the cast. But I don't always play an unsympathetic character. I do comedy, too.

'The best example was Otis in 'Superman.' He was the guy who drove Gene Hackman crazy. Sure, he was a heavy, but he was funny.

'I've done 30 or 40 pictures and in some I played everyman characters. In a relatively short time I've become a very recognizable face.'

It is difficult for Ned to enter a room or walk down the street without drawing attention. People may not identify him, but they remember the face -- and not always happily.

'Usually they react in one of two ways,' Ned said.

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'Sometimes they thank me for my work. They appreciate the fact that I'm an actor doing a job. Others can't keep from objectifying me, associating me with my latest villainous role and the put me down.

'But 9 out of 10 people will stare at me, searching their memories. Then they come up and ask, 'Did you ever bowl in Tucson?' Or 'I saw you on television last night,' and then walk away.

'Cops give me trouble. A lot of them are convinced they've seen my face on a wanted poster. And they try to make some sort of contact just in case.'

The years of playing unsympathetic heavies, weirdos, and criminals took a toll on Ned's psyche for a while.

From the time he was a teen-ager in church and little theater groups Ned played older men, most of them bad guys.

'It bothered me because I began to equate myself with the men I played,' he said. 'Every six months I'd quit acting, convinced I had to be unlikeable myself if other people kept seeing me in that light.

'My image was tough on my love life, too. When I was 20, I was playing guys 50. Girls treated me like a father. So I'd quit for three or four months until another good part came along.

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'I still suffer spells of despondency when I play a really despicable part. It doesn't last long but my personal association with an unlikeable role still makes me feel unlikeable personally.

'It's impossible for me to avoid going through these periods of depression, but I force myself to rise above them. I meditate for two hours a day to overcome self-doubts and to find tranquility.'

He doesn't know if 'Uncle' Warren meditates or is assailed by the same guilt-by-association problems.

'I seriously doubt it,' Ned said ruefully.

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