“We rob banks.”


Arthur Penn . 1966


In 1964, US producer Lewis Allen had a script by Robert Benton and David Newman. They were fans of the French nouvelle vague icon François Truffaut.  They wanted him to direct. Contact was made, everyone met up in New York and the realisateur eventually agreed –  for a mere $80,000, “advanced against 10% of the producer’s net receipts” – to direct his friend, Alexandra Stewart, and Terence Stamp… “whom, I admire very much and who hopes to play Montag in Fahrenheit 451. He’s very particular about hiscareer, it’s possible he may want to do Fahrenheit and not Bonnie and Clyde. This is a question mark.”

No such query about Alexandra. “She corresponds perfectly to the character. She is English Canadian, fully bilingual and takes on any accent whatsoever with great facility.”

Truffaut was confident about her as actress and friend, she would be another “reassuring presence,” alongside his personal assistant Helen Scott, while making his first film in English. He first talked to Alexandra about Bonnie when she was shooting Mickey One with, ironically… Warren Beatty and Arthur Penn.

Stamp refused both films and . anyway  by then Truffaut preferred Anthony “Scooter” Teague and Robert Walker Jr to his producers’ suggestion of Paul Newman for Clyde (no longer bi-sexual in the Frenchman’s script).


Incidentally, Beatty would first suggest Bob Dylan… 

who, he thought, markedly resembled the real Clyde Barrow!


Truffaut quit for Fahrenheit (with Newman, at first) and suggested hisfellow French New Wave icon, Jean-Luc Godard. “I let him read it, and he loved it as well (‘I love Bonnie and I also love Clyde’). He’s made more films than me because is works rapdily:on preparation, shooting, and editing.” Godard collided America in New York when the the writer and their then producers – Lewis Allen and Elinor Jones – thought him quite mad when saying the story – in and of Texas – could be made anywhere, ”even Tokyo” with two Japanaese teenagers as the titular couple!

He wasn’t mad. Just too Godard.   Truffaut  told his friend  Elinor Jones “Of all the screenplays I’ve turned down… Bonnie and Clyde was by far the best.” 


“Of all the screenplays I’ve turned down…

Bonnie and Clyde was by far the best.” 

Truffaut told Warren Beatty of the script (Warren’s lover Leslie Caron translating). Beatty saw it as a Western – and Westerns were out. Leslie advised him to buy. At first, they intended to play the leads until realising Bonnie had to be American.And so, the film split up the couple. “Warren was away working on location in Texas for months, then in post-production in Hollywood, whereas I was in England.”

When Warren Betty took charge, Godard had a similarly disastrous meet with him in London in January 1966. While Beatty and Arthur Penn went on to do their classic thing, Godard reverted to a Clyde of his own. Well, three… His Pierrot le fou, 1965, was based on Pierre Loutrel, a French Public Enemy #1 of the 40s, In 1979, Godard tried to get together with his Pierrot, Jean-Paul Belmondo, again for a film about Jacques Mesrine, the 60s Public Enemy #1 and by 1979, the bilious realisateur was planning a Bugsy Siegel story, with Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton, for Coppola’s Zoetrope.

Keaton,  not yet sharing Beatty’s aura, had played Clyde Barrow in a home movie made by her mother in 1967. “‘I had outright refused  to be Bonnie. Hello, no!  I did not want to be Bonnie. . I wanted to be Warren Beatty.  Who in their right mind  wouldn’t? And that became our central problem… I wanted to be Warren Beatty, not love him.”)

Beatty immediately went back to a previous Truffaut choice. Jane Fonda.  Ironically, her father, Henry Fonda’ played a character  loosely based on Clyde Barrow in Fritz Lang’s 1936 movie, You Only Live Once; Sylvia Sidney was “Bonnie.”

Living with director husband Roger Vadimin France, she had zero interest in moving back to LA.  “Quite the opposite,” saidf Beatty. Yet it wasn’t until 2012 – when appearing on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live – that Fonda  finally admitted she had desperately wanted  the film.  And yes, indeed, she had auditioned. And yes again, she was still, angry, after all these years, that Dunaway ran away with Bonnie.

Having made her one of his characters in his ninth film, Once Upon  A Time… in Hollywood, 2018, Quentin Tarantino revealed that Sharon Tate had been ”seriously considered”  by Warren. Ann-Margret was just plain scared of Arthur Penn. “And I’d never read for a film before.”   Carol Lynley looked far too young for Beatty (Faye Dunaway was just 13 months older). Beatty also considered Cher, even his sister, Shirley MacLaine.


“That,” said Shirley, “was

adding incest to injury.”


”Warren wanted another star,” said Arthur Penn. Natalie Wood.  She “loved the script, loved the part,” but recalled  working with Warren had been difficult. And  she did not fall for his notorious, silver-tongued sweet-talk. “Well, it didn’t take long to see she couldn’t dare tyo be   separated from her psychoanalyst while the film was on location in Texas.   She was through. In fact, the night of the day Beatty tried talkibg her into Bonnie in 1966, Wood tried to commit suicide. She was saved by her housekeeper.

Next stop: Tuesday Weld. “You’re crazy!  Do you think I want success? I refused… because I was nursing [her first child, Natasha Harz] at the time, but also because down deep I knew that it was going to be a huge success. I may be self-destructive, but I like taking chances with movies. I like challenges, and I also like the particular position I’ve been in all these years, with people wanting to save me from the awful films I’ve been in. I’m happy being a legend. I think the Tuesday Weld cult is a very nice thing.”

Warren was close to signing Sue Lolita Lyon when Penn suggested an actresss who had impressed him in the Hogan’s Goat play. “I hadn’t felt so sure of an actress for a part since Anne Bancroft and Two For The See-Saw. ” Faye Dunaway!

“Faye was more right than I – and I knew it,” commented another contender, Katharine Ross. So Faye it was, and Morgan Fairchild began her movie career as her stand-in.


Arthur Penn assured me there was

no truth to the legend of Jack Nicholson

being dropped as their driver CW Moss


He was never even  considered because he and pal Beatty looked rather alike. Potato-faced Michael J Pollard became CW (based on Barrow gang members WD Jones, and Henry Methvin) . Nicholson was talked of for Clyde’s brother, Buck. That role would make a star of Gene Hackman – who had made his screen debut in Lilith, 1964, with Beatty. “That was only one day’s work,” recalled Beatty, “but I suddenly woke up when talking to him.” He discussed Buck when visiting Hackman in a New York hospital with blood poisoning.


“It was so he would make me good.

Its impossible to be bad in a scene

with Gene Hackman.”


Penn had seen Hackman and Estelle Parsons in a play “and knew they’d be great together.” In her screen debut, Parsons won one of the film’s two only Oscars from ten nominations. Academicians (or their wives, lovers, secretaries, barbers or gardeners) never – well, rarely – vote for violence.

Legend says that Beatty kissed Warner boss Jack Warner’s feet to get the budget. When his backer first saw the film – “If I have to pee, the picture stinks” – he called it the longest 130 minutes ever. “A three piss picture.”