TCM Fest: writer Robert Benton on “Bonnie & Clyde” 1


bonnie-clyde“You couldn’t grow up in Texas without knowing about Bonnie and Clyde. They were folk heroes. Kids would dress up as Bonnie and Clyde for Halloween,” said filmmaker and writer Robert Benton, a Waxahachie, Texas native, speaking before a screening of his highly influential 1967 movie at TCM Fest.

Benton, who went on to direct [notably, Kramer vs. Kramer], co-wrote the screenplay about two Depression-era anti-heroes with David Newman. The gangster flick, which stars two of the more gorgeous creatives of sixties cinema, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, got a terrifying screening Friday afternoon at the Chinese Theatre. It is a very frightening movie.

Great To Be Nominated SeriesBenton reminisced with Dennis Bartok who interviewed him. “I had been working as an art director at Esquire (magazine] and I got fired. I decided to write a screenplay.

“I am dyslexic. I cannot spell or punctuate. I knew a young editor at Esquire, a wonderful writer, David Newman. I sold him on the glamorous life of the Hollywood screenwriter.”

What interested the two was the idea that their characters were not just outlaws, “but also outcasts,” said Benton. “We set out to make an American French new Wave movie.”

“We got hold  of old detective stories, and [writing by] Clyde’s mother and Bonnie’s sister, a book which we leaned upon heavily. We wrote an 80-page treatment with no dialogue. Francois Truffaut worked with us for two days [on the treatment].

“For four years, [the project] was turned down by everybody [all the film studios]. Then one day, Warren Beatty [he would produce “B & C” and star as Clyde Barrow] called me. I offered to drop the screenplay at his hotel. Instead, he said he would come by the house [to pick it up].

“Now, I forgot to tell my wife that Warren Beatty was coming by. She had no makeup, her hair was in rollers. I served in Korea but nothing compared to what my wife gave me for not telling her Warren Beatty was coming over.

“Warren took over [producing the film]. He said we need an American director, not Truffaut or Godard. Arthur Penn came on [board]  and we started to shape the film. It was a kind of miracle, that collaborative process.

robert bentonAs for the film’s brand of violence (the infamous ‘bullet-ballet’ closes the movie), Benton said, “We had a line:  In this movie it should look like people were really killed.”

Concerning Clyde Barrow’s sexual dysfunction [the character declines, in key scenes, to make love to Parker], Benton noted: “We wanted to show a complex human being. Not just your average outlaw but someone more complicated.”

Bartok wrapped the interview by stating succinctly, “Well, it’s a brilliant movie based on a brilliant screenplay.”

 Photo: TCM host Ben Mankiewicz interviews director Robert Benton inside the Roosevelt Hotel Friday at the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, California. 4/26/13 ph: Edward M. Pio Roda


One comment on “TCM Fest: writer Robert Benton on “Bonnie & Clyde”

  1. Donat Janos Jun 29,2013 12:16 pm

    Please help me to pass this email for Mr. Robert Benton – thank you very-very much !!!

    Dear Mr. Robert Benton,

    I am Dr. Janos Donat, I started to collect autographs and signed pictures in 1970. My main purpose is to collect and preserve specimens of handwriting of outstanding people, such as prominent cultural figures of the whole world as well as politicians and as well from scientist to actors and from sportmen to actors and musicians. In my collection there are signatures of the religious leaders, politicians, royalities, scientists, writers, painters, sculptors, architects, directors, actors, sportmen, musicians, etc. I do not collect just signatures, my collection consists of photos with signatures (signed pictures), letters, historical manuscripts, namecards, postcards, etc.

    Nowadays I have more than cc. 30.000 autographs, historical letters, historical documents, papers, etc. with original signatures. The only criteria in my collection is to be original.

    I organised very successfull autograph exhibitions in Hungary. All autographs exhibited were authentic, original and personal. I would be thankful to everybody who helps me in obtaining new autographs.

    Up to now, I have compiled signatures from almost all of these mentioned famous people. However, despite my best efforts, some autographs are still missing from my collection. That is why, I kindly ask you, to send some – exceptionally – original signatures of the yours to complete my special collection.

    Let me extend my best wishes for all your future professional and personal accomplishments. I am looking forward to receiving your answer with your handwritten autographs. My address is below. It’s very important for me !!!

    Our website:

    Budapest, 29th of June, 2013.

    Yours truly,
    thank you in advance for your kind cooperation!

    Dr. Janos Donat
    1037 Budapest
    Remetehegyi út 181/b
    Hungary – Europe

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