She's Having His Beatty
"We are happy to confirm that we are looking forward to the birth of a child early next year," the couple said in a statement from Beatty's publicist, Andrea Jaffe. Later, in response to a phone call, Beatty faxed a handwritten note to PEOPLE. "As you might have guessed, I'm still avoiding talking to the press about personal things," he wrote, "but I can tell you I couldn't be happier about having a baby with Annette."
The two got the news July 12. Bening, who was to play Catwoman in the Batman sequel, which begins shooting in September, phoned director Tim Burton and dropped out. Fearing her hasty exit would spark rumors, the couple chose to go public.
Coming from Beatty, 54, the national poster boy for the Society of Noncommittal Males, the news packed a wallop. Until now, this had been one of the more discreet relationships in his three decades of onset entanglements. In 1961, his affair with Splendor in the Grass costar Natalie Wood helped sink her first marriage to Robert Wagner. Later, Beatty romanced Julie Christie (McCabe & Mrs. Miller), Isabelle Adjani (Ishtar) and, of course, Madonna (Dick Tracy)—to name but a few.
Bening, a Kansas-born actress who received an Oscar nomination for The Grifters and can now be seen in Regarding Henry, had been dating Ed Begley Jr. prior to meeting Beatty at a Bugsy rehearsal last January. She initially dismissed the notion that they would become involved. "I'm not ready for that," she told USA Today at the time. "You don't always fall in love with your leading man." Her resolution was, apparently, short-lived. "The onscreen chemistry was there from Day One," says Allen Daviau, director of photography on Bugsy, in which Beatty plays mobster Bugsy Siegel and Bening plays his moll. Though there were no PDAs—public displays of affection—Daviau says, "They spent a lot of time together, and you assumed something was going on."
But nobody anticipated parenthood—except, presumably, the couple themselves. "There are no accidents in Warren's life," says publicist Jaffe. "If he didn't want to have a baby, he wouldn't have one." The blessed event will induct him into an emerging 50-plus paternity fraternity that now includes Dennis Hopper, Al Pacino and old pal Jack Nicholson, whose daughter, Lorraine, is now 15 months. "Jack was very inspirational," says a friend who spoke with Beatty last week. "Having a baby, stopping philandering and really loving his little girl must have rubbed off on Warren."
For Beatty, one of the attractions of Bening—who is divorced from director J. Steven White—may be that she is as private as he is, or more so; it was Warren who had to persuade her to go public. "You don't understand," he told her. "It is a big deal."