Warren Beatty’s “Dick Tracy” Lives On—But Why?

The actor recently appeared as the fictional detective in an interview with Leonard Maltin and Ben Mankiewicz, which at first glance, seemed bizarre and inexplicable

In February, Warren Beatty appeared in an interview, conducted by Leonard Maltin and Ben Mankiewicz, on the TCM special Tracy Zooms In while costumed as the titular character he played in the 1990 feature film Dick Tracy. Not only that, Beatty addressed his nonplussedinterviewers as his Tracy character for much of the interview.

What gives? While Beatty is known to most civilians as a gifted actor, he is famous within The Industry as a wily and unrelenting producer. Beatty acquired rights to the Dick Tracy comic strip in 1985 and shepherded the movie version through a fraught development that yielded a critical dud but boffo box office and three Academy Awards. Naturally, a sequel seemed inevitable.

Except it wasn’t. A yearslong welter of lawsuits over rights to the iconic title ensued. But Beatty hung tough and emerged with the right to produce a Dick Tracy sequel on the condition that he periodically produce a TV or film project featuring the character to keep his grip on the underlying intellectualproperty.

According to Collider, the Tracy Zooms In special—and Beatty’s strange interlocution with Maltin and Mankiewicz (along with a similar pas de deux with Maltin in a Tracy-themed special in 2011) qualified, and he’s retained the rights to the franchise ever since.

No word on when—or if—a sequel is in the offing, but if one actually arrives, it’ll be Beatty’s baby.

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