“Bugsy” (1991) dir. Barry Levinson, scr. James Toback

From 1991’s superior gangster melodrama “Bugsy,” Warren Beatty’s Bugsy Siegel goes Joe Pesci on an associate who has stolen from him.  A really intense, wild, scary, and weirdly amusing scene.  I wish I could find this in better quality, but this was the best I could find on YouTube.  Due to rough language and disturbing behavior, not safe for work or little ones.

Oddly enough, this scene was inspired, not by something Siegel experienced, but by something screenwriter Toback did.  According to Peter Biskind’s stellar biography on Beatty, “Star,” Toback had a meeting with studio executive David Begelman in the early 1980s.  Begelman told Toback he would get back to him tomorrow with his confirmation on whether their deal would be good for Toback to write/direct a film.  Toback asked him why he couldn’t confirm right now.  Begelman said he might change his mind and asked Toback what he was going to do about it.  Toback grabbed Begelman’s ear and slammed Begelman’s head down on his desk.  Begelman agreed to make the movie, but then pulled a gun out and told Toback: “Don’t think you scared me by threatening me like that.  You think you’re afraid to die?  I’m much less afraid to die that you are. I load this pistol with a bullet and put it to my head every day, and sometimes I squeeze the trigger and sometimes I don’t.  You’ll never be as unafraid to die as I am.”   Toback then made Begelman crawl around the room and oink like a pig and bark like a dog, which he did willingly.   Again, this is Toback’s side of the story, according to Biskind, but considering that Begelman (at the height of his career with Columbia Pictures in the early 1970s) famously got canned for forging a $10,000 check to actor Cliff Robertson, this has the air of sad truth.   Beatty insisted Toback include this in his script for “Bugsy” and the above clip is the result.  Another case of truth being a hell of a lot weirder (and more interesting) than fiction.