'Crackpot' Beatty slugs it out with 'fake' Schwarzenegger in Hollywood

For the past 18 months, Arnold Schwarzenegger's fellow Hollywood entertainers have maintained an informal code of silence about his high-profile performance as governor of California. But now, with his popularity ratings in freefall and protests against his budget-slashing policies almost daily events, that silence has been comprehensively broken by another of the movie world's prominent political animals, Warren Beatty.

Mr Beatty, a liberal Democrat who has often flirted with the idea of running for office but has never taken the plunge, delivered a blistering critique of his conservative fellow actor during a graduation address at the University of California in Berkeley.

"Can't we accept that devotion to the building of the body politic is more complex and a little more sensitive than devotion to body-building?" the 68-year-old actor-producer-director said in a speech as replete with jokes and understatement as it was with direct body-blows. He attacked Mr Schwarzenegger as a reactionary, a bully (of labour and the little guy) and a serial promise-breaker - a man who dresses himself up as a moderate but hides his conservative agenda behind a blizzard of photo ops, "fake events", "fake issues" and "fake crowds".

"It's become time to define a Schwarzenegger Republican - a Schwarzenegger Republican is a Bush Republican who says he's a Schwarzenegger Republican," he added.

The actors have been sparring with each other ever since the speech last weekend. Mr Schwarzenegger's staff dismissed Mr Beatty as a "crackpot", prompting Mr Beatty to tell the Los Angeles Times that that wasn't "the most intelligent response for Arnold to have his people give".

In his graduation speech, Mr Beatty acknowledged Hollywood's reluctance to attack one of its own, and said he shared many of the same feelings himself.

"I've never enjoyed being publicly negative about actors in public office ... I've always had a real soft spot for actors even if they are right-wing," he said.

Mr Schwarzenegger was different, he said, because he had himself shown disrespect in his labelling of fellow politicians, calling them "stooges" and "girly men" and "loser".

The media would relish the prospect of a Schwarzenegger-Beatty match-up in the 2006 gubernatorial election. But Mr Beatty made clear that he was not interested.