The legislation to require labeling of all "materially altered" films will be introduced today by Sens. Howard Metzenbaum, a liberal Democrat from Ohio, and Alan Simpson, a conservative Republican from Wyoming.
Recalling their usual bickering as ideologically opposite members of the Judicial Committee, Sen. Simpson joked that the joint effort is like a rerun of the "Odd Couple."
Their Film Disclosure Act of 1992 would require that viewers be informed if a movie has been colorized, shortened or extended, panned or scanned to fit a wide-screen film into television dimensions, or lexiconned, which changes the soundtrack.
The bill does not prevent such alterations from being made, but requires labels to specify how the film was changed and to tell viewers if the director, screenwriter or cinematographer objected to the changes.
"Crayon-colored imitations of classic American movies are now being palmed off as the real thing," said Sen. Metzenbaum. "Scenes can be altered or added, shots can be changed or cut, and the dimensions and perspective of the film can be distorted -- all without the consent of the artistic authors or the knowledge of the public."
It was not the legislation, however, but rather Mr. Beatty and Ms. Bening -- Hollywood's hot couple -- that bought a legion of reporters, photographers, TV crews and congressional staffers to the Capitol press conference.
Mr. Beatty said the labeling requirement is "a simple step that should have been taken a long time ago."
The nation is at a "critical point," he said, where it will decide whether movies "will be taken seriously as an art form."
Requiring the labeling would probably not have a financial impact on the entertainment industry, he predicted, but "it would encourage people to show films in the form they were intended to be shown."
The legislation would cover TV stations and networks that often shorten movies that they broadcast and film studios that often colorize movies that were originally filmed in black and white.
"When a motion picture is colorized or otherwise materially altered, what viewers see is no longer the labor of the film's director and cinematographer," said Sen. Metzenbaum. "What they see is the product of a computer or machine."
Sen. Simpson said the bill would protect the "history and integrity" of film makers while "informing consumers."