Reel Deals! Robert Benton on His Georgica Dream House; Paul Haggis Crashes Soho

haggis Reel Deals! Robert Benton on His Georgica Dream House; Paul Haggis Crashes Soho

When we bought the house, we had never owned anything but a secondhand Volvo,” filmmaker Robert Benton told The Observer of his 1979 home purchase in Wainscott, Long Island, with wife Sally. Now the Bentons are listing their Georgica Pond-front haven for $29.9 million, almost as many millions as years they have called the “private oasis” home.

The 2.5-acre peninsula in a quiet corner of the exclusive Georgica Association, which counts Aerin Lauder and Eric Zinterhoffer and Dan and Brooke Neidich among its residents, is listed with Brown Harris Stevens‘ agent Peter Turino, who declined to comment for this article.

“We had looked at houses forever,” the Bonnie and Clyde screenwriter and Kramer vs. Kramer writer/director remembered, recounting that upon their first look at the Wainscott property he and Ms. Benton couldn’t see the water. “We’re not interested,” they said, and turned around to leave.

“The broker insisted we go around and look at the view on the other side.” The couple were enchanted by the view of water on three sides, including the ocean. The property boasts 724 feet of coveted Georgica Pond frontage. “We drove two hours back to NYC and we didn’t say a word.”

According to legend (and Mr. Benton), the three-bedroom, Mediterranean-style home dates back to 1895, when it was built on a bet that a house couldn’t be built on that site for under $5,000. The owner won the bet, and when the Bentons bought it, with no ownership experience other than their trusted Volvo—a far cry from Bonnie and Clyde‘s Ford Fordor “Death Car”—they kept the house intact but largely unchanged until 2005, at which time they enlisted Gagosian and Mary Boone architect Richard Gluckman to bring it up to speed. “It’s a lovely, lovely house,” Mr. Benton sighed wistfully. “It goes with Charlie’s barn very well.” Around the time of Mr. Gluckman’s renovation, the venerable Charles Gwathmey redesigned the barn, or “great room”-which acts as Ms. Benton’s studio; she is an accomplished painter-with 16th-century English wooden beams.

“I really think it’s on the most beautiful property in East Hampton, but I’m sure the guy next door thinks the same,” Mr. Benton added with a laugh.

 

MEANWHILE, IN SOHO, fellow filmmaker Paul Haggis made some real estate waves of his own. Mr. Haggis wrote Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood’s Hilary Swank-studded gem of a film that won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004 (and then Mr. Haggis one-upped that by co-writing and directing Crash, which the Academy also honored). According to city records, he has laid down the full asking price of $3.95 million for an “expansive” two-bedroom affair at 388 West Broadway.

Mr. Haggis, who is married to actress Deborah Rennard, though she is not listed on the deed, purchased the loftlike apartment from Blackstone CFO Laurence Tosi, who chose not to comment for this article.

Listed by Stribling‘s Michael Chapman, the apartment features an “immense” 31-by-30-foot living room with a “baronial fireplace,” mahogany framed windows and 11-foot-high ceilings supported by original columns and restored timber beams. The 700-square-foot master-bedroom suite “defies all expectations,” with the bedroom measuring 15 feet by 25 feet and the suite containing a master bath to seduce any limestone lover. Luxuries of the limestone-tiled bath include an “oversized” shower with a teak bench seat and a 12-inch rainforest shower head, a bidet, a towel warmer, double sinks and “extra deep” medicine cabinets. There is also the 6-foot Waterworks soaking tub—convenient for Mr. Haggis, who measures almost 6 feet.

Because Mr. Haggis is based in Santa Monica, Calif., his Manhattan apartment purchase leads the logical reporter to presume this perfectly sized soaking tub will act as a glorified pied-à-terre for the director, who also owns a nearby penthouse loft at 169 Mercer Street, which the In the Valley of Elah director bought in 2006 for $2.9 million—right around the time Mr. Haggis became a household name after Crash‘s much-disputed Best Picture Oscar nod.

cmalle@observer.com