Beatty admitted he fell for Ellen while she was a guest on his late pal Garry Shandling's offbeat TV sitcom, The Larry Sanders Show, and even asked after the actress who played his friend's lover on television.

Appearing on The Ellen Degeneres Show in the U.S. for the first time in November (16), the actor recalled chatting to Shandling about her.

He told the host, who has become one of his Hollywood friends, "You were very good. I was very impressed and I told Garry that and we had a long talk about you. I just thought, 'Now that person is no bologna!'"

Fun-loving Ellen then added, "I think you didn't know I was gay at the time", prompting her guest to joke, "I really didn't. I knew you were happy; I didn't know you were gay!"

DeGeneres then quipped, "You wanted me", to which an awkward Beatty nodded his head and shrugged, before revealing he was dating Annette Bening at the time. The actress went on to become Warren's wife in 1992.

Bening appeared on Ellen's show on Friday (20Jan17) and revealed she knew all about her then-boyfriend's crush on the lesbian star.

"He talked about you all the time," Bening said with a smile. "I didn't want to share that (the fact you are gay) with him."