Warren Beatty has written a final farewell to his acting heroine KATHERINE HEPBURN, urging wannabe biographers to let the screen icon rest in peace.

Writing in America's Entertainment Weekly magazine, Beatty admits he idolised the actress, who died this year (03), and spent much of his early career trying to befriend her.

He recalls, "Through brief and jovial encounters with her in the '60s and '70s, my passion remained unrequited.

"The closest I came to what I could pretend to myself was reciprocation was in 1977 when she let me talk her into seeing a well-known dermatologist about her extremely sun-sensitive but beautiful skin."

Beatty was thrilled when Hepburn agreed to make what was to be her final movie appearance in his 1993 film LOVE AFFAIR.

He recalls, "She might've had some trouble moving around or remembering things, but she never seemed a day over 40 to me."

In all the years Beatty knew the actress, he was fascinated by her reclusiveness and her secret romance with Spencer Tracy.

He adds, "She went out to restaurants only three times after becoming famous and, because he wasn't divorced, never once appeared in public with the man who, for 26 years, was her great love.

"Why invade her privacy now? It's better just to love her and look at her. Often."

Others in the magazine paying end-of-year tributes to lost stars include Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, David Byrne, Forrest Whitaker and Martin Scorsese who remember Johnny Cash, Nina Simone, Celia Cruz, Gregory Hines and Elia Kazan respectively.

19/12/2003 01:51