LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood actor Warren Beatty returns to cinema screens after a 15-year absence in the romantic drama "Rules Don't Apply", playing billionaire Howard Hughes.

The Oscar winner, known for movies such as "Bonnie and Clyde", "Bulworth" and "Dick Tracy", also wrote and directed the film about a young actress, played by Lily Collins and her driver, portrayed by Alden Ehrenreich.

The movie, which had its world premiere at the American Film Institute festival in Los Angeles on Thursday, is Beatty's first film appearance since 2001's "Town & Country".

"I always take a long time to finally begin a movie," the 79-year-old said at the premiere. "I've had this in the back of my mind for a long time and ... so to be able to finally go ahead and do it is very satisfying, and I got lucky with a terrific cast."

Beatty walked the red carpet with his wife, actress Annette Bening, who also stars in the movie alongside Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin and Matthew Broderick.

"I think that the sexual puritanism of America and the rise of feminism in the late '50s and the early '60s which occurs in this movie is meaningful," Beatty said.

The AFI Fest runs until Nov. 17 and will feature premieres of such other films as "The Comedian," starring Robert De Niro, and Disney's "Moana".

(Reporting By Reuters Television, editing by Larry King)