I love Clint Eastwood. I hope I’m that cool when I’m in my seventies.
“Clint Eastwood folds his gangly frame behind a clifftop table at the Hotel Du Cap, a few miles up the coast from Cannes, sighs deeply, and squints out over the Mediterranean. “Has he ever studied the history?” he asks, in that familiar near-whisper.
The “he” is Spike Lee, and the reason Eastwood is asking is because of something Lee had said about Eastwood’s Iwo Jima movie Flags of Our Fathers, while promoting his own war movie, Miracle at St Anna, about a black US unit in the second world war. Lee had noted the lack of African-Americans in Eastwood’s movie and told reporters: “That was his version. The negro version did not exist.”
Eastwood has no time for Lee’s gripes. “He was complaining when I did Bird [the 1988 biopic of Charlie Parker]. Why would a white guy be doing that? I was the only guy who made it, that’s why. He could have gone ahead and made it. Instead he was making something else.” As for Flags of Our Fathers, he says, yes, there was a small detachment of black troops on Iwo Jima as a part of a munitions company, “but they didn’t raise the flag. The story is Flags of Our Fathers, the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn’t do that. If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people’d go, ‘This guy’s lost his mind.’ I mean, it’s not accurate.”
Lee shouldn’t be demanding African-Americans in Eastwood’s next picture, either. Changeling is set in Los Angeles during the Depression, before the city’s make-up was changed by the large black influx. “What are you going to do, you gonna tell a fuckin’ story about that?” he growls. “Make it look like a commercial for an equal opportunity player? I’m not in that game. I’m playing it the way I read it historically, and that’s the way it is. When I do a picture and it’s 90% black, like Bird, I use 90% black people.”
Eastwood pauses, deliberately – once it would have provided him with the beat in which to spit out his cheroot before flinging back his poncho – and offers a last word of advice to the most influential black director in American movies. “A guy like him should shut his face.””
Read the whole enchelada. Seriously, it gets even better.
“Dirty Harry – the story of a cop railing against bureaucracy and pursuing criminals according to his own whim – has been so imitated that it is hard to imagine the revulsion that spilled over it upon its release. The New Yorker’s critic, Pauline Kael, called it “fascist”, and other reviewers heaped similar scorn on it. They wondered whether holding a .44 Magnum in a suspect’s face was the best way to pursue justice; they wondered whether the San Francisco setting was a slap at one of America’s most liberal cities; even the CND belt buckle sported by Scorpio, the serial killer in the film, was interpreted as a swipe at the left. With the cop thriller supplanting the western as Hollywood’s action genre of choice, Eastwood was surely the political as well as cinematic successor to John Wayne.
But moviegoers took little notice of those who attacked the film. They flocked to the cinemas, Dirty Harry’s dialogue passed into common parlance, and it now occupies an important if uneasy place in film history.”
Dirty Harry trivia you probably don’t know:
“(John) Wayne had turned the film down, as had Steve McQueen, Robert Mitchum and various others. Frank Sinatra was set to star until, according to showbiz lore, tendonitis in his wrist prevented him from handling the Magnum’s heavy recoil. “Probably just bullshit,” says Eastwood. But Ol’ Blue Eyes’ loss was Young Blue Eyes’ gain. Eastwood brought director/collaborator Don Siegel to the project. And, courtesy of a much misquoted line – “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?” – the picture turned Eastwood from cowboy star into everyman icon.”
Personally, I loved this bit:
“These days Eastwood doesn’t really look back on his old films, though he mentions a viewing of The Outlaw Josey Wales, a film some regard as his masterpiece. He meant to watch for five minutes, but ended up sitting all the way through. “The films that I’ve done in recent years are the ones I remember the most,” he says. “I guess I’m living in the present more than the past.””
The Outlaw Josey Wales is my all-time favorite Clint Eastwood flick.
Josey (To the indian chief): “Dyin’s easy for men like you and me, it’s livin’ that’s hard.” LOL!