Interview with Clint Eastwood for Gran Tarino

Will there be another dirty Harry movie? Clint Eastwood answers our questions

Q: You mentioned Sergio Leone, the Italian director who did all those Spaghetti Westerns.  What are your memories of him?
Eastwood: At that particular time, 30 years ago, we were attempting an
innovative style; at least a couple of people thought it a new
interpretation of the Western genre.  That was fun.  But after four
movies, I knew I had to move onto other roles.  Sergio and I talked
about doing other pictures, but to me they were a little reptitive. 
I’ve done sequels myself, but I’ve always tried at some point to do
something different.  Sergio was a wonderful talent, I learned a lot
from him.  I also learned a lot from other directors over the years. 
It was a great moment and a great era in my life.

Q: Some of the earlier films you’ve done, most noteably “Dirty Harry,”
were deemed racist by certain ethnic groups.  What are your feelings on
that and racism in general?

Eastwood: Some people have dubbed me a right-winger because Dirty Harry
took the law into his own hands, but, yes, there were some anti-racist
sentiments that were evident in “Bird,” the movie I directed about jazz
great Charlie Parker. Listen, as far as racism goes, I am an individual
who likes to follow his instincts.  No single philosophy gets my vote.
It’s a fact that the colored public was very mad about Dirty Harry.  I was accused of being a racist because at the beginning of the
film blacks rob a bank, but blacks rob banks, too, don’t they?  That
doesn’t make me racist.  The film gave jobs to four black stunt men,
but that fact is ignored.  Trade unions in Hollywood are well known for
their discriminatory attitude towards black members of film crews. Spike Lee told me last year that he had to negotiate for months to be able to work with a black crew.

Q: Will you ever do another Dirty Harry movie?

Eastwood: No.  That period in my career is closed.  But I don’t
renounce it.  It influenced my career favorably and gave me the
financial freedom to explore other possibilities. I think it’ds not
fair to pin a guy down just because he takes on commercial projects. 
But, perhaps, that’s the path you need to follow to let your personal
work develop.

Q: The Dirty Harry films were extremely violent.  There have been many
in the political arena who’ve lambasted the Hollywood community for its
preoccupation with sex and violence.  Comments?

Eastwood: Politicians are welcomed to their opinions, and maybe they
are genuinely concerned, but there are a lot more important problems in
the country that need to be addressed first.  Frankly, I don’t know
what makes any politician an expert on the subject.  Maybe it’s
political posturing.  Dole did that and he did a good job of making a
good point and then made political hay out of it.  Some of it, I think,
is because of President Clinton and his relationship with the Hollywood
community so he has to take an adversarial position.

Q: Did you ever expect to be at the top of the Hollywood heap [at age 78]?
Eastwood: Everybody advised me early in my career that I wouldn’t be
good at all.  There’s so many roles and so many, many people who would
like to have them.  You just have to work hard and hope your ready when
breaks happen.  You have to treat yourself like a professional boxer
where you know there’s only going to be so many years that are going to
be real good.  I’ve been one of the fortunate ones to be able to go on and play all these different types of characters.  And I think
that’s probably no brilliance on my part.  It probably has to do more
with a lot of luck.  I mean, in the early days I almost gave up acting.  I did a couple of films that were
really kind of bleak looking and I looked at them and said, ‘Gee, I
ought to get myself a sane job!’  But isn’t it funny how things work
out.  Hmm…

Q: At this point in your career where you’ve done so much and seen so
much, is it getting harder to find projects that interest you, that
challenge you?

Eastwood: It goes in waves. Sometimes you think, ‘Well, I’ll take some
time off.’ It goes in waves. I did ‘Mystic River’ and I was going to
take some time off after that project and then ‘Million Dollar Baby’
came around and I thought, ‘Ah, I have to do that.’ And then ‘The
Changeling,’ ‘Gran Torino…’ So I went right into each one one.

Q: Has there ever been any talk about doing a movie about you?
Eastwood: A movie about me? No, no. I don’t feel that my life is that interesting which is maybe why I became an actor.

Q: Do you think you’d ever want to work with… Eastwood: … with my own family? That’s very difficult. I feel that I
just do a job, and I’ve been lucky enough to work in a profession that
I enjoy. I still enjoy it and obviously so because I’m doing it still.
I don’t seem to have any ambitions about retiring. If I do I haven’t
found out about them yet. Maybe I’ll just wait until they retire me.

Q: I read that after “Gran Torino” you’re giving up acting and will just continue to direct?
Eastwood: Well, I thought about it after watching all those young
actors. Since this picture was completed this year I’ve done another
film which I perform in even though I said that I wasn’t going to do
that anymore. I think that I started saying that back a few years ago.
I said, ‘I don’t think I’ll act anymore. I’ll stay behind the camera.’
Then ‘Million Dollar Baby’ came along and I liked that role and I said,
‘Well, I’ll do this role because I think I’m right for it.’ Then I did
‘Gran Torino’ and I think this might be the last one I do in front of
the camera. But you never know. Something may come along that might
change my mind again.

Q: Many people might not realize that you write the music for most of
your films. How does being a composer on a film affect it for you?

Eastwood: Well, he does exactly what the director wants. It’s nice and
simple. I just hear certain things. As you’re making a film you’re
living with it and you’ve lived with it all through the prep and I
sometimes find myself sitting down and figuring out some sound that I
think would go with the film or some melody that would sound good in
that particular period. So that’s the only thing that I do. It’s not
brain surgery. You just kind of feel it along. I wrote a theme for
‘Unforgiven’ years ago. I wrote it long before I made the film. I saw
this and I felt like a guy would be playing a guitar somewhere, a very
lonely feel and so I wrote that on my way to location and developed it
later on. For ‘The Changeling,’ I wrote as I was doing it, a lot of
times as we were editing. I would try little things and bring something
in to Joel Cox, our editor, and say, ‘Here, try this right here and
that right there.’ He’ll fool around with it for a while and say, ‘Come
here, listen to this.’

Q: You recently directed the hottest film actress in Hollywood right now — Angelina Jolie. What was it like working with her?

Eastwood: Angelina Jolie? I forgot. [laughs] Very good. I didn’t know
Angelina very well.  Had met her on a few occasions, but didn’t know
her very well before doing this and of course I always thought of her
as a very interesting actress, a very good actress and then in recent
years she’s had so much publicity, being on the cover of every possible
publication in the world you all of a sudden start taking it for
granted because an awful lot of people can get on magazines, but that
doesn’t mean their talented. But in her case she’s really talented and
she’s the most prepared actress, or is certainly as prepared as any
actress I’ve worked with. She came in with the material in her mind,
with an attack on a character, was very amenable and you could shoot
almost immediately which is something that I like to do. I like to
catch somebody before they’ve had a chance to think about it too much.
I like catching an actor when they haven’t spoken the word so many
times that it’s flat, when it’s a simple and normal thing and the look
in their eyes isn’t the tenth or the twentieth time that they’ve done
it. You try for it at least in the early moments when they’re still
reaching for it and still trying to figure it out. She’s very amenable
to that and of course she does have the most striking face that one
could imagine. We wanted to drop all that though and just get into the

Q: Since “Unforgiven,” most of your films have received wonderful
reviews and reaction from both the media and fans. Can you keep this
success rate up for much longer?

Eastwood: I don’t know if I can do better.  But you just continue
because that’s what you do.  I think every role has its challenges.  I
definitely think that the work I’ve been doing over the last couple of
years is a lot better than the work I did early in my career.  I’ve had
more luxury of having lived a longer life where I have more experience
at hand, so I have the ability to play things now that maybe I couldn’t
have played 30 years ago.  By the same token, there are certain things
I did 30 years ago that I’d look ridiculous if I played them today.  So
you just kind of move ahead and try and fit in.  I feel nowadays a
person should be able to have a career as long as he wants.  Just as
long as you play roles that are suitable for you and you don’t look like somebody’s funny idea of a practical joke.

Q: You seem to be moving towards playing characters with more emotional depth.

Eastwood: As time goes on, you find yourself drawing on more from
within yourself and the issues that mean something to you.  And I think
just by the plain fact that I’m getting older gives me more interesting
characters to play.

Q: There are many people who feel you’re getting too old to play the hot lover in films.  Do you agree?
Eastwood: Not at all.  And the romance element in ‘Bridges’ was a lot
of fun because it wasn’t a graphic romantic thing. I mean, I’ve gotten
to the point where if I see another graphic love scene, I’ll tear my
hair out!

Q: Alright, so you don’t think you’re getting too old to play the hot
romantic lover.  But what about action films?  How long do you think
you can keep that up?

Eastwood: I still enjoy it.  I enjoy the action part of my movies
immensely.  And I must say, I still do enough running to keep in decent
enough shape that I could still do one or two rooftops.

Q: Some have said of you that, despite the seriousness of some of the
many characters you’ve portrayed in movies, that it is your keen sense
of humor that drives you the most
Eastwood: I’ll just say this — without my sense of humor, I’d be like a pit bull in search of a meal.

Gran Tarino is at Irish cinemas from Feb 13th 2008