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“Stark terror” was the emotion Clint Eastwood experienced more than six decades ago when he almost died during a plane crash, he said March 11.
“What was going through my mind was just a stark fear, a stark terror, because [in the] first place, I didn’t know anything about aviation at that particular time — I was just hopping a ride,” he noted, recalling the time he hitched a ride on a bomber plane while doing his military service in the early 1950s.
“In those days, you could wear your uniform and get a free flight,” he continued. “On the way back, they had one plane, a Douglas AD, sort of a torpedo bomber of the World War II vintage, and I thought I’d hitch on that. Everything went wrong. Radios went out. Oxygen ran out. And finally we ran out of fuel up around Point Reyes, California, and went in the ocean. So we went swimming. It was late October, November. Very cold water. [I] found out many years later that it was a white shark breeding ground, but I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have just died.”
Eastwood spoke to students at the Loyola Marymount University School of Film & TV, where he took part in the ongoing Hollywood Masters interview series. Other guests this season have included Sean Penn, Kenneth Branagh, Gale Anne Hurd and Ethan Hawke.
He also discussed his more recent military foray, the Oscar-nominated American Sniper, which became the highest-grossing release of 2014 the day he was interviewed.
Asked if the picture glorified war, he replied: “I think it’s nice for veterans, because it shows what they go through, and that life — and the wives and families of veterans. It has a great indication of the stresses they are under. And I think that all adds up to kind of an anti-war [message].”
Is Eastwood himself anti-war? “Yes,” he said. “I’ve done war movies because they’re always loaded with drama and conflict. But as far as actual participation … it’s one of those things that should be done with a lot of thought, if it needs to be done. Self-protection is a very important thing for nations, but I just don’t like to see it.”
He added: “I was not a big fan of going to war in Iraq or Afghanistan, for several reasons, several practical reasons. One, [in] Afghanistan, the British had never been successful there; the Russians had 10 years there and hadn’t been successful… Iraq, I know, was a different deal, because there was a lot of intelligence that told us that bad things could happen there, and we’re never sure how that ended up, whether it was pro or con. [But] I tend to err on the side of less is best.”
The actor-director-producer said he was planning to take a few months off before he returns to filmmaking. “I did two pictures back-to-back, Jersey Boys and then this, American Sniper. I was editing one while preparing another, and I just thought, at the end, the worst thing that could happen now is somebody gives me a really great script! So I wanted five, six months off to just improve the golf game.”
He said he was continuing to develop the long-in-the-works A Star Is Born, but also noted that he has a new project in mind.
“I talked about that for a while with Warner Brothers’ people,” he said of Star, “and we’re still playing with that idea. But the problem at the beginning [was] they were more infatuated with just the idea of the casting. They were talking about having Beyoncé in it, and she was very popular, but she also is very active and it’s hard to get a time scheduled, so we never could get that worked out. But I’m still playing with the idea. Then also I’ve got one other thing I’m looking at that’s interesting.”
He declined to say what it was.
A full transcript follows.
GALLOWAY: The fall of 1951, you go to Seattle to visit your parents, you hitch a ride back, you’ve been drafted for the army, you’re on a bomber and the plane starts to go down and down and down. What was going through your mind and what happened?
EASTWOOD: That’s a long time ago. [LAUGHTER] What was going through my mind was just a stark fear, a stark terror because first place, I didn’t know anything about aviation at that particular time I was just hopping a ride. In those days you could, as a GI, which I was in the service, you could wear your uniform and get a free flight on any other branch of the service. So if I went out to the naval base in Monterey which I did at that time, and I took a flight to Seattle I could go for free. So I sat in the back, I got up there and on the way back they didn’t have a plane, they had one plane a Douglas AD, sort of a torpedo bomber of the World War II vintage and they were going back to Alameda so I thought I’d hitch on that. Everything went wrong. Radios went out, oxygen ran out and they finally… The pilot flew it around for quite a while and we ran out of fuel up around Point Reyes, California. And went in the ocean. So we went swimming. [LAUGHTER] It was a tough time of year in November and… I think it was November. Late October, November something. Very cold water. Found out many years later that it was a white shark breeding ground but I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have just died, just had apoplexy or something.
GALLOWAY: Were you afraid you’d die?
EASTWOOD: No, I just… Yeah, I just thought in the back of my mind I was well some people have made through these things so maybe we’ll have a luck and when we hit the water and the water felt much more comfortable because in the air the sound of the engine not running was very disconcerting.
GALLOWAY: How did you imagine your life at that point? You hadn’t started acting, you came from a fairly modest family. Did you look ahead and imagine what you’d be doing?
EASTWOOD: No. I didn’t. After I got out of the service I went to world famous Los Angeles City College and like I came down here and I was going to Los Angeles City College and someone suggested I go to an acting class in the evening and I said I don’t know about that. I did a play once when I was in high school and I always vowed I’d never do it again. And then… It was actually junior high school. And so…
GALLOWAY: Do you remember what the play was?
EASTWOOD: No. It was a one-act play and I can’t remember it for the life of me but it was supposed to be a comedy and it was funny, I’m afraid in all the wrong places. But anyway we did it and then finally I went to these acting classes there and I met some people and a cinematographer at Universal years ago named Irving Glassberg called me up and said who I’d met and he had… We talked about sports and swimming and all that kind of stuff. And he finally said… He called me up and said we’re on the last day of a picture and then the last day of the picture if you’ll come out I’ll just shoot some film on you and nobody will know the difference and then you can see what you look like and all that kind of thing. So he shot some film on me and I looked at it a couple days later, it was awful. You know how it is when you first hear yourself on tape? Well it’s just twice as bad when you see yourself and you keep saying, you know, what’s the matter with this guy? Why didn’t he move? A dolt, you know.
EASTWOOD: So you get very critical. And then but finally somebody did offer me a contract and I was a contract player out there for a year and a half at $75 a week which actually, you would laugh about now maybe but you could live on that.
GALLOWAY: What did your parents think about that? They’d gone through the depression.
EASTWOOD: My mother thought it was great, my father said get a real job. He says you know stay in school, get a real job and I should have… Normally would have. I was hoping to parlay after City College go to either L.A. State or somewhere maybe even as fine as LMU. [LAUGHTER] But I didn’t have that opportunity as I didn’t have any money so that didn’t work out too well.
GALLOWAY: What was Hollywood like at that time?
EASTWOOD: It was interesting because it was not much television. Still making movies. Universal was making real cheesy movies like Revenge of the Creature from the Black Lagoon (sic). And they made a lot of small westerns with Audie Murphy and people like that. They had a bunch of nice starlets, Mamie Van Doren and people like that. Maybe you’d remember but I don’t know if anyone here would. [LAUGHTER]
GALLOWAY: That’s an embarrassed laugh at that point.
GALLOWAY: I don’t, you know.
EASTWOOD: Anyway, it was an interesting time but if you paid attention and visited a lot of sets, which I did, you start getting interested in film.
GALLOWAY: Was your goal then to become a better actor or just to make that $75 and then?
EASTWOOD: Just to… Yeah, to learn what acting was all about in front of the camera. At that particular time I was just going to classes where you’re up on stage like this and you’d go through different scenes that somebody would give you and you would say either do this as a cold reading or else memorize it and come back tomorrow and portray it.
GALLOWAY: How did the insecurity of that job affect you because with everything your parents had gone through it’s not the most stable profession for someone.
EASTWOOD: No it isn’t. In hindsight though my dad would have loved to have been an actor because he was kind of a ham, but it was during the depression years when I first grew up in the mid, early-30s, mid-30s, it was a bad time. I mean the great recession that we had here a few years ago was nothing compared to this. There was no such thing as unemployment and all that sort of thing. When you were broke you were just broke and when you were out of a job you were just out of a job, period. So it was a bad time, but as kids my sister and I never really knew too much about it or thought too much about it because we were only seeing it from what we knew.
EASTWOOD: And then we had another… As long as we had something to eat that was okay by us.
GALLOWAY: But the job didn’t work out at Universal, did it? They dropped your contract.
EASTWOOD: Well they dumped me yeah after a year and a half.
GALLOWAY: You put it.
EASTWOOD: He’s a total failure, they said.
EASTWOOD: No, not really. I mean they just didn’t say much of anything. We can’t use you. And they were kind of dropping the whole program at that time and I was early in the game there so I went out and at that time T.V. was starting to come in and a lot of TV series at that time just Highway Patrol and Men of West Point or Men of Annapolis, they had a couple of those. And they’d have some Westerns and stuff. I never could get a bit in a Western for some reason.
GALLOWAY: Hm, really?
EASTWOOD: Yeah. The girls at Universal used to call me Coop because they thought I resembled Gary Cooper at that time who was kind of a big leading actor some of you might remember.
GALLOWAY: This one they do too.
EASTWOOD: Cinema students would know, yeah.
GALLOWAY: You were working sweeping floors in South Central L.A., you were doing menial jobs working at a gas station.
EASTWOOD: I did. I worked at a Texaco station right next to General Service Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard and I managed an apartment house that I was living in to get the rent knocked down and that… And then going to classes at night and you know just…
GALLOWAY: Were you a good student?
GALLOWAY: Either you’re being modest or you’re a really terrible student, one or the other. Which one is it?
EASTWOOD: Well I wasn’t terrible because I absorbed something of it all but it was a interesting time in that time in the 50s. So I was thinking it was ’53 at that time, the year 1953, ’54. So I was thinking the other night I said that, you know, that’s 62, 63 years. I said I’ve been in the business. I never thought I’d last 63 days.
GALLOWAY: Right. When you look back does it seem like another person or how do you… Can you remember who you were then?
GALLOWAY: Do you like the young Clint Eastwood?
EASTWOOD: Uh… [LAUGHTER] He was all right I guess. I don’t know. I mean not objectively at any age but…
GALLOWAY: How have you most changed since then? Your work’s changed a lot obviously but how have you?
EASTWOOD: Well you just change as the years go by. The more knowledge you get, the more things change in your life and circumstances change. I always tell people it takes just a little bit of skill and a heck of a lot of luck. So if you can get at the right place, I went in the 50s, all through the late 50s up till 1959 and ’60 I was just digging the swimming pools out in Encino and just working for a United Pool Company up in L.A and running down didn’t have cell phones so we ran down and slapped a nickel or a dime into the thing and call your agent and the agent would tell you get lost, kid.
GALLOWAY: Oh wow.
EASTWOOD: And you’d go back and go back to work. And then finally one day I started getting some parts and then I did a little film out at Fox called Ambush at Cimarron Pass. It was probably the worst film ever made and… But I had the second lead in it and an actor named Scott Brady was the lead. And the film was made in eight days. So it was really el speedo grande. And I saw it. I went to see it, it was playing a second feature in North Hollywood. I went to see it and I saw that film and I said I’m through. I’ve got to go back to school. I’ve got to do something else, I’ve got to get a job of other sorts. And then finally I accidentally ran into somebody out at CBS on Beverly Boulevard and they were doing a Western called Rawhide. And they cast me as one of the leads.
GALLOWAY: It’s amazing you just bumped into somebody and that changed your life.
EASTWOOD: It did.
GALLOWAY: You know that you’re on the point of giving up acting.
GALLOWAY: When you think what you are now, that you could have just completely given it up and…
EASTWOOD: Yeah I was about… I kept wanting to give up but you never quite give up. You always kind of hang in but then I just ran into… Lucky thing I ran… I was having tea with a lady who I knew who was an older woman who was a reader at CBS and we were standing there and this guy comes up to me in the hall and says what’s your name, boy, and then I said Clint Eastwood and he goes are you an actor? And I said yeah. And he says come into my office a minute. And I’m going who the hell is this guy. Meanwhile, the lady I was visiting, she’s going back going yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
EASTWOOD: So I go in and it turns out he’s in charge of production there so they cast… The next day after that the very next day I went, I was testing at a studio, standing and they gave me a page of dialogue, an absolute page, no other actor there and I had to run in and start talking to the camera. And I said I can’t learn this in five minutes. There’s no way. So… But fortunately I just learned what the intent was, I came in and improvised the whole thing. The director who was the director/writer didn’t like me right away because I didn’t use any of his dialogue. [LAUGHTER]
EASTWOOD: And so I left and as I left there was another actor saying the same lines and he was saying them all perfectly.
GALLOWAY: Oh wow.
EASTWOOD: And I… Not well but he was saying them all. I said oh that guy’s got the part. So I went home that night and I said well I’d blown another one and then the next day they called up and said there you are. So that gave me six years of work.
EASTWOOD: Steady work as an actor.
GALLOWAY: … Put you massively on the map.
EASTWOOD: Almost impossible thing.
GALLOWAY: Right. And you did it and you stuck with it and it was six days a week, sometimes 12 hours a day.
GALLOWAY: By the way, I didn’t notice until I was, you know, preparing for this interview but in prime time at that point there were 108 series, 30 of them were Westerns.
GALLOWAY: Isn’t that amazing.
EASTWOOD: And that’s what… I remember in the L.A. Times when it came out everybody said yeah, just what we need is another Western. [LAUGHTER] But it came out, it went in as a mid-season replacement for a program Jackie Gleason had, not The Honeymooners, it was a later program. And we did okay in the ratings so we… And we hung in there and then after a couple years somebody said would you like to go to Italy and make a Western and I said no, I don’t want to go anywhere. I’d like to take the time off, we have a month off and then I read the script and I realized it was Yojimbo, which was my absolute favorite picture at that time.
GALLOWAY: The [Akira] Kurosawa film. And you’d seen that when you worked with a projectionist in the army?
EASTWOOD: I had seen… No I hadn’t, I saw it at a theater down on Western Ave. that did foreign films and they were doing Yojimbo, a Kurosawa film with Toshiro Mifune as the lead and I thought well this picture’s great but nobody had the nerve enough to make it as a Western. And this Italian guy did.
GALLOWAY: All right so you’re well into Rawhide and they offer you the role in what was originally called The Magnificent Stranger.
GALLOWAY: And let’s take a look at a clip from that and thank you for beautifully transitioning to… [LAUGH] Here it is.
EASTWOOD: Oh my god we’ve got film. [LAUGHTER]
EASTWOOD: I love it.
GALLOWAY: You get to see yourself close up here.
EASTWOOD: As you probably noticed that was slightly operatic and the people were… I had other actors, were all different languages so everybody spoke their own language as we only had a $200,000 budget and so they didn’t… Everybody… They didn’t have time to do a lot of training or anything. So everybody did and they put it into Italian then they put it into German then they put it into Spanish and they put it into English. But the picture turned out to be a hit and then things… That was the end of it.
GALLOWAY: Your co-star in Rawhide had turned it down.
EASTWOOD: I don’t know if he did or not but if he did, maybe.
GALLOWAY: You didn’t have a conversation about that?
EASTWOOD: A lot of people turned it down. I remember when I got to Rome to prepare to do the thing everybody was saying oh, stay away from that project, it’s been around for a long time and everything and I said well I don’t care if it’s been around. I think it’s a lot of fun and I think I want to do it plus the fact the great Toshiro Mifune had done it before me and I thought what the hell.
GALLOWAY: It seems as though… I didn’t know that you were that interested in film at that point in your life.
EASTWOOD: I was. I liked it. I used to go down and watch Kurosawa films and various directors that I liked at that time.
GALLOWAY: Were you thinking even then that one day you wanted to direct?
EASTWOOD: Maybe subconsciously yeah.
GALLOWAY: What did Sergio Leone teach you?
EASTWOOD: Of… He was wild. They were going to Italy and I was the only one on the company that spoke English. The crew was all Italian and Spanish. And I didn’t speak either one of those languages at the time other than buongiorno and arrivederci. Or you know that kind of thing but I just kind of hung in there and had fun with it and…
GALLOWAY: You obviously…
EASTWOOD: I figured I got to tour the country if nothing else.
GALLOWAY: He obviously influenced you because I think when you did Unforgiven you dedicated it to him and another director we’re going to come to. What did you gain from him?
EASTWOOD: That he had never directed… He’d only directed one picture. I think called, The Colossus of Rhodes. And he was just seeing the Italian technique. You know, the whole thing the crew was… And they were shooting, they didn’t care about sound, they put the sound in later so people would be playing Frisbees and everything else in the background.
GALLOWAY: Oh. [LAUGH]
EASTWOOD: We were trying to concentrate on a scene. So it did improve your concentration a lot, yeah. But basically it was similar. Except that he was not afraid to do things that were taboo in the old days here. In other words in the old days there used to be a rule in the Hays office days where you couldn’t fire a shot and see the person who was being shot. If you would look at the beginning of Gunsmoke and all those things, they always cut to somebody, cut to somebody and then back. You couldn’t have anything tied up. And he was going ahead and tying up all the shots, everything and I kept thinking ah, should I say anything? Nah, the heck with it.
GALLOWAY: Oh really?
EASTWOOD: Went with it and I wasn’t going to say anything because I didn’t want to impose our motives. I never thought anybody would see the film anyway. I thought maybe if we were lucky we’d see it in America but…
GALLOWAY: It took a while before its release in America. It opened in Europe three years before it came to the U.S.?
EASTWOOD: Yeah. Two years. It was held up because they neglected one thing. They neglected to get the rights from the Japanese and they said… And halfway during the picture Sergio Leone came to me and said by the way, don’t mention that this is from Yojimbo. We have a little problem with the Japanese and I said, what’s the problem? And they said well, we haven’t quite ironed out all the contracts yet but that’ll be done in a few days and it took two years. [LAUGHTER]
GALLOWAY: How did that change your life?
EASTWOOD: Well it was good. Except I was back doing Rawhide in the States because we were doing another season of episodes and then all of the sudden there was a story in the Variety about how Westerns were finished in Europe. Nobody was going to go see Westerns anymore and I said gee, that’s great, I did one and now they’re finished. Okay. So that… I didn’t think too much of it because I was back here in Rawhide and then about a month later they said well this one show called Fistful Of Dollars. Well the picture was made under the title of Magnifico Straniero, so when it was Fistful of Dollars I didn’t think anything of it, and then about the fourth or fifth time that they mentioned this film they said Fistful of Dollars with Clint Eastwood, little tiny letters down there and I said-I said oh god, that’s it, huh? Fistful of Dollars. And then just about a day or two later they called up and said would you come back and do another one and all that sort of thing.
GALLOWAY: Did you like acting at that point? Did you enjoy the actual process of acting?
EASTWOOD: I was enjoying it. Everything that you do is a challenge. And acting is just building up your concentration and being able to listen and to do the ridiculous. Taking on four guys sitting on the fence.
GALLOWAY: Is it stressful acting? Do you get anxious when you’re acting?
EASTWOOD: Not after a while, no. No. It shouldn’t be. The easier it is the more you can bring yourself to it, the better it is. After a while you learn different techniques of making yourself relax and a lot of people have different techniques. Sometimes people will sit and concentrate in the corner. I used to go talk to the camera. I’d sit… I’d go up and stand in front of the camera and I’d call it all kinds of names and say…
GALLOWAY: [LAUGHTER] Really?
GALLOWAY: I know you meditate but you actually…
EASTWOOD: Well this was before all that.
EASTWOOD: And so that’s my way of kind of dominating it. I said, you know, you’re not going to intimidate me kind of thing.
EASTWOOD: And it’s one way if you ever get caught in this situation you might want to consider it. And in those days they had… I was on a picture where they had the old three-stripe Technicolor camera and it was a big thing in one place, didn’t move at all. So it was easy, I just kind of go up when nobody else was looking I’d go up, ah you dirty son of a bitch. [LAUGHTER] And then I’d go back and I’d just be kind of cool.
GALLOWAY: Do you still talk to the camera?
GALLOWAY: These films made you a big star, like a movie star. You started doing mainstream American films and then you come to this really watershed year in your life for two reasons. I’m going to talk about the first reason first which is when you worked with the second major influence on your directing, Don Siegel and we’re going to look at a clip in a moment from Dirty Harry. I actually met Don Siegel when I was a teenager in an elevator in London.
EASTWOOD: Oh really?
GALLOWAY: Yeah, we got off the subway. You know if you’re English, Americans always seem so tall, nothing personal, and he’s in the elevator and I thought he said are you a movie star? And I repeated this line to my friends, you know for years. [LAUGH]
EASTWOOD: Yeah. Yeah.
GALLOWAY: And so that was Don Siegel.
EASTWOOD: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, good.
GALLOWAY: So I want you talk about him but let’s watch a clip from Dirty Harry in 1971.
EASTWOOD: Silly stuff.
GALLOWAY: You hired Don Siegel at that point.
GALLOWAY: What made you go for him?
EASTWOOD: I had seen some other films that he had done. I was a big fan of… He did one of the best B movies ever made, a thing called Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And he always did a lot with very little. Never had the big budget films or anything. So he just had managed to accomplish a lot on a minimal basis. And I kind of liked him and he’s a very personable guy and kind of old school. He reminded me a lot of Bill Wellman and some of those guys who is one of the only named directors I’d ever worked for and I’d done a small part for him in a picture and they were all kind of rough and tumble guys.
GALLOWAY: Did you discuss with him the violence in the film and the use of the gun? Were you worried about that or not at the time?
EASTWOOD: No. They had a lot of things. You notice when you watch that it’s been changed lately, but… We changed it, but you couldn’t have blood that looked like blood. There were certain rules of the business so that’s why it looks like paint, you know. Like it was… And the violence was slightly comedic.
EASTWOOD: I mean it had a certain satire to it all. But I liked the character, it was great fun. And the picture did real well. It came out and spawned sequels and… But it was… It kind of got me away from the Western thing for a little while even though there’s gunplay and all that sort of thing.
GALLOWAY: What did he teach you? You cast him in a supporting role when you did Play Misty for Me. You did five films with him and then you didn’t do more films with him. Had you outgrown him or?
EASTWOOD: No. I did… I wanted to be a director and in 1970 or 1969 I had the script, Universal had the script, I bought a script from a young lady that wrote it, a friend of mine and she had written a treatment, a 60 page treatment called Play Misty for Me and I went off to Europe and made a picture. I had optioned it from her and then I went off to Europe to make a picture and it was going longer and going way over schedule and so finally she said… She called me up, said that gee I got this offer to sell this thing to Universal and I said take it. I said take it, I’m going to be here a while and I don’t know.
EASTWOOD: But then years later I went back to Universal, it was a different regime then but I went back to Universal and I went to Lew Wasserman who was the head of Universal at that time and I said you know that you have this story called Play Misty for Me that’s on the shelf nobody was making. And I said I’ve always liked it and would love to do it and he said fine. And I’d love to direct it as well. And he said fine.
EASTWOOD: And I thought my god, he’s going for everything here. [LAUGHTER] I better get it while it’s hot. So I got up and I left the room and my agent stayed there. He said come here, I want to talk to you to the agent. And so I hung around…
GALLOWAY: Was that Lenny Hirshan at that point?
EASTWOOD: Lenny Hirshan, yeah. So I was down at the end of the hallway waiting and then he comes out and I said gee, that was easy I mean he went for everything. And I said yeah. He said yeah, but he doesn’t want to pay you. And I said that’s all right. I said… Of course the agent didn’t like to hear that because they get 10 percent of anything you get. So… But I said I should pay him. I should have to pay him. I said I should show him what I can do if I can do anything. And that was my dad’s influence because that was his deal. Growing up in the 30s, he always said don’t ask what you’re going to get, you know, ask what you can give. It later turned out to be John Kennedy’s thing, too you know. What you can do for the company. You can be the best employee in the company and what have you. Anyway, that was a philosophy they had in the 30s. Not today.
GALLOWAY: So did you pay to do the Play Misty for Me? Did you have to pay to?
EASTWOOD: No they had to by scale, union scale they had to give me scale so.
GALLOWAY: So essentially you have Dirty Harry and your directing debut in the same year.
EASTWOOD: Yeah. Yeah.
GALLOWAY: When you went in to direct, did you watch other films? How did you prepare for that?
EASTWOOD: No, I just went in. I just kind of went in and I filmed it up in Monterey County where I knew all the areas and so I scattered the areas and I have to think it was done on a shoestring. We did it for I think by then it cost about 700,000 I think, but that was with overhead and everything else slapped in there from the studio. So we didn’t have a lot to work with.
GALLOWAY: And you were exhausted from acting and directing.
EASTWOOD: Yeah I was tired. It’s more tiring that’s for sure. Much easier to do one then the other. I mean or one or the other. So… But the last one I did was Gran Torino a few years back. And for a while there during the 70s and the 80s I directed everything I was in for a while. Even… I’d always think I’d get another director but I never found anybody else I could trust.
GALLOWAY: Oh really? [LAUGHTER] Do you have trouble trusting?
EASTWOOD: Well I guess maybe I did.
GALLOWAY: Is there a director you’d like to work with and you haven’t?
EASTWOOD: Well there was a ton of them in those days. When I was first coming up in the 50s they were all the great directors, Billy Wilder was working and John Ford and Hawks and all these guys were… That I admired were… And Capra. They were all still working. But not with me. Not with me in them at that time.
GALLOWAY: Who do you watch? Do you watch a lot of films today? Who do you admire?
EASTWOOD: I don’t watch a lot of them. I mean I’m usually involved in making them. I try to watch them. I like to watch films, good stories told. And you have to have… But that was a changeover era. You know, all those people were quitting, retiring. Billy Wilder had a couple that didn’t do so well but I always admired him, I always loved White Heat and I loved all these films that he did. No, that wasn’t Billy Wilder, White Heat, no that was…
GALLOWAY: Was it Raoul Walsh?
EASTWOOD: Raoul Walsh, yeah. But Sunset Boulevard…
GALLOWAY: Did you meet Billy Wilder?
EASTWOOD: Yeah, I did. Yeah. I liked him, he’s a very charming guy. But I never got to work with him and never got to work with Wilder or with Ford or any of those guys. Never met any of them.
GALLOWAY: Would you act again because it’s been a while? Do you still want to act?
EASTWOOD: Yeah, I would if… But, you know, I’m getting to an age where there’s not really that many good roles. When Gran Torino came along and I knew that guy, I knew that character. He was a very politically incorrect, which I…
GALLOWAY: You like.
EASTWOOD: Appreciated. [LAUGHTER] And he was a very, you know, just a grumpy old man kind of thing. So I’m not that old really, I just fake all that. [LAUGHTER]
GALLOWAY: You were very healthy, I know that. You’ve made many films and then you did return to a Western and in your 60s you won the Oscar for best director and for best picture so let’s take a look at Unforgiven, really a masterpiece.
EASTWOOD: I abhor violence. [LAUGHTER]
GALLOWAY: It’s interesting because I started to see a sort of shift in your point of view of the world with this film. There’s more of a nostalgia, there’s a sadder quality and we’ll see it even more as the films progress. By the way, I said this to you before but I love these later films that you make. I mean I think it’s just an incredible flowering of just…
GALLOWAY: You’re making. But it’s not the young EASTWOOD Eastwood.
EASTWOOD: No. I bought the script in 1980 and I didn’t make it until 1992. And 1991 I guess where it started at. I put it in a drawer, I just thought this would be something that would be great to do a little bit older. And I put it in a drawer and kind of forgot about it. And I went all the way through the 80s with… Doing other projects and then one day I took it out and re-read it and I said this is what I’m going to do. And I… It was like having a little gem, a little cupcake or something that you’re going to savor it before you eat it. I love the story and I just… And I fortunately had Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman and a lot of great performers in the picture. It was the last Western I made and maybe the best, I don’t know.
GALLOWAY: I think it is. Gene Hackman turned down the role that you played, I read.
EASTWOOD: No, no, he didn’t. He didn’t. He always was going to be the sheriff in the thing. But it’s funny when you read the script you thought that his part was going to be the lead because it starts out with him at the beginning and how they get in the predicament where they put this bounty out for these women who were mistreated. And it was… But then eventually you get into William Munny and he’s a man with a very bad past, but he’s haunted by it. And another thing the script had that’s really interesting, the guy’s haunted by it, but he’s still monogamously true to his wife who is deceased. She had been deceased for many years but he just, everything he did was based upon what she would have liked. And this is part of his penance he was doing for all his bad boy activity when he was young.
GALLOWAY: When you get a script like this what’s the process that you go through? Do you immediately really think that I’m going to do this? How do you prepare for the shoot itself?
EASTWOOD: Just cast… The casting is the most important thing. Just cast the proper people for it and if you cast a picture really well a lot of things take care of themselves. You get actors that like to give a lot to the role and who appreciate the role on the same level that you do. And it really… If you miscast it, you’re working an uphill battle a little bit and maybe you can come out okay but you can’t always come out great.
GALLOWAY: Do you rehearse? Do you do any kind of storyboard?
EASTWOOD: Sometimes. It depends on the actors. It depends on the actors. With Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman I didn’t rehearse because they… I got halfway through a rehearsal on the first day and I saw that it was going so good I said we better shoot this just in case they couldn’t get it the second time. They could, but it… You know, there’s something about the first time an actor runs the material over his or her face you know when they kind of run it through their eyes and you see the thing and there was little imperfections in it and not every line is delivered perfectly, it doesn’t have that mechanical feeling.
EASTWOOD: So I’m always looking for that. Doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you get somebody that doesn’t really warm up until four or five takes or maybe later. So you have to adjust everything. Directing is more like you’re being a psychologist and you’re kind of analyzing the situation and evaluating each person for their idiosyncrasies.
GALLOWAY: While you are shooting or when you first meet with them, do you make that analysis when you first sit down with a person or?
EASTWOOD: No. With Gene I knew him socially and so he was a friend. Morgan I had met socially and he was a big fan of Westerns and he… When I called him up I said would you like to do a Western with me and he said yeah, I love it, I love Westerns. I said well you want to know what the part is? And he said yeah, yeah, I do. And he read it and he said okay, but if nobody’s doing the sheriff, he says I’ll do the sheriff and I said well I’ve already got Gene Hackman for that. But you know everybody has their likes and dislikes. I called up Richard Harris, I called him up and he was in the Bahamas somewhere and I asked him to play British Bob, which is a character that’s kind of… We didn’t see there, but is in the picture. And I said would you come play British Bob in this picture and he says who is this calling, anyway? And I says Richard, it’s EASTWOOD, it’s me, EASTWOOD Eastwood. And he says, is this Al? He says is this Joe? He says you guys are pulling a damn… And the reason he said that is because he was downstairs in his basement watching High Plains Drifter on his…
GALLOWAY: Oh no, really?
EASTWOOD: Yeah. And he says you’ll never believe this, I’m watching High Plains Drifter. And I said well, this is a little different. I said would you like to come do this and I’ll send a script out to you. He said oh, you don’t need a script. Obviously don’t need a script. He says just I’ll be there. I said great. So it was a kind of fun period where everybody was so enthusiastic.
GALLOWAY: I wanted to show everybody a different clip which is actually when he comes to town and one by one the members of the town come forward, you know, see what’s happening. And it’s so beautifully orchestrated and so simple you know it’s this art of simplicity. When you’re shooting how much do you think about the shots and how much is it that you work with your cameraman and he just knows what you like?
EASTWOOD: Yeah, the camera… You tell the cameraman what you like and eventually that was Jack Green he knew I worked for… He worked for me as a operator for years and so he knew shorthand with him. Talked very… You know, you didn’t have to go into big exposition, you could just give him a little scan of what you wanted. And sometimes I’d talked, I stand behind him and talk as we’re laying it out. If you were rehearsing I just sort of whispered to him as we’d be laying out the shots. But if it wasn’t then we just… I sometimes talked to him even when the shot was going.
GALLOWAY: Oh wow.
EASTWOOD: Say move over here, move and slide in over here or something.
GALLOWAY: Do you have anybody who says to you, you know EASTWOOD that wasn’t your best performance, you better do another take? When you’re on set is there anybody who gives you a second perspective on your own work if you’re acting?
EASTWOOD: On my own work? Yeah and Don Siegel had a… His last advice to me when I first went to do Play Misty, he says don’t short yourself. He says the tendency is when an actor’s directing is to kind of you want to work on everybody else but you’re going to short yourself. He says take the time to do a good job with yourself so that you’re satisfied with it.
GALLOWAY: And are you a good judge of your own work?
EASTWOOD: I don’t know. I’m not objective about that. [LAUGHTER] I think I did all right in that movie.
GALLOWAY: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] By the way, I remember seeing some… For some reason I missed it when it came out and I remember watching on television, you know, you come at the middle of the film and just for a moment you’re thinking what is this? And I wish I could remember the scene, it’s an outdoor seen, the almost invisible cracking move and I go oh wow, that’s kind of subtle. And as I’m watching it, you know, this isn’t bad at all. Wow, this is great, who… Oh, it’s Clint Eastwood of course. But the… I so admire just the restraint of the direction.
GALLOWAY: Have you ever made a mistake in directing that you’ve regretted afterwards?
EASTWOOD: Well that’s in the eyes of the beholder. Probably a lot… It depends on the individual watching. Yeah I probably have but I don’t dwell on it if I have. I’ve been lucky on a few occasions. There was a lot of precedent for actors directing back in early years. William S. Hart directed, Stan Laurel I think and of course Orson Welles came along and made a splash with Citizen Kane and then others along the way, [Laurence] Olivier. A lot of people did direct. And some of them quite successfully and I think Raoul Walsh had acting experience before he came along and he turned out to be a really good director.
EASTWOOD: But it’s just a next step. You’re on the sets all the time, you’re working with material so you’re right there. Cinematography and directing, anything that’s in the sets is a good platform for directing. Though writers sometimes do well because they interpret their own stuff.
GALLOWAY: Have you ever written anything?
EASTWOOD: No. I’ve rewritten a lot of stuff.
GALLOWAY: You have? [LAUGH] Not taking the credit. I know you go through things with a line and cut out.
EASTWOOD: Yeah, sometimes you cut out things. Or some you wait until you try it. Sometimes you try it and it gets clumsy. If the actor’s having trouble you know with a dialogue it just sounds clumsy, ah it sounds better maybe if you take it out.
GALLOWAY: Do you have any regrets, things you haven’t done?
EASTWOOD: Things I haven’t done?
GALLOWAY: I think you turned down… I don’t know which role it was, but Apocalypse Now.
EASTWOOD: I did. Apocalypse Now, they… [Francis Ford] Coppola called me up and asked me if I wanted to do the young guy I think later played by Martin Sheen. And asked me if I wanted to play that and I said gee, I don’t know I don’t understand this show too much. I did read Heart of Darkness when I was young and so I kind of knew where it was going but then I said no, I don’t think I can go off for that long a time. He was going to go 16 weeks in the Philippines. And then Steve McQueen called me and he says why don’t you come on and you come on and play this role? I said I thought you were going to play that role because I’d read somewhere that he was going to play.
EASTWOOD: He said no, no, he said I want to play the Kurtz role that [Marlon] Brando ended up playing. And I said well why do you want to play that? He says well, I get the same money but I only have to work two weeks. [LAUGHTER] I said well you’ve figured it out. I said I don’t know about going to the Philippines and there’s a lot of unknown factors maybe over there and I’d just gotten through building a house and everything and I thought no I don’t want to go away that long.
GALLOWAY: What do you most enjoy about the work?
EASTWOOD: I just enjoy storytelling. It’s a great way to tell stories and the people are fun and the actors are fun and great actresses. [LAUGHTER]
GALLOWAY: What do you least enjoy?
EASTWOOD: Least enjoy? I guess going around looking at locations and stuff, there’s no gratification in that. But you know there’s great interest because you want it to be right. The last film I did was a current film, American Sniper and… But actually I had my associate go over to, Rob Lorenz, I had him go over to Morocco and he checked that out for the architecture of the villages. And then I did everything else over here. But I went over there when we filmed it.
GALLOWAY: But Rob was now setting up his own company after 20 years with you. Are you having a less active company? Are you going to be producing less or?
EASTWOOD: No, no. It just was an opportunity for him. It’s time for him to fly on his own. And I mean that’s the way… Obviously that’s the way he feels and it’s a good idea. I think if you feel like you’ve got something to offer you should do it while the iron’s hot.
GALLOWAY: You’ve had a very long relationship with Warner Brothers. Your company, Malpaso is based there, but they turned down I think at first the next film which we’re going to see which I just think is an extraordinary film. Walk me through how this film came to you. First of all let’s take a look at a clip from… This is Million Dollar Baby from Paul Haggis’ script.
GALLOWAY: I’ve seen that several times and it’s so exquisitely directed I mean on every level. The camera, the lighting, the sound. And there’s a modesty to it. You know, you’re just watching these two people and their relationship and you don’t notice all the other stuff, you don’t notice, you know, where certain sound things come in. When you got this script, Paul Haggis had been trying to get it off the ground for a while, nobody wanted to do it, it had a title that seemed… Million Dollar Baby must be, you know, a soap opera or something. Female Rocky, all these things were being said. Warner Brothers didn’t want to finance it. What were you thinking at that point?
EASTWOOD: Well Warner Brothers I was quite surprised at because it was such a good story and a well-done script, but it does have a bit of a downer in it. But it’s got a terrific drama. But they approached it as a woman boxing picture. And they didn’t want any part of that and I said well it’s not a woman’s boxing picture, that’s what goes on, that’s the vocation. But it’s a father/daughter love story. It’s the daughter he never had and the father she never had and they get together and it’s as simple as that. And they said well, you know, we don’t think it’ll make any money because there’d been another woman boxing picture that hadn’t worked out too well though I thought it was a pretty good film
EASTWOOD: And then so finally I was just about ready to make a deal somewhere else, though I had got turned down elsewhere as well and then they called… Alan Horn called up and says you know I can’t let you go, said well you go ahead and make that. And I said okay. I got it and I had… And Hilary Swank was very interested, Morgan was interested, all the actors came right together real fast and we put it together.
GALLOWAY: The ending is pretty bleak. Was there a temptation to change that? Have a less pessimistic ending?
EASTWOOD: There’s no way to make it less pessimistic. Well you can… You bring it up a little bit, you kind of see where, but there’s no way to make it a happy thing. Maybe just a happy in memory, what have you.
GALLOWAY: Were people suggesting oh you’ve got to make this a little less?
EASTWOOD: People suggest a lot of things but you have to stick by what you think the story is. It’s a story that you have to… Whatever the drama of the story is, you have to be true to it.
GALLOWAY: How much does it reflect your feelings about the world? Because as I said earlier there seems to be this real sense of pessimism now, sadness about things. I mean the way this film is lit, the way the story ends, the constant… There’s this undercurrent of a certain sense that probably your later in your film for music you have which is really beautiful music, Mystic River. There’s this whole, you know, third act of films you’ve made that have quite a pessimistic view of life. Is that how you feel?
EASTWOOD: Well sometimes. Sometimes you’re pessimistic, sometimes you’re optimistic but…
GALLOWAY: That doesn’t say very much. Which one are you going to?
EASTWOOD: Yeah, which one do you favor?
GALLOWAY: State your choice, one or the other.
EASTWOOD: Yeah, even the current film, American Sniper has a bad ending which is just due to the fact that fate took it in a different direction so that the movie has to follow in the same direction. But it’s happy, the memory of the people. And the same thing with Million Dollar Baby you think back and enjoyed the company when they were at their peak and they were enjoying the thing and she was winning fights and he was the manager and they had a great life together.
GALLOWAY: But things end badly in these films and you know you’ve had a very, I mean unbelievably successful life and yet there’s still this undercurrent of a recognition that not everything ends well in the world.
EASTWOOD: True. That’s true. [LAUGHTER] Not everything ends well. But, you know, you can imagine it’s all in your imagination anyway. If it ends happily and you’re not feeling happy that day you film it anyway. But… And you make it happy. And the same thing with pessimism.
GALLOWAY: Are you a happy person?
EASTWOOD: Yeah, generally.
GALLOWAY: Do you read? Do you watch television? What do you do when you’re not making films?
EASTWOOD: I’m usually reading but potential material. But I’m reading everything but I read books a lot and Mystic River you mentioned, I read that as a… I read a review of it in the paper and I thought that sounds good and I went out to Costco and got a quick copy of it.
GALLOWAY: Oh really? [LAUGHTER]
EASTWOOD: And I read it and two weeks later I owned it and we had a screenwriter working on it.
GALLOWAY: How did American Sniper come to you because this is the film that Steven Spielberg was going to direct at one point.
EASTWOOD: Right. Steven Spielberg was going to direct it, Bradley Cooper and I read about it and I didn’t think too much of it. And I did… I was reading the book and then all of the sudden the studio calls me up and said would you direct American Sniper? And I said somebody else, Steven’s doing that, and I go what are you talking about? And they said no, no, that fell out but we’d all love it for you to come over there. And so I said well let me finish the next 30 pages of this book here and then I’ll give you a call. So I read the rest of it and then I read the screenplay they had and had a few comments on that but I said yeah, by and large I’ll do it so count me in.
GALLOWAY: Let’s take a look at…
EASTWOOD: So I called Steven…
GALLOWAY: Oh sorry.
EASTWOOD: By the way, and I told him I said I’m taking your leftovers again. [LAUGHTER] And he was…
GALLOWAY: What was the last leftover you took?
EASTWOOD: But we laughed because I had done the Flag pictures for him that he had planned on doing.
GALLOWAY: Well I think Paul Haggis said this kind of funny story about you saying, you know, there’s this other project I’d like you to write but I need you to come and meet my partner on it. And I’ll swing by and pick you up from your house. And you swing by in an old pickup or something and pick him up. His wife was furious because Clint Eastwood’s coming by, she hasn’t had to put her makeup on, you know. And then you take him to see Spielberg.
GALLOWAY: And he said that was really one of the high points of his life, listening to you and Spielberg talk about old movies.
EASTWOOD: Yeah. Well he loves old movies and so do I. Pretty soon we’re getting old and the movies are getting…
GALLOWAY: Well not this one. Let’s take a look at American Sniper. And if you guys can get ready for your questions and I’m going to try and take some from the audience, too if we have time so if you want to get your place and we’ll watch a clip from American Sniper.
GALLOWAY: Wow. [APPLAUSE] Did you meet Chris Kyle?
EASTWOOD: No. No he had already been… He had been dead about a year before I came into it. So I went down and I met the family, I met his wife and his mother and father and brother and all the people who are involved. His kids.
GALLOWAY: What did you ask them?
EASTWOOD: I just, what their feelings were, just kind of I got… She was very, very helpful, his wife. She brought their whole relationship to life, you know, by being a very expressive person. And it was great just to see his lifestyle and how he was and get his philosophies and what have you.
GALLOWAY: The film became quite controversial when it came out because there were… People said it, you know, glorifies war or glorifies American snipers. Is that how you view it?
EASTWOOD: No I don’t think it glorifies… I think it glorifies it, sure. I mean in the first sequence he shoots down… Yeah, the sniping part is. But you know then eventually as that scene indicates that he’s getting… You can see it’s starting to tell on him and later on when he visits a psychiatrist and has to talk to him and the psychiatrist says did you do anything along the way over there that you maybe or you felt you shouldn’t have. And you could tell by the look on his face that yeah, he’s got some regrets in there. And that’s just the way it is. I think it’s anti and it’s… It just depends on how you want to look at it. It’s probably… I think the whole picture and with him dying and everything it’s no good deed going unpunished.
EASTWOOD: I think it’s nice for veterans because it shows what they go through, you know, and that life. And the wives and families of veterans. It has a great indication of the stresses they are under. And I think that all becomes… Adds up to kind of an anti-war.
GALLOWAY: Are you anti-war, yourself?
EASTWOOD: Yes. I’ve done war movies but that doesn’t… Because they’re always loaded with drama and conflict and all the things that make drama great. But you know as far as the actual participation I think it’s something that… It’s historically relevant because history has never been without it but it’s one of those things that should be done with a lot of thought if it needs to be done. But self-protection is a very important thing for nations and… But I just don’t like to see it… I was not a big fan of going to war and in Iraq or Afghanistan for several reasons, several practical reasons. One, the Afghanistan had been… The British had never been successful there, the Russians had 10 years there and hadn’t been successful and so we think we’re going to go over there and we can’t even fly in directly and we’re going to… I think you’d have to… You know, it has to have some thought process added into it.
EASTWOOD: Iraq, I know was a different deal because there was a lot of intelligence that told us that bad things could happen there and we’re never sure how that ended up whether it was pro or con or no, I tend to err on the side of less is best.
GALLOWAY: Well as a filmmaker, too.
GALLOWAY: That’s interesting. Let’s take questions.
Q: Hey there. Hello? Hello? Sweet.
EASTWOOD: Hello there.
Q: How are you doing, Mr. Eastwood? My name’s William Ward. Everyone calls me Billy though. I’m a student here at LMU, screenwriting major. I was a little nervous at first I kind of grew up on your movies and it’s hard to shake the image of you being a total badass. I’m still like a little terrified of you. You seem like a totally nice guy but it’s still rough. But yeah, so it’s actually related, my question is related to that. You do have this reputation of being a badass and like just very masculine and I was wondering kind of how you felt about that image of yourself, that reputation you’ve gotten how it’s helped you in your career, hurt you?
EASTWOOD: How I feel about myself?
Q: Yeah, well your reputation as a…
EASTWOOD: I don’t think too much of it. I think it’s a product of the type of material you’ve been doing. Over my career I played some badass characters. But… So, people sometimes think I should have a .44 magnum [LAUGHTER]. But that’s not true. I don’t have that. [LAUGHTER] But I do fire them and I do enjoy target shooting and all that sort of thing. I’m not much of a hunter. I don’t like killing animals, but I love to shoot. And I love the drama of detective movies or action movies.
Q: Of course.
EASTWOOD: Or war movies and what have you because conflict is sort of the basis of drama. And I’ve played a lot of conflict characters or that enter into conflict so it’s kind of a natural thing for an actor.
Q: Have you ever wanted to do anything a little bit more sensitive, you know get in touch with your like feminine side or no? If you have a feminine side.
EASTWOOD: I am a very sensitive person, you know.
GALLOWAY: Next question.
Q: Well thank you.
GALLOWAY: By the way, people kind of laughed at that but it’s one thing that fascinates me in your work that there is this extraordinary sensitivity. You know, especially when you started writing the music for your film and you get this layer of tenderness that I think would astonish people who saw your first films. I mean there’s this duality that’s partly what makes the work so rich.
EASTWOOD: Well I think yeah, sometimes you can have overly dramatic music and I started writing music basically because I saw a lot of… I had a lot of composers come in and work for me and they always wanted to dramatize certain things and take it over the top sometimes and I didn’t want it over the top. So I did a couple myself to see if I could get it the way I wanted it better without having to explain it to someone else at great detail. And also it’s another element when a composer comes in he’s looking at the thing totally different than you are and he maybe sees it more operatic or maybe less so depending on.
EASTWOOD: For instance in the dollar films that you showed earlier, A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and those films, they were very operatic and the music was extremely stylized. And when you watch stylized music… So I was like great, in fact the music in American Sniper is an old Ennio Morricone piece that Sergio Leone played for me on the planes of Spain 50 years ago.
EASTWOOD: and I remember it playing and he says I’m going to use this as the theme for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and I said yea, that sounds great. And then he went off and they used another theme that Marricone had written. But you know I thought gee, I wonder where that theme is. And so I looked up, I had Rob Lorenz research it, it took him two weeks to find it. We finally found a recording of it and that’s what we bought the record and just put it in. But that I’d remember, you know, sometimes something will stick in your brain, you know, from a long time back and you kind of go eh, that’ll work perfect for this. Just because it starts out with Taps and then goes into a beautiful chorus. And I thought that would be a perfect memory for Chris Kyle.
GALLOWAY: Next question.
Q: My name is… [LAUGHTER] My name is Brennan Kilpatrick.
EASTWOOD: Of course it is.
Q: I’m a… [LAUGHTER] What else could it be? Production major, screenwriting minor. Huge fan of yourself, thank you so much for coming out.
EASTWOOD: Thank you.
Q: As we kind of touched upon in the interview prior to becoming a director you worked with a lot of well-established filmmakers like Siegal and Leone. How did working with them specifically influence your personal directing style and how you approach shooting a picture?
EASTWOOD: Oh Don. Well Don… They were both very different but they both admired each other and as filmmakers, Leone was very childlike. You know, he’d come in and himself he wore a Western hat when we were shooting and he always wore a cigar and he was always trying… I’d look and I’d be doing a scene and I’d look off camera and I’d see him sitting there and he’s imitating me. [LAUGHTER] But he was very imaginative and you know was great at satire. So and Don Siegel was more straight ahead. He was from the school of Raoul Walsh and those guys that could do a lot in a very short time with little. And… But I just picked up from everybody.
EASTWOOD: When I did the Rawhide series in the 60s and late 50s we had a lot of wonderful directors, old time film directors that had not been doing that well so they would do television and our television show would come on. So I got to work with all these different people so you saw that and after a while you kind of get different ideas yourself. Every time you do a picture you’re kind of thinking well if I was doing it I would do it this way but this director’s doing it that way so… And so you stack up all that stuff in your head and eventually when you get your opportunity you kind of go okay, I like the way Capra did this or I like the way Howard Hawks did this, whomever.
GALLOWAY: Do you have a favorite film or any films you like to watch over and over again?
EASTWOOD: The one I love to watch and I love to watch people in this age group watch is Sunset Boulevard. Because I’ve shown it to my kids and they thought it was the damnedest thing they’d ever seen, you know. But to me it seemed like if you knew Billy Wilder you knew he was kind of pushing… Double Indemnity was one of his pictures that I thought was great, too. I mean he had great style and great energy in the film. But you just kind of get your own thing and when you have your own chance you continue on. And they all retired too early. Wilder did, Capra. I used to visit Capra, he lived up at Mona Lake up by that area in the June Lakes area and I used to visit him and he was just lucid as could be in his 70s and I thought what the hell? Why isn’t this guy still making movies? But they rotated people faster in those days.
GALLOWAY: I think later it was hard for him and there’s a story he says in his autobiography, by the way if you haven’t read it it’s really one of the great, great books, The Name Above a Title, where he was given a picture that he didn’t really want to do. I don’t know if he’d had a falling out with Harry Cohn, maybe it was then.
GALLOWAY: Cohn wouldn’t let him work for a year or two. He did a picture, but he hated the picture and he had splitting migraine headaches because it didn’t feel true to him.
EASTWOOD: Yeah. Well yeah. In that era a lot of those guys came up under where they were just given a script. And sometimes in the 40s and 30s they just give you the script and tell you who the actors were on Friday night and Monday morning you’d start in. And so they’d give you everything, the composers, they furnish everything in the days of Jack Warner and Harry Cohn, people like that. They were very dictator-type studio head.
GALLOWAY: Is it better today or was it better then?
EASTWOOD: Well I think it’s better today because the directors have complete control now but in those days it was a great learning era because if somebody gives you four actors that you don’t know and a script and says be ready to go on Monday morning you have to do a lot of stuff real quick and you have to be able to think on your feet real fast. So it’s a great training ground. But then later on as the people of, you know, John Ford, William Wilder, people like that, they had a lot more power because they became stars themselves, you know.
GALLOWAY: Next question, please.
Q: Thank you.
EASTWOOD: Thank you.
Q: Hello. My name is Amaris Gagnon. I’m a junior here and I study theater and communications. Now my question for you is in your earlier work when you first started directing what are some of the challenges that you faced transitioning from acting to directing and was it hard to direct yourself?
EASTWOOD: Yeah. It is interesting but I remember the first day or the first picture I directed I went to bed at night and started learning how I was going to do the scene and everything and then I’d turn out the light and then I’d realize I’d lay there and I’d say oh wait a second I’m acting in this too. [LAUGHTER] I’d turn the light back on and start memorizing the lines. And so it takes a while but after quite a few times it was okay, it sort of took care of itself. But you have to have great faith in yourself and you have to have great faith in your camera operator and the various camera people because you could just look at people’s faces and see if they’re kind of going, uh, or they’re going yeah and they’re with you. They’re either with you or against you and you have to be able to read that in other people’s faces to keep yourself from getting insecure.
GALLOWAY: Next question, please.
Q: Hello Mr. Eastwood, I am Josh. I am a junior screenwriting major here. Now in 2006 you made two war films about the Battle of Iwo Jima, the latter of which, Letters from Iwo Jima was in Japanese. So my question is what is the challenge of making a film that is not in your native tongue or is there a challenge?
EASTWOOD: Well that was an interesting project because Steven had asked me to do Flags of Our Fathers and so I was having a meeting with him and we were talking about that war and that battle and I was going off into Iceland to film the beaches because Iceland has black sand much like Iwo Jima does. And the Japanese frowned upon the idea of filming on Iwo Jima because it’s considered a, you know, shrine because they lost so many people there.
EASTWOOD: And so in all those discussions I was reading books on Iwo Jima and one night I was reading a book and it was talking about an American general who was being very complimentary to the Kuribayashi, General Kuribayashi who was the head of the Japanese army on Iwo Jima and the defense of that. And he was saying how he thought the guy was extremely creative to be able to hold off the guys. So he was just being… And I thought I’ve got to find out about that so I called a friend of mine in Tokyo and I asked him if are there any books on this guy, Kuribayashi who was the defender of Iwo Jima? And he came back and said no, there are no books. There’s a small book about letters from his daughter that he had written to his daughter back in the late 20s when he was traveling in America.
EASTWOOD: And so I… Just through that I got story ideas and I called up Paul Haggis and I said, you know, I can’t afford you Paul as a writer but I said do you have any students? Because he does have a group of writing students that he worked with. Do you have any students who are really good? So he did. He called me back and said he had a little Japanese girl, an American Japanese, though she didn’t speak Japanese at all. But he said she had a great eye for that story, a story. And so I said well bring her over and she came over and she gave me sort of an outline that she had worked up and it was really good based upon these little books that I had given him.
EASTWOOD: And so one thing led to another so when I went off to Iceland to do Flags of Our Fathers, I had with me another script called Letters from Iwo Jima. And so it was very confusing because when we were shooting up there I would say to the script supervisor I would tell her that, you know, this scene, we’re shooting this thing right now, this is for second picture. Just call it second picture and don’t make any notes on it because we haven’t had a deal on that yet.
EASTWOOD: So anyway, we did that and then I went to Tokyo and where they hadn’t been too fond of Americans going there and filming, I sold the governor who was actually the mayor of Tokyo, I sold him on the idea that this would be a great thing for the Japanese people that didn’t even know this battle even existed much less how tough it was. So… And because after the war, after World War II, there was not even any books or anything. It was not in any classroom discussions, it was frowned upon to talk about it. And I said, but I think it’s time for the Japanese people to be aware of people because it’s a pretty heady thing to be asked to go defend an island and, by the way, don’t plan on coming back.
EASTWOOD: That would be a hard sell in this room. [LAUGHTER] It would be a hard sell for me, I tell you. But that’s the way it was and that’s the mentality in those days. And so it became actually of the two pictures that’s kind of my favorite.
EASTWOOD: I guess because I worked with it from the very scratch idea but I thought that Ken Watanabe and the crew we brought over, Japanese actors were splendid.
GALLOWAY: Next question please.
Q: Thank you.
GALLOWAY: Is this our last question? Okay.
GALLOWAY: By the way, do you have another film you’re working on now or?
EASTWOOD: No. No I’m just reading now.
GALLOWAY: Oh. Are you going to do A Star is Born or you talked about that?
EASTWOOD: I talked about that for a while with Warner Brothers people and we’re still playing with that idea but the problem at the beginning I thought they were more infatuated with just the idea of the casting. They were talking about having Beyoncé in it and she was very popular but she also is very active and is hard to get a time scheduled so we never could get that worked out. We’d get a time schedule from all of the activities that she has so that picture never came into being. But I’m still playing with the idea, then also I’ve got one other thing I’m looking at that’s interesting.
GALLOWAY: Can you tell us what it is or?
EASTWOOD: No. [LAUGHTER]
EASTWOOD: Because if it doesn’t work…
GALLOWAY: I know.
EASTWOOD: You know.
GALLOWAY: Are you eager to get shooting again or do you miss the shooting process?
EASTWOOD: No, no. Well I did two pictures back-to-back, I did Jersey Boys and then this, American Sniper back-to-back. I was editing one while preparing another and I just thought, at the end I thought you know the worst thing that could happen now is somebody gives me a really great script. [LAUGHTER] So I wanted five, six months off to sort out, just improve the golf game. [LAUGHTER]
GALLOWAY: Next question. Let’s hurry guys. [OVERLAP]
Q: Oh, good afternoon. My name is Elsie, I’m a grad student in the film production program. With your decades of experience working in Hollywood, what have you learned from working with different types of people such as, you know, from talent and crew to executives?
EASTWOOD: Hm. Well. That’s interesting. What have I learned? Well just because of the talent it probably encompasses everyone. A talented executive would be somebody who knows how to surround themselves with a lot of people that will make him look good. And I think that would be… You could say that about a politician or you could say that about a head of a major corporation or what have you. And but the people you surround yourself with it’s very important and then the actors you cast are very important because they have to… You have to see something in them that makes them embody that character. And if you don’t see it correctly you’ve made a giant error and it could not make you look so good.
GALLOWAY: Is there anyone piece of advice somebody’s given you other than, you know, Don Siegel. Anybody that you held onto?
EASTWOOD: Piece of advice?
EASTWOOD: Everything. I hold onto everything. Ideas, always keep your ego in check and not be afraid to listen. Listening is a great art form as I always like to say. There used to be a program called the Hallmark Hall of Fame and they’d always say dedicated to the art of listening. And I thought yeah, it is an art to listening. And to listen and then to absorb things and be open minded about all the business aspects plus the artistic aspects and the casting aspects. Every element of films or drama just be open to ideas and sometimes you get ideas as you’re going and it’s great to be able to incorporate them because you’re not glued into one thing. Sometimes you can glue into a story and say this is what the writer intended but what are you intending? So on top of that, because the writing is a creative art form and the acting and directing is more of an interpretive art form. So you want to interpret it and enhance the writing. Or take it even another step and add your own stamp on it.
GALLOWAY: Last question. Oh that’s it, great, we’re done in time.
EASTWOOD: That’s it? [LAUGHTER]
GALLOWAY: Wow. You’re off the hook. There’s a little reception.
EASTWOOD: Well this is a great crowd, I’ve got to say.
GALLOWAY: By the way, I love coming here because it’s such a responsive.
EASTWOOD: I was here many years ago before anyone here in this room except me was born. [LAUGHTER] And Charles Chaplin was doing the moderation and he was the critic for the Los Angeles Times at that time. And that was… It’s got to be 25 or 30 years ago but it was a great experience and I like LMU, I’ve had two children who have graduated from here and everybody always has a great positive feel and I hope you’re all having great luck here yourselves and will be great filmmakers or voyeurs or appreciators. [LAUGHTER] Whatever you end up doing.
GALLOWAY: Thank you. Clint, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have you here.
EASTWOOD: Thank you.
GALLOWAY: And to see this work, it’s just incredible. [APPLAUSE]
EASTWOOD: Yes, thank you.
GALLOWAY: Thank you so much.
EASTWOOD: Thank you very much. Thank you.
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