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Last night, as part of a weekend-long celebration of Clint Eastwood, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) hosted a special screening of Eastwood’s new film J. Edgar, followed by a Q&A with Eastwood, stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer, and writer Dustin Lance Black. I arrived in time to catch the second half of the film (the entirety of which I saw at its world premiere on Thursday night) and the Q&A (which was moderated by Charles McGrath of the New York Times).
PHOTOS: ‘J. Edgar’ Premiere Red Carpet Arrivals
Some highlights of the Q&A: Eastwood taking the stage dressed in sneakers and munching on a cookie; DiCaprio noting that Black told him that the secrecy of the Bush Administration after 9/11 inspired him to write the film as a cautionary tale about what can happen if one man accumulates too much power and influence; Black laughing that when he went for his tour of the FBI it was led by some “lackey” but that when DiCaprio went for his it was led by Attorney General Eric Holder; DiCaprio noting that he met with a 90-something-year-old former colleague of Hoover’s who was able to provide him with lots of good details about the man’s mannerisms, humor, etc.; Black making it quite clear that he believes that Hoover and his longtime companion Clyde Tolson were indeed gay lovers (something that DiCaprio seemed less inclined to state outright); DiCaprio and Hammer divulging that it took them five to six hours and seven to eight hours, respectively, to be made up into the older versions of their characters; and Eastwood joking that he was always in his old age makeup.
COVER STORY: The Making of ‘J. Edgar’
Afterwards, Warner Brothers, which is distributing J. Edgar, held a small reception with the talent for some press types, including yours truly. A friend re-introduced me to Eastwood, who I met a few times three years ago when he was on the awards circuit for Gran Torino (2008) — at the National Board of Review Awards, at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, etc. — and who, as always, couldn’t have been more gracious. I mentioned that I had now seen J. Edgar twice in 24 hours, and he was very curious to hear my take on whether or not it improved on second viewing (it did) and in what ways (I picked up a lot of neat little facets of DiCaprio’s performance that I’d overlooked the first time around, among other things).
STORY: Clint Eastwood’s ‘J. Edgar,’ Featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover, Opens AFI Fest
I also asked him if he is open to the idea of acting again — something we discussed three years ago after Torino — and he said he’s absolutely open to it if a strong enough part comes along. My friend told him that he wished Eastwood would do another western, since he became a movie lover watching Eastwood’s Westerns, and Eastwood said he felt that he left things on about as high a note as he could with Unforgiven (1992), so it would take something really special for him to do another.
I noted that, even at 81, he still looks like he’s in great enough shape to saddle up again, and certainly proved that when I was last saw him at Santa Barbara: as a crowd waited for his limo to pull up in front of the red carpet, he surprised everyone by getting dropped off behind the crowd, then sneaking through it towards the barricades that kept them from the red carpet, and then hopping over the barricades! Reminded of that, he simply delivered his now-iconic wry smile and chuckle.
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