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Clint Eastwood
Press Conference
New York Film Festival
September 24, 2010

Written by H. B. Forman


Hereafter Opens October 22, 2010

Opposite Photo:
Clint Eastwood
Photo Credit:
PR Photos


“Living legend Clint Eastwood talks about mortality”

When famed producer Steven Spielberg asks you to read something, you say yes.

Even if you are famed director Clint Eastwood, known for his award-winning films: The Bridges Of Madison County, Gran Torino, Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.

So when Clint read the script for the movie Hereafter, which had been floundering for a while, he agreed.

The movie had a major showing at the recent New York Film Festival and opens around the U.S. on October 22. Hereafter stars Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard, is a drama centered on three people -- a blue-collar American, a French journalist and a London schoolboy -- who are touched by death in different ways.

They are: George (Matt Damon) is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. On the other side of the world, Marie (Cecile de France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus (twins Frankie/George McLaren), a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers.

Each on a path in search of the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might-or must-exist in the hereafter.

Now 80, Clint, a living legend, says he has no plans to slow down. After years as a successful leading man on film, he directed his first movie, a thriller Play Misty for Me in 1971. That same year, he played the hard edge police inspector in Dirty Harry that gave Eastwood one of his signature roles and invented the loose-cannon cop genre that has been imitated even to this day.

In addition to his starring acting roles, directing appeared to me an amazing second career for Eastwood. First with his western, Unforgiven (1992), which garnered him an Oscar for best director and producer of the best picture, and nomination for best actor.

Then he took on the secret service In the Line of Fire (1993), another huge hit. Next up was The Bridges of Madison County (1995), a popular love story with Meryl Streep. Over the next few years he directed and starred in the well-received Absolute Power (1997) and Space Cowboys (2000), True Crime (1999) and Blood Work (2002).

He rose to prominence starring opposite Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman in what is arguably the best film of his career: the boxing drama Million Dollar Baby (2004). A critical and commercial triumph, the movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as earning him a nomination for Best Actor and a win for Best Director.

After this he took a four-year acting hiatus before starring in Gran Torino (2008). This film grossed $30 million during its opening weekend in 2009, making him the oldest leading man to reach Number 1 at the box office, and another one of his biggest hits.

After starring in iconic movies for five consecutive decades, Clint Eastwood has proved himself to be not only the longest-running movie star, but a stellar director to boot.

Question: This film Hereafter has gone through a lot of hands. How did you finally end up directing it?

Clint Eastwood: Let's see...Steven Spielberg called me one day. He said, ‘I have a script I'd love to send over to you,’ and I said fine. And I read it and liked it. So I called him back and said, ‘I'll do it.’ But I didn't realize I was last on the list!

Question: Okay, then what happened?

Clint Eastwood: Well, I said ‘I'll do it.’ And he was going through a minor divorce with Paramount, so it did become a little confusing as to where this would have its life. But I have a relationship with Warner Bros. so I said, let me take it to them. And Warners’ liked it, so there we were.

Question: What got you inspired about the story?

Clint Eastwood: Most religions seem to ponder the afterlife. But I thought this one was interesting, because it wasn't really a religious project. It had a spirituality about it, but it wasn't necessarily tied with any particular organized thought.

Question: Please elaborate on that.

Clint Eastwood: Whether you believe in an afterlife or near death experience or not, certainly everybody has thought about that at some point or another in time. And it's a fantasy that if there is anything like that out there, it would be just terrific! But that remains to be seen.

Question: You wouldn't say this is a religious movie, with its intermittent visits to what seems to be heaven?

Clint Eastwood: We just raise the questions. You pose the questions and they're there. And then it's up to the audience to meet you halfway and think about it, in terms of their own lives. And what experiences they might have had. There may be some near death experiences out there. And it would be interesting to see what the answers are. But they're going to have to be the ones to come up with those answers.

Question: Have you ever had a near death experience yourself?

Clint Eastwood: I think everybody has had something like that. I remember when I was very young, my dad was taking me into the surf on his shoulders, and I fell off. And I can still remember today, even though I was only four or five years old, I can still remember the color of the water, and everything. You know; as I was being washed around in the surf, and before I popped to the surface again. But at that age, you don't think too much. You just kind of go...well, if you hadn't learned any obscenities yet, a lot of them were probably running through your mind!

Question: Did anything else like that happen to you later in life?

Clint Eastwood: Yes. Years later, when I was 21 years old, I was in a plane. We ditched the plane off the coast of Northern California in the wintertime. And I must say, as I was going into shore, I kept thinking about my demise. But I also saw a light in the distance, and thought, somebody's in there having a beer by a fireplace. And I just want to be in there! So I'm going to make it. And that was the determination. But there was no sense of fate out there, or anything like that. I don't think you get a chance to think that. And when you get a chance to think like that, you're usually okay.

Question: Now about that tsunami, how did you make it look so real?

Clint Eastwood: Well, I like the idea of taking actual events, and placing them into a fictional story. And so the tsunami four years ago out in the Pacific, was one. And then the London bombings, of course. But the tsunami was very difficult to do. I kept having fantasies about huge hoses! And thousands of gallons of water running down the streets. But I figured, that would be prohibitive.

Question: Please talk more about that.

Clint Eastwood: In the old days, I suppose you would have done that on a set. And turned a lot of water loose! But now you can do it with CGI. But we did it in a lot of different places. Cecile was in a tank in London for nine hours! And not getting out too much. And she had to have a skin replacement afterwards. But I took all the amateur footage of the tsunami that was taken when it was happening. So we took that to use as our influences when we got going. But I don't want everyone to go see it with the expectation that they're going to see two hours of flooding!

Question: And what about the amazing performances of the actors caught in the disaster?

Clint Eastwood: Everything has got to be in the imagination of the performer. And I believe in research, but I'm also a firm believer in using the instincts that are in your body and soul. Or your stomach! Or wherever they reside.

Question: What about working with children, and those twin boys in Hereafter?

Clint Eastwood: The interesting thing about child actors, is that kids are natural actors. They're wonderful actors. And the thing is, kids are acting all the time. They're imagining things are happening, and they can get very vivid. But unfortunately they get organized into acting, and you've got those stage mothers there telling them what to do. And I've watched many times, directors trying to undo bad habits that have been instilled.

Question: Why did you choose them?

Clint Eastwood: When I looked at young kids for this picture, I picked the two that were the least experienced. In fact they had no experience, they had never been in a film before. They said they had been in some grammar school plays, but I doubted that! But they had the faces. And with these kids, I just figured that I could pull things out of them, without them knowing it. So they didn't have to get in there, and act like something else that they weren't. But kids are like animals! They're good for one take and that's it. Their attention, they go off into another journey inside their head. And they get bored. But that's just the way it is.

Question: What is the challenge for you of remaining relevant, as you get older? You turned 80 this summer?

Clint Eastwood: Uh, what?

Question: Unless you never thought about that!

Clint Eastwood: Now, what was that John Ford thing? Ask him a question like that, and he would go, cut!

Question: Well, do you have those thoughts of struggling for control and respect, as you get older?

Clint Eastwood: You know, that's a very difficult one for me to answer. I think that would be easier for someone else to evaluate about me, rather than myself. Because I don't think of it in that way.

Question: What do you mean by that?

Clint Eastwood: I think everything to me is spontaneous. As with the movie Unforgiven; I like a script right away. But I said, ‘I'd like to do this when I'm older.’ So I stuck it in a drawer for 10 years. And other projects just come to me, like Perfect World. So I have no real rhyme or reason. I wish I could give you some...pseudo-intellectual answer! And maybe if this was a fake French cinema class, I'd have to fake something! But I'm not the person to ask about that. If I started evaluating myself, I'm afraid that I would not be able to think intelligently about every project, and the various meanings thereof.

Question: Do you feel directors lose their touch as they get older?

Clint Eastwood: Well, I was always shocked. I knew Frank Capra a little. I spent some time with him at June Lakes, where he lived in the summertime. And he was always so bright. So I wondered, why isn't this guy still working? And I also knew Billy Wilder somewhat, and he had stopped working in his ‘60s. And I thought, ‘wow, here's a guy who's bright and lived well into his ‘90s, and didn't work.’ I never could figure that. I always figured that your best years are at a point where you've absorbed all this knowledge.

Question: Why do you think that happened?

Clint Eastwood: Now when I think of it maybe they just didn't keep up with the times, or they picked story material that didn't work. You can have a few pictures that don't do so well. And the Hollywood is very fickle, they kind of move on.

Question: What about you?

Clint Eastwood: There's that Portuguese director who's over 100 years old and still making films. And I plan to do the same thing!

Question: What else can you say about this movie?

Clint Eastwood: It all just comes together. And it's amazing that any of it comes together! I guess that's why I'm still doing it. But I'm always amazed, that this it's kind of working. Hmm...So it's always a surprise. And I'll say, let's not think too much about this. Let's just go, and roll with it.




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