New York Film Festival
September 24, 2010
Written by H. B. Forman
October 22, 2010
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
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?
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
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?
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
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.
You wouldn't say this is
a religious movie, with its intermittent visits
to what seems to be heaven?
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
Question: Have you ever had a
near death experience yourself?
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
Did anything else like
that happen to you later in life?
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?
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
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
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?
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
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?
Eastwood: Uh, what?
Question: Unless you never thought
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?
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
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
Question: Do you feel directors
lose their touch as they get older?
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
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.
What about you?
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?
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.