Let the tributes pour in for Clint Eastwood, who turns 90 years young today. He’s certainly had the most extraordinary career, from TV westerns to Spaghetti westerns to taking charge of his career and becoming a maverick of independent filmmaking.
Clint’s run of films starting with his masterpiece, “Unforgiven,” in 1992 is remarkable. From “Mystic River” to “Million Dollar Baby,” the 1-2 punch of “Flags of our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima,” the self-iconic “Gran Torino,” right up through “The Mule” and “Richard Jewell,” each one of them is an auteur’s vision played out to perfection.
Even the ones that didn’t work or didn’t catch fire with audiences are remarkable in their own right. I just watched “Sully” on cable, it’s such a clean, economic continuation of Clint’s study of heroes. You can’t not watch it once it begins. Same for “American Sniper,” which surprised everyone when audiences clamored for it.
I first really got know Clint in 2000 when I interviewed him for a special Oscars edition I edited for the late Talk magazine. We met at the Carlyle Hotel dining room. He brought his then wife Dina and their little girl. I brought my friend Susan Lawlor, who was a massive fan who could quote from every Eastwood movie. Everyone hit it off. We talked a lot about “Unforgiven,” one of the greatest movies of all time, in my opinion. It was eight years after its release, and still held up wonderfully. Clint was “only 70,” I guess, had the responses and vigor of a 40 year old. I was blown away by his observations about filmmaking — and he still hadn’t made a lot of the films I mentioned above. You could tell that at 70 he still wasn’t at his peak. Amazing.
Of course, there’s also the early Clint– of “Play Misty for Me,” of “Dirty Harry” and all that. He was a stud, a rogue movie star who was hot and didn’t care what people thought. There were no Oscars in his life before 1993. That’s almost 40 years in the business. On Friday, I happened to see an episode of “Rawhide” on cable. He’s tied up for most of the show, with a very loose rope mind you, watching while various mini melodramas ping pong around him. He never says a word while everyone’s talking. But the focus is on him. And in the end, when Rowdy Yates finally speaks, he kind of hits on the pretty girl who’s been in jeopardy. Very quietly. She turns him down, he just sort of says “shucks,” and that’s it. But he’s the star, and you don’t forget it.
Will we get another Clint Eastwood movie? I sure hope so. “Richard Jewell” was a little gem, but its release was bungled in many ways. Watch it again. An 89 year old made something here that has sharp edges and deep insights. If that’s it, we’re damn lucky. But I suspect we’re not done with Clint Eastwood yet.