If you had met me in the 1970’s, 80’s, or 90’s and asked my opinion of Clint Eastwood, I would have said something similar to what I’d say now:
He’s one of those very few actors with a screen presence so magnetic/electric that no matter how bad the film he’s in is, his mere presence makes it better.
Looking over my digital films, I suspect I have more Clint Eastwood films in my collection than films featuring any other actor. I have almost all of them, from his “Man With No Name” trilogy to Where Eagles Dare (a criminally underrated WWII action fantasy) to Kelly’s Heroes (a criminally underrated WWII…comedy?!) to his Dirty Harry films to The Eiger Sanction (Mr. Eastwood doing an “American” James Bond) to High Plains Drifter to The Outlaw Josey Wales to…
Well, I could go on and on but hopefully you understand: I’m a HUGE fan of Clint Eastwood, actor. And while I may not like all his directed works quite as much, he’s proven to be at the very least a good -and at times great- director as well.
But what my younger self probably never would have conceived of is the fact that as he’s aged, Mr. Eastwood, the individual, has become the living embodiment of the cranky “get off my grass” old man. Or, as the Simpson’s so ingeniously put it:
“It will happen to you”.
It seems to most certainly have happened to Mr. Eastwood and it seems to have started a few years back, when he famously tried to bash President Obama at the Republican Convention nominating Mitt Romney for President by speaking to an empty chair…
The speech, which Mr. Eastwood later stated was intended to be absurd humor, instead landed with a wet thud and, reportedly, Ann Romney, Mitt Romney’s wife, was furious as the speech was happening as she knew it would be -along with Mr. Romney’s campaign- ridiculed.
I suppose those were the good old days when it comes to Mr. Eastwood as he’s given an interview to Esquire magazine and some of the things he says are…jeeze…how to put it? Weird. Strident.
Ed Mazza for Huffington Post (yes, a for the most part liberal publication so take that as you will) highlights some of Mr. Eastwood’s comments:
Among some of the highlights of what Mr. Eastwood said:
“You know, (Donald Trump)’s a racist now because he’s talked about this judge. And yeah, it’s a dumb thing to say. I mean, to predicate your opinion on the fact that the guy was born to Mexican parents or something. He’s said a lot of dumb things. So have all of them. Both sides. But everybody—the press and everybody’s going, ‘Oh, well, that’s racist,’ and they’re making a big hoodoo out of it. Just fucking get over it. It’s a sad time in history.”
First, Donald Trump hasn’t just stated one insulting thing against one judge. He has offered multiple racist statements. While “both sides” say dumb things, Donald Trump specifically, has made multiple inflammatory comments regarding Mexicans and Muslims. So far the worst I’ve heard from Hillary Clinton against Mr. Trump was that he was “ill tempered” to be President (something I agree with, btw). Meanwhile, Mr. Trump and his crowds that have called her a “bitch”, someone who should go to jail, or, in at least one case, labeled her the “devil.”
This quote, also presented in the above article, is even more illuminating:
“(S)ecretly everybody’s getting tired of political correctness, kissing up. That’s the kiss-ass generation we’re in right now. We’re really in a pussy generation. Everybody’s walking on eggshells. We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff. When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist. And then when I did Gran Torino, even my associate said, ‘This is a really good script, but it’s politically incorrect.’ And I said, ‘Good. Let me read it tonight.’ The next morning, I came in and I threw it on his desk and I said, ‘We’re starting this immediately.’”
Curious how he mentions Gran Torino in the article. While I enjoyed the film and thought it was intended to be a “final” Dirty Harry film in all but name, what I found most intriguing and disappointing about it was the fact that it didn’t have the “guts” Mr. Eastwood seems to imply it has to “go there” with political incorrectness.
What I’m referring to is the fact the character of Walt Kowalski is presented as an old generation person who, like Mr. Eastwood in real time today, bemoans political correctness and is perfectly fine spewing racial epithets yet curiously never once says the biggest racial epithet of them all.
You know, the one referring to black people that starts with the letter “n”.
I wondered why this “politically incorrect” film would, in Mr. Eastwood’s vernacular, “pussy” out of doing that. I mean, the character was meant to be a gruff, politically incorrect “old school” man who didn’t give a shit about all that stuff, yet at no point in the film does Clint Eastwood have his character say the “n” word.
Why? Its only too obvious.
Racism, like many things in the world, is tolerated by some as a matter of degree. For Mr. Eastwood, people like Donald Trump can get away with calling a woman a “bitch” or a “devil”. He can get away with labeling Mexicans “murderers” and “rapists”.
But even someone like Mr. Eastwood who decries “political correctness” knows there’s this bright line drawn when calling black people the “n” word. Suddenly, the stark, revolting reality of racism is apparent for all to see.
I suspect had Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino said such a word even once during the course of that film audiences might well have turned on his character.
Instead of finding Mr. Kowalski a crumudgeon with a “heart of gold”, we’d might well have cast him as a vile racist.