Clint Eastwood has never been anyone's idea of a conventional hero. From his days as
The Man With No Name through Dirty Harry and his Academy Award-nominated performance in
Unforgiven, Eastwood has embodied the loner, the anti-hero, the flawed but powerful
individual whose code of honour has, at its core, its own sense of honour. And audiences
have never tired of watching that character in action.
Now, in his 41st starring role and his 21st film as a director, Eastwood explores a new
character - and one whose sense of honour is, at first, almost impossible to locate.
Newspaperman Steve Everett is an alcoholic, an adulterer, an unreliable husband and
father, an irresponsible driver and an all-around reprobate. But he's an outstanding
reporter, and his nose for news is legendary.
"I liked the lack of vanity of the character"
"I liked the lack of vanity of the character," says Eastwood. "He knows
heís a failure at most activities relating to normal human relationships, and he
doesnít try to pretend heís better than he is. But he doesnít let remorse
or any other falseness distract from what he is good at, which is finding the truth
in a story."
Everett is called upon to interview a Death Row inmate hours before his execution and
begins researching the story and asking fresh questions, even though his assignment is a
routine one. When the answers don't seem to add up, the veteran newsman takes to the
streets, opening old doors - and old wounds - as he challenges every assumption made about
the convict's guilt. And when he finally meets Frank Beachum (Isaiah Washington), the
condemned man, only eight hours before he is scheduled to die by lethal injection, Everett
becomes convinced that the subject of his story is innocent.
The reporter races to unravel the long-closed case and save Beachum's life. But,
throughout the tense exposition, his character remains what it was when we first met him -
that of a wreck, just an arm's reach away from a drink or a woman, temporarily sorry for
his transgressions but, in the long run, accepting of himself and all his flaws.
True Crime is adapted from Andrew Klavanís novel by Larry Gross, Paul Brickman and
Stephen Schiff. Originally, the story was set in St Louis, but Eastwood moved it to a
setting he knows better and understands deeply - that of his home town, Oakland,
California. "I liked the visual possibilities better with Oakland," explains the
actor/director with typical understatement. "I know the area pretty well and I'm
"allowing things to happen on the screen."
As a film-maker and actor, Eastwood has been able to achieve a level of autonomy that
few of his peers have reached. His Warner Bros-based production company, Malpaso
Productions, develops only projects that Eastwood is interested in, and puts them into
production with a minimum of fuss. Eastwood himself is free to choose the films he will
direct and those in which he will star - and often does both with equal aplomb. Since his
directing debut with Play Misty for Me in 1971, he has frequently set his stories in
Northern California and incorporated into them the scenery, the jazz music and the
hard-bitten, laconic characters that suit him. And he has done so with unabated success.
"What I try to do is show a lot of real time between people," he said while
making The Bridges of Madison County, which earned Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination for
Best Actress. "In movies today, whether because of our MTV mentality or whatever, we
cut to the action and the chase. I try to be more in the Ford or Hawks tradition of
allowing things to happen on the screen."
True Crime began shooting on May 21, 1998, 10 days before the director's 68th birthday.
Joining Eastwood as producers were Richard Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck, who themselves had
won Oscars for their Best Picture of 1990, Driving Miss Daisy. It is their first
collaboration with the director, but most of the other behind-the-camera jobs were filled
with regular Eastwood collaborators.
"Iíve been fortunate to have attracted a very
talented group of collaborators"
"When Iím directing a picture," says Eastwood, "I like to work with
my regular crew because itís a much more efficient process. They understand me and I
understand them and we can move along more smoothly than if I had to explain everything
about my methods of working to a group of strangers. Iíve been fortunate to have
attracted a very talented group of collaborators, so itís always a pleasure to work
But what was it that first drew Eastwood to this story. Well, itís unvarnished
reality, for a start. "True Crime," he says, "is a suspense thriller based
on a wrong that was committed and must be discovered and quickly remedied by an unlikely
person. Without those elements, you wouldnít really have a story, so thatís why
theyíre in the movie. If it was impossible, it wouldnít have any dramatic value,
so there must be some chance that it could happen. Beyond that, I couldnít say."