EASTWOOD, CLINT: BLOOD WORK
NEW HEART, OLD BONES
In his latest film, Blood Work, playing an old man with a heart transplant is just an opportunity to play another character he couldnít play before, Clint Eastwood tells Jenny Cooney Carrillo. Besides, he has no choice.
Clint Eastwood directs and stars in Blood Work, a suspense thriller in which he plays retired FBI profiler Terry McCaleb, who has recently had a heart transplant. McCaleb is hired by Graciela Rivers (Wanda De Jesus) to investigate the death of her sister Gloria, who happens to have given McCaleb his heart, and he soon deducts that the killer staged the murder to look like a random robbery but may be the serial killer Terry McCaleb has been trailing for years.
Your character looks pretty old in this movie. Was this tough on your vanity?
As an actor you have two philosophies; one is that you are afraid to let go of what you once were or you are not afraid to but you have to let go anyway! I have no other choice Ė they donít make enough shoe polish for my hair and they donít have a belt sander for my face! At some point you have to say, Ďthis is who I am and this is an opportunity to play roles that I couldnít play beforeí. I couldnít play that vulnerability factor 30 years ago. You just have to view it as an opportunity and not worry about it. If your ego is to the point where you always have to look like a matinee idol, itíd be over. I always thought of myself as a character actor even though some people viewed me as a leading man.
Come on, youíre not a leading man?
I just always liked character roles. I grew up with the stars of yesteryear being character actors, such as Cagney, Bogart and all the different people we admire like that.†
Your character gets a heart transplant. Are you an organ donor yourself?
I donít have that marked on my card in my wallet but itís a good idea. I did research prior to making the movie and spoke with the head of the organ transplant division in Stanford and itís amazing what people can do after a transplant. I thought they would be invalids but some of them can even run marathons!†
How do you approach your movies? Do you have a complete vision before you start or do you have to shoot many takes to find it?
I have a vision of what I want to see and what I try to do is get the actors and everybody in a certain frame of mind. I learned it from (director) Don Siegel; he used to have a theory that a lot of times when people take twenty takes on a shot, they donít know what they are looking for. He always felt like, why not give the actor the benefit of seeing their first impression of the script? He was always trying to get the shot on the first take and I kind of adopted that myself. I figured if you are trying for it than the actor knows you mean business. If you are not trying for it, a person knows that they can fool around for the first fifteen takes minimum. I remember on Bridges of Madison County with Meryl Streep, at the end of the picture she was asking if we could shoot the rehearsals and I said great, because I shot rehearsals a lot of times and I wasnít sure that was what she had done in the past. But by the time the picture was over, she was asking me to do it because she liked that formula.
When you look at the type of movies that are popular today, do you think you would have achieved your success if you were starting out now?
Itís hard to tell whether the longevity of a performance is guesswork or a lot of luck. Weíve all watched movies change a lot in the last decade or two. Weíve gotten away from storytelling a lot and into a lot of razzle dazzle. Probably due to the fact that there is so much fantastic technology out there. You can put computer generated characters into movies and Iíve had to do it on Space Cowboys, where you had to pretend you were in space and couldnít really send anyone out there! It works terrifically but sometimes the toys start running the factory and thatís what has happened now. I think people have fallen in love with the toys, in my opinion anyway, and the consciousness of the stories and the writers have been set aside as a secondary part of the production in favor of more razzle dazzle. Iím not sure if that is the demands of the audience, the MTV generation or whether its just newer directors are being raised on television and with computers and that has become the most dominant factor for them. Would Clark Gable be as popular starting today as he was when he did? I think everyone comes along at their time, whatever their time is. There is a certain amount of charisma in Clark so the answer is probably yes, but he just would have been a different person with different values and being raised in a society that has changed a lot, as I would also have to deal with.
Do you think the Western genre will ever come back again?
I couldnít answer that. Things are cyclical and come around again. Even when I did Unforgiven in 1992, the Western was at that point. I think that the material is the important thing and I havenít seen any really good Western material in a long time. But if somebody came up with a project that was a Western script that was unique, I suppose I would give it some serious thought. But even when I made that film Unforgiven, I thought that would probably be my last Western.
You havenít been in another directorís film for ten years, since Line of Fire. Are you concentrating exclusively on making your own films?
That has been sort of circumstance. I canít say that it has purposely come out that way. Another director was supposed to do Bridges of Madison County and then the studio and he had a falling out, so it kind of came back to me and I really had to think about it before I said yes, actually. Iíve been doing it a long time and my original ambition was to phase out of acting and phase into directing. When the day comes and you look up on the screen and say, Ďthatís enough of that guyí, thatíll be it. That day gets closer all the time!
When you choose the films you make, is making money or winning awards part of your motivation?
I think that Iím just interested in storytelling. It is very nice of the British Institute and other groups to give you an evening tribute or something but the main thing is youíre a story teller and you donít put the cart before the horse and donít think about how somebody is going to react to viewing a certain scene or else every scene you do would be tailored towards an audience reaction and then you might get yourself into trouble. Whether it makes any money for you or the studio, itís in the eye of the beholder and you canít prejudge that, not now and not ever but certainly not in the world we live in.†
Do you ever go back and watch your classics?
Any time that I look at myself, I get somewhat embarrassed. But I think theyíre nostalgic and they kind of hold up as entertainment. They werenít meant to be serious. I ran Dirty Harry once about a year ago because my wife Dina had never seen it and all the men in the news room where she works kept telling her about how she had to see it if she married me. So we watched it on DVD and she was like, ĎOh I get it now!í And they had a 30th anniversary screening of Play Misty For Me recently and that was interesting seeing myself with long sideburns, a lot more hair and wearing those horrible bell-bottom pants! I kept a pair in my closet in case of a costume party!
Do you spend a lot of time with your family these days?
I try to spend as much time with all of them as I can, which is why I am not making as many movies anymore. In fact, it is one of my daughterís birthdays today so I will go over and have lunch with her as soon as Iím done talking to you. I got her a nice saddle for her pony. Frannie is nine years old. So weíre a great family; we come from a lot of different directions but everybody loves each other and this is the greatest enjoyment that I could possibly have, watching these children grow up.
Published November 14, 2002
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