Clint Eastwood has lived three lives in Hollywood. First of all he was the scowling Man With No Name in some of the best Westerns of the Sixties and Seventies. Then came the elder statesman years, playing the ageing hero in films like The Unforgiven and In The Line of Fire.
These days, Eastwood is one of the most prolific and hard working directors in Hollywood, with at least one film coming out a year, sometimes even more. This would be incredible enough if he were in his forties, but Eastwood turns 82 in May.
Eastwood has a small, tight-knit crew that is very loyal to the great director, who in turn has a no-nonsense approach to filmmaking that consists of getting in, getting what you need and getting it out there.
Matt Damon, who starred in two Eastwood films, Invictus and Hereafter, is in awe of the director and is hoping to channel some of what he has learned from the master into his own directorial debut out next year.
“Clint says all the time, ‘Let’s not f**k this up too much by thinking about it,’” Damon said.
“That’s his approach, and some people love it and some people hate it, but he doesn’t do too much hand-wringing about it. I’d love to do what Clint does.”
It’s that level of respect that Eastwood generates that enables him to keep working to such a high standard, and why some of the biggest movie stars in the world keep queuing up to work with him.
Eastwood’s last few films have featured Leonardo DiCaprio, Damon, Angelina Jolie, Hilary Swank and Sean Penn in the leads, with Tom Cruise being lined up to star in Clint’s rumoured remake of A Star Is Born opposite Beyonce Knowles. Both Swank and Penn won Academy Awards for their roles, in Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River respectively.
What keeps Clint Eastwood motivated? Is it fear of his mortality? Or is it just a deep love for storytelling that hasn’t dimmed over time? It certainly isn’t for financial reward or critical acclaim. Eastwood’s films are almost always well received by both critics and the box office, and the award cabinet is far from bare, with two Best Director Oscars to his name for The Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.
“I was always curious why somebody like Billy Wilder would stop making movies in his sixties when someone like John Huston was directing when he was in a wheelchair,” he says.
“It just depends on your abilities at that particular time of life. People peak at different times of life. There is a Portuguese director who is 104 and still making movies.”
Clint Eastwood could be directing movies into his 105th year, and nobody would be surprised.