Clint Eastwood Becomes a Changeling
by Brad Balfour
Originally posted November 7, 2008
An avowed Republican in Hollywood is nearly as rare as the giant Comodo Dragon — and they’ve had the spiteful bite of one as well. But with Barack Obama’s victory, they’ve made themselves pretty scarce since election day.
Hell, even a straight-shooting, no bullshitter like Clint Eastwood — long known as a registered Republican who supported Richard Nixon’s campaign in 1968, who has since made forays into politics (he won a term as mayor of Carmel in 1986 and has been on the California State Park and Recreation Commission from 2001 to 2008 and the California Film Commission) — distanced himself from the Republicans before the election. At a recent press conference that Clint Eastwood gave at this year’s New York Film Festival — where Changeling, his latest directorial effort, premiered as the centerpiece — it was uncanny how even he wanted to emphatically clarify his position away from them.
Of course, that wasn’t the only interesting thing he had to say about himself and his film. So with a little juggling and a few delays, here are the comments from this 78-year-old grand master of directing and acting — the man who defined so many cinematic archetypes from the hard-boiled, hardened cop (Dirty Harry) to the laconic gunslinger with a heart (the Man With No Name from Sergio Leone westerns). This Oscar-winning director (Unforgiven) and longtime actor is also a jazz musician and composer as well.
Given that Changeling deals with out-of-control authorities drunk on their own power, the film has a very current political tenor. Starring Angelina Jolie as a mother searching for her nine-year son, she is given the wrong kid when he is returned by corrupt L.A. police officials; she’s then carted off to the looney bin when she protests. Once freed by a crusading minister after it’s revealed that a serial killer may have abducted her son, she succeeds in bringing down the authorities who have done her wrong. So Eastwood’s remarks remain particularly telling.
As a noted Republican, former elected official, and supporter of John McCain, what are your thoughts on the election, especially Sarah
My mortgage just went down the tube [laughs]. I haven’t been very active in politics. Yes, I started out as a Republican in 1951, when I was a young 21-year-old in the army, and I wanted to vote for Dwight Eisenhower because he, like all politicians, was promising something, and he promised to go to Korea and end the Korean War.
But the Republican Party, as the Democratic Party, have changed dramatically since the 1950s, and so I’ve drifted towards a more libertarian point of view. It never really got going as a party, but just the idea of, “Let’s leave everybody alone, and not over-regulate,” was very appealing to a guy like myself, who came up in the 1930s and watched my parents struggle through the Depression. And nowadays of course, everybody’s promising everything because that’s the only way you can get elected. It’s kind of perverted politics, as far as I’m concerned.
Whether Mr. McCain or Mr. Obama… what ever happens there, who knows… there are promises going on there too of what people will do and what people won’t do, and it’s very confusing. But yeah, my wife and I are both Libertarian; she was a Democrat and I was a Republican, and we both met in the middle somewhere.
Both this film and Million Dollar Baby deal with female protagonists rebelling against a very male-dominated society. Prior to this, your earlier films were involved with very male-centric cinematic universes. So what triggered this change to the perspective of the female?
It just got very feminine in here [laughs]. I know I’ve done a lot of action films in my early days, but I’ve always been curious about these stories. I remember doing Bridges of Madison County some years back, and that was a story written from a man’s point of view. The book was a story of a guy who’s a photographer, and he drifts across the country, and he meets a war-bride, and the writer in that case took the woman’s point of view, so the screenwriter actually had a better take on it than the novelist.
But I don’t know, every story has its demands, and I think women have had a much more uphill battle than men had, so it becomes a more dramatic situation. It’s like Million Dollar Baby, with a woman who’s destitute, and broke, and wants to make something of herself in the world.