Clint Eastwood was at Cannes this weekend to help present the restored edition of Unforgiven on that film's 25th anniversary. He was interviewed for an hour-long 'master class' on film while he was there, which has been widely quoted for the 'politically correct' commentary as he was talking about Dirty Harry. Despite an impressive list of credits as both actor and director, Eastwood's politics are what make the headlines these days, because of the infamous Empty Chair, and some comments about supporting Trump last year among other things. Watching this hour-long Q&A, it's fairly obvious that Eastwood's thoughts are firmly rooted in his past.
Seeing some of the headline stories about this talk yesterday, I was expecting much more punch to that comment on political correctness. Eastwood was in a real sense the prototypical action star after all, jumping from A Fistful of Dollars to Dirty Harry, guns blazing all the while. But there's not much ammunition in those guns anymore. At age 86, Eastwood's comments have more of the feel of that older uncle you know who believes too much of what he sees on tv and can't stop himself from telling you about it from time to time. The Empty Chair and all the other stuff is going to stick to his legacy, and deservedly so, but as I watched this I found his current comments more sad than irritating.
Talking about other directors and methods of the past in terms of how long the process could take, he drifted into, "To me forever is 'I want to be back with Meryl [Streep] again." Even the widely-quoted comments on his 'return to acting' were pretty unenthusiastic in context. Asked if he misses acting: "Ahh once in awhile, but not too often, no. I did a lot of it for a long time, and I'll do it again someday."
But I do love the simplicity of his reason behind doing Dirty Harry:
I liked it, I liked the script, it was far out at that time so I brought it to Don. He liked it, a lot of people thought it was politically incorrect, that was at the beginning of the era that we're in now where everybody thinks everything is politically incorrect. We're killing ourselves by doing that. We've lost our sense of humor.
I thought it was interesting, it was daring at the time. That was the only reason.
It was the ultimate kid's dream.
That was probably the most revelatory moment in the entire hour. He slips into the past easily there, and you can tell he thinks back on that time in 1971 often. It's still a very large part of who he is.