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Trouble with The Clint: How Your Politics Can Overshadow Your Movie Coming Out

So first Eastwood does the chair bit and then he compounds the problem by calling our President, and I quote, the “biggest hoax perpetrated on the American public.”

I was kind of hoping Clint Eastwood would just not say anything, but instead retreat back under the 48 hour news cycle that swallows up any scandal, like the tide washing away the trash and scum on the shoreline. But he didn’t. Perhaps Karl Rove or some higher up in the GOP wanted him to explain what happened the other night to ensure people didn’t walk away thinking Eastwood was senile, or perhaps hoping to change the narrative around the chair incident. To say it backfired was an understatement.

To understand how Hollywood works is to understand why someone like Clint Eastwood would have the stones to go up there unprepared, unrehearsed and off the cuff; no one in Hollywood would ever hold him accountable for saying whatever the hell he felt like.But at a political convention, the stakes are higher than film profits or Oscars prospects. When it might cost a candidate the US Presidency itself, you’d think he would have at least prepared a script.

“They vet most of the people, but I told them, ‘You can’t do that with me, because I don’t know what I’m going to say,’” Mr. Eastwood told The Pine Cone.

The Clint giveth and the Clint taketh away. The good news is, Clint Eastwood just agreed to star in your movie. The bad news is he’s about to start rambling and talking to a chair.

For his directorial debut — Robert Lorenz, producer and first assistant director on several previous Eastwood films — got the extraordinary gift of having Eastwood star in his movie. Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake round out the cast and it appears to be headed right up Oscar’s ally (of course, pending reviews). Eastwood plays an aging baseball coach and the trailer shows him tearing up. His performance has Oscar written all over it. Or at least it used to.

But Eastwood has now all but upstaged that film, its potential to be a hit or to earn any awards by arrogantly appearing at the RNC without so much as a script. Probably Clint Eastwood has never been in a situation to receive any sort of public scorn; even when his films bomb he somehow lands on his feet. He’s a beloved American icon and someone who has always stood up for personal liberty and until now hasn’t really sided with any politician so much as he’s always sent the message for people to think for themselves.


This time, Eastwood is clearly siding with a party that promises to limit our freedoms, significantly reduce the support for the arts, and are mostly buying an election outright. We might have imagined that Eastwood was a guy who would oppose the SuperPacs. But instead he has become one. He’s aligned with a party that values money above all else. He never struck me as that kind of person. He supports gay marriage and yet has aligned himself with a party that does not. He directs films that star minorities, films that don’t only embrace the white-forward manifesto, as the Republican party does. Mostly, Eastwood’s appearance in Tampa was as baffling as his wife’s bizarre reality show, Mrs. Eastwood and Company. That was bad enough PR on its own.

Now Eastwood has spoken to a local paper in Carmel. He said he wanted to say three things when he got up to the podium.

1) There were more Republicans in Hollywood than people thought.

2) Why didn’t Obama keep the promises he made to the American people?

“There was a stool there, and some fella kept asking me if I wanted to sit down,” Mr. Eastwood said. “When I saw the stool sitting there, it gave me the idea. I’ll just put the stool out there, and I’ll talk to Mr. Obama and ask him why he didn’t keep all of the promises he made to everybody.”

3) If a leader is failing you should vote them out of office.

I think he managed, through the fog, to make his first and third point clearly — and some of what he hinted at Buzzfeed spotlighted months ago. But I suspect most of the actual conservatives would prefer to keep it quiet. Why? Because Hollywood, and especially the Academy, are made up primarily of bleeding heart liberals. They don’t kowtow to the rich people’s party and they stand up for the themes they put in many of their films. So it’s a ballsy move to appear at the RNC on the eve of your film coming out. Warner Bros. had enough on its plate having to deal with the Aurora massacre and now this?

As for the so-called broken promises of the Obama administration I can’t see where he broke any of them. He hasn’t lied to the American people like George Bush or Richard Nixon did. Last time I checked the Presidency isn’t a dictatorship. Anyone paying attention knows that the GOP blocked Obama each and every time he tried to enact legislation. They are scum for doing that. Yeah, you heard me. Scum. And to then turn around and blame Obama taking no responsibility for their share in the gridlock? Scum.

Ultimately, Eastwood’s overall message was lost because he chose instead to belittle our President by pretending he dragged him there and made him sit in a chair. The equivalent of saying “shut up and sit down.” He called him Mr. and not President Obama. And he made a cutting gesture across his throat. That was dangerously inflammatory, and even beyond what he likely intended since it could be seen as an implied threat against the President of the United States, which is a Federal crime. We know Eastwood is not a racist. We know he’s not a fascist and yet that is precisely how his speech came off. On a night when crucial impressions depended on well-chosen words, a muddled, unclear message tumbled out in reckless terms a seasoned pro should never have risked.

How the Oscar race goes this year may very well depend on how the election goes. But you can bet if the GOP manages to insert their lame-duck candidate into office, maybe the worst candidate for President I’ve ever seen — and that includes Michael Dukakis, GHW Bush, Bob Dole, Walter Mondale and Howard Dean — there are going to be a lot of angry liberals who won’t appreciate Clint’s piling on.

On the other hand, if Eastwood was genuinely trying to be a prominent activist for the first time in his whole career? He pulled that one off. He showed that he’s unafraid to passionately express his own beliefs. I suppose in the end who can fault him for that?

To that end, I am still going to see Trouble with the Curve with an open mind. He’s still the director who made Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers the same year. He’s the same guy who made Mystic River. And his director doesn’t deserve to be dragged down by Eastwood’s politics. But one has to wonder at this point how anyone can come back from that.