Taking it in his stride

Posted by · 1:14 pm · February 14th, 2009

With the Best Actor race narrowing to a heated finish between Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn, it’s easy to forget that Clint Eastwood was once very much part of the conversation. Of course, any such possibilities were sunk as “Gran Torino” became the first Eastwood in six years to come up empty on nomination morning. In a substantial interview in today’s Guardian, however, Eastwood doesn’t seem particularly fazed by missing out this time:

“I have had three films nominated out of the last five I’ve made. I just make the film the best I can. The rest is political stuff and posturing. I’m not terribly good at that. I think our message was as good as any message out there this year. There we are.”

I imagine it’s easier to be philosophical about such things when you have four Oscars on your mantlepiece already, and the film in question is still raking in the millions. However, as I read the piece, I got the distinct impression that “Torino” is very much a film Eastwood made for himself, rather than with designs on awards and critical kudos. (As it happens, interviewer Emma Brockes is refreshingly unfawning on her subject — though she likes the film as a whole, she isn’t too awed to point out its flaws, including the star’s own occasional “snarling and overacting.”)

Of course, a more cynical take would be that he isn’t bothered by his poor showing in this year’s awards race because he has an ominously baity project in the pipeline — his thus-far vaguely defined Nelson Mandela picture — that could well feed the Academy’s known penchant for ennobling true-life stories. As a South African, I must admit that the project has me nervous for all kinds of reasons, but amid the earnestness, Eastwood isn’t above poking a bit of fun at himself:

When I ask who will play (Mandela), he looks devilish and says, “I’m going to play him. I’m going to show you my versatility.” (It will actually be Morgan Freeman. “Perfect casting for Mandela.”)

We will no doubt be talking further about this project when Kris offers his year-in-advance speculation on the 2009 Oscars later this month, so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, read the rest of the interview here.

→ 5 Comments Tags: , , , | Filed in: Daily

5 responses so far

  • 1 2-14-2009 at 11:12 pm

    red_wine said...

    I don’t think Eastwood(who I consider the best director of this decade) is up to directing a really big historical epic, which is what I’m assuming Mandela to be. This movie is going to receive lots of international attention.

  • 2 2-15-2009 at 8:33 am

    John Foote said...

    Red_Wine — likely to be a more intimate type of film, a character study, hece the casting of Freeman — he can however pul off an epic, look at “Flags of Our Fathers”, far better than it was given credit for being and ‘Letters from Iwo Jima” was simply a masterpiece — agree with you about his being best of the decade.

  • 3 2-15-2009 at 9:05 am

    BJT said...

    I believe The Human Factor will be based around John Carlin’s book Playing the Enemy, which focuses on Mandela’s strategy of unifying South Africa through sport – namely the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

    In that way the focus will not just be on Mandela’s political manouverings as he attempts to clear the deep differences between the Afrikaaners and the Townships, but also the against all odds performance of the Springboks.

    The question isn’t whether Eastwood can manage a historical epic. It’s whether he can manage a sports film about a game he is likely to have had no experience in or understanding of. (Really how many Americans understand rugby?)

  • 4 2-15-2009 at 1:29 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    Is Crazyfast Clint going to have this one in the can before the end of the year? If so, Morgan probably has a Best Actor Oscar in the bag.

  • 5 2-16-2009 at 2:36 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    BJT: That was the initial pitch, yes, but recent reports have suggested that the film may not be as closely linked to Carlin’s book as earlier supposed.

    To be perfectly honest, I’m interested to know why Eastwood is making this film — I hope it’s a story he’s passionate about, but I haven’t heard anything to suggest it is. I’d prefer a South African filmmaker to take on the story, but that’s me.