“I’m a lucky bastard”

Clint Eastwood

Interview

  • INTERVIEW FRANK SIERING

From action hero to legendary filmmaker: Hollywood star Clint Eastwood, 85, talks about the gratification he gets from his work, the downside of aging, his love of jazz, and pride in his children

Mr. Eastwood, Is it true that you said you need to keep reinventing yourself or you will die?

I’m not sure I said anything quite that drastic. We will all die eventually anyway. But you are quite right, I do want to continue to progress in life, still at my age. I don’t want to stand still or go backwards. I’ve always liked learning.

Is that why you are still making movies at 85?

It’s simple, really. They have not chased me away yet, they have not told me to finally hang up my hat. It’s not easy making movies, but I still enjoy a good fight. I still enjoy getting things done. Maybe that will never change.

Do you have an easier time in Hollywood because your name is Clint Eastwood?

You would think they’d cut an old guy some slack, right? No, it’s not easier. If you don’t come back with a financial success you are in trouble in this business. But I don’t care, I keep coming back anyway. Let some young punk chase me out of his office. I dare him (laughs).

Now you’re starting to sound a little bit like Dirty Harry. Would you say that he is still part of you?

Of course he is. There is a little bit in me of all the characters I have played throughout my life.

Has Hollywood lost respect for the older generation?

That’s a good question. I think in general, especially in America, which is such a youth driven society, old age doesn’t count for much. Life experience, for that matter, doesn’t count for much, either. Hollywood has always and probably will always be about the next big thing. And I am certainly no longer the next big thing (laughs).

Father and son: Clint and Scott Eastwood in Trouble with the Curve (2012)

Father and son: Clint and Scott Eastwood in "Trouble with the Curve" (2012)

© Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection
Clint Eastwood is always ready for action

Clint Eastwood is always ready for action

© Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/Contour by Getty Images

You’ve always been a big music fan. How important is music in your life?

Very important. It carried me through the decades of my existence. I love music. It soothes me, it gives me peace. Music is a reflection of who you are.

You have always expressed your love for jazz, and a lot of your movies incorporate jazz. What fascinates you about the genre?

I love music, and I love jazz. It’s the music that best expresses my personality. I love the vibe, the melancholic aspect.

What is your relationship to aging?

Am I aging? Well, you know a lot more when you’re old, at least until the time you start forgetting it all. So actually, aging can be a fun process to some degree, but ask me a year or so from now and I’ll try to give you the same answer.

How does it feel not to have to work for a living anymore, and just do what makes you happy?

Who says I don’t have to work for a living anymore? I’m just kidding. Life’s been good to me. I am not complaining. To answer your question, it feels good, very good. You’ve got other problems when you get older, health problems for example. Your body doesn’t want to follow your orders anymore. But you cope. You have no other choice, really.

But you look very fit. What do you do to stay in shape?

I try to avoid Cuban cigars and walk across the golf course instead of riding
in a cart. I like being out in nature, and allow myself a daily nap. Sleep is the best thing I ever discovered.

You know a lot more when you’re old, at least until you start forgetting it

Your fans say you are like a good wine, and get better with age, along with your films: “Unforgiven”, “Million Dollar Baby”, “Gran Torino”. Now you are planning to make a film about Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who landed a plane in the Hudson River in 2009, saving 155 lives. Do you approach your projects differently than ten or twenty years ago?

I think I have developed a better eye for nuances as I get older. That’s important. You have to try to discover the little things that can make the difference in a very emotional situation. That can be a quick look, a breath, a short hesitation. Patience is a factor that a lot of filmmakers underestimate.

When younger Hollywood stars approach you for advice, what do you tell them?

Be realistic about where you are in life, and enjoy it!

Your son Scott is a member of this generation. He didn’t just inherit your good looks, he’s also got the same acting qualities. Does that make you proud?

Of course I’m proud of him. I am proud of all my children, which father isn’t? Scott is on his own path, I am convinced of that. I always just wanted all my kids to find their own way, and it looks like they have. That makes me very happy.

Do you ever think about quitting the business altogether?

Every day (laughs). But why should I? I don’t want to do projects that are happening because of me, and don’t need to show my face on the screen anymore. I only do what I want to do and what I enjoy. Which 85-year-old can say that?

So would you say Clint Eastwood is a contented human being?

Definitely! I’ve enjoyed the journey to this stage so I intend to enjoy the rest of the journey, a long one I hope. I’m a lucky bastard.