Clint Eastwood, man, actor, myth: Interview with biographer Patrick McGilligan

When I read Clint: The Life and Legend, back in November 2006, I was surprised to know how Clint Eastwood’s life differed so much from his public persona. Some revelations were quite shocking. The book caused controversy, and Eastwood filed a $10 million libel action in 2002 against its author Patrick McGilligan and St. Martin’s Press. Some cuts were made, but the book was published and translated into several languages. In some countries, we can find it uncut. Wand’rin’ Star talked with McGilligan about Clint, Jack Nicholson, the cinema writing biz and the movie business.

When I first read it, I didn’t know the author or his reputation as one of America’s leading film historians and biographers. Afterwards, going through the massive amount of sources McGilligan quotes, I found out that his research – which lasted almost four years – was to be taken seriously. He talked with so many people from Clint Eastwood’s inner circle, checked the facts with so many sources that even Eastwood himself couldn’t stop the book’s publishing. Clint: The Life and Legend got excellent reviews in the press, from the Daily Express to Independent on Sunday, Sight and Sound, Time Out, Daily Mail, The Times, Observer, Empire, Daily Mirror or Uncut, to name a few. They seem to agree that it’s a book for people who can handle the truth. This work became the main source for my first article about cinema (The Portuguese version can be found on the site.)

Since Clint Eastwood is a legend, not a person, loved by many, Patrick McGilligan’s book didn’t go well with diehard fans. Some say it’s highly inaccurate, others say he made up the facts. Some even alleged that the biographer had something personal against Eastwood. When I told him about the mixed reactions I got from my own article, McGilligan replied:

“Some people must do mental contortions to justify their love or admiration for Clint. You saw this recently in how some people rationalized his “performance” before the Republican National Convention, which was perfectly in keeping with the right-wing politics of his life and films (as documented in my book).”

His first biography was about James Cagney. The author also wrote highly acclaimed biographies of George Cukor, Alfred Hitchcock (generally considered the definitive work on the director until now, and a finalist of the prestigious Edgar Award in the USA); Fritz Lang, Oscar Micheaux, Jack Nicholson and Nicholas Ray. He also wrote five widely praised volumes of Backstory, which feature interviews with Hollywood screenwriters, as well as Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist (with Paul Buhle).

Patrick McGilligan talks about his most controversial book; his personal impressions, his research, and also about how he started to write about cinema. I wanted to know why so many people love Jack Nicholson backstage, while many hate Clint. How did he react to negative reviews and the court case, where he confronted ‘Dirty Harry’ himself? The actor turned up at all the preliminary hearings, but McGilligan didn’t have to do so. The writer’s views about the movie industry are also insightful.

Before you started to work in this biography, you say that you had “met Clint once before, interviewed him, and liked him well enough, but still maintained some reservations about him and his films”. Which reservations were these? How did you view him before?

Clint, when I met him in about 1976 – I’d have to check the dates but I think it was right before Josey Wales – was thoughtful, low-key, personable. I thought then (and now) that he was very smooth and practiced with the press. So self-confident that nothing ruffled his feathers. But I am a child of the 60s and arrived as a partial skeptic. I loved (and love) the Leone films but I was part of a left-wing group involved with a film magazine called The Velvet Light Trap that attacked Dirty Harry, for example, as politically right-wing. (Dirty Harry is still a provocative film, and Clint gives a seminal tough-cop performance under Don Siegel… many of his other performances are lazy.)

So I knew about his politics, and felt they were reflected in his films. I didn’t know yet how his personal life was reflected in those same films. Incidentally, you can read my interview, which is just about the first lengthy serious interview with Clint, in the University of Mississippi Press book series of interviews. Anyway, the upshot is that I went away impressed but preserving my reservations, while thinking he was a formidable figure.

The Outlaw Josey Wales can be compared to Unforgiven in artistic terms. Yet, the latter was the big turning point, while Josey Wales didn’t get too much attention at the time of its release, in 1976. I was a fan of Clint when he was considered little more than an action hero, and, almost overnight, there’s this sudden change of status. He turned into an auteur, his old films were reevaluated. What do you think of this?

I have to disagree with you. Josey Wales was seen as an important Western at the time of its release; the film was praised by U.S. critics. It was part of a series of films that began to win critics over. The films with Sondra Locke one by one brought him new fans and growing critical approval. I trace this wooing of the critics in my book – and it did involve much wooing.

Warner Bros advertising and hoopla, block booking, special attention to the press with junkets and interviews, studio sponsorship of museum and other festival events. Not every star or star-director – not Redford, for example – pursues recognition and awards as relentlessly.

But Clint is a supreme businessman, he goes on the stump to push every film he makes, and he knows how to promote an image and stature that has been vital to his success.

What I meant to say was that if we compare Josey Wales and Unforgiven, probably Josey is even better than Unforgiven, which put Clint in a pedestal, so to speak. But, then again, these were two different periods of his career. I prefer Josey Wales, as well as many fans.

I prefer Josey Wales too. It’s quirkier. Unforgiven starts out as archetypal, but ends up self-aggrandizing and cliché, if you ask me.

When Marlon Brando won his second Oscar, in 1973, he refused it and sent an Indian to explain why: The treatment of Indians by Americans, in real life and also in movies. Later on, during the ceremony, when Clint presented the Best Picture award, he started his speech with a joke which I find clearly in bad taste, making fun of Brando in a disdainful tone: “I don’t know if I should present this award on behalf of all the cowboys shot in all the John Ford westerns over the years.” He then goes on talking about dignity and human values… Yet, three years later, he appears as a big Indian defender on the big screen, on Josey Wales. Recently he also did a similar performance, which again I found in bad taste, during the Republican National Convention. How do you comment this strange duplicity?

I wasn’t surprised by his Oscar comments. I have always seen him as politically backward.

He campaigned or gave money to Nixon, Reagan, both Bushes, now Romney. When he was Mayor of Carmel, he pushed business ventures and anti-environmental measures and steamrolled opponents. Even in films, a guy who puts a gun into the face of a black man and asks him to guess how many bullets he has left is making a political statement. Usually, he keeps a low profile politically or prefers to describe himself as “Libertarian”. But I don’t see him that way, and occasionally – as with the Oscars or the Republican National Convention recently – he finds himself in the spotlight and doesn’t shrink from the fight. (His litigiousness is another aspect of this; Dirty Harry attacks the courts and lawyers, and so did Clint at the Republican convention.)

The really unusual thing about his Republican “performance” is that it was improvised and that it was a monologue. This is more than unusual, it’s almost unique for him. But I have always thought he was a more than capable actor, he just rarely works hard enough to prove it.

The first real “malpaso” on Clint’s part, media wise, at least, seemed to be the Sondra Locke case. She was publicly humiliated at first, but fought back and beat Clint in court. I think she was a promising actress and director, but Clint just put an end to her career. You write that your views about her changed after your research. In what way? Since you interviewed her, how did she strike you as a person?

When I met Sondra I thought she was a wounded bird flapping around on one wing. It was still not long after Clint had tossed her out and she hadn’t fully recovered. Also, she had had health problems. She talked about defeating him in court and writing a book to make the case for herself, and I thought it was all talk; it all came true. She was a great source, and I define a great source as someone who tells you things that “check out,” and that might even shed an unfavorable light on themselves. She sent me to people who didn’t especially like her, for example, because she knew they would have something important to say about Clint.

I always liked her, from the first, but I grew to trust her and really find her sympathetic and wise (a hard-earned wisdom). In my mind I always think of her as the “before” and “after” Sondra: before and after Clint. I think it is hard for critics who sucked up to Clint by praising his films with Sondra, long ago, to factor in how he treated her. Some of those films are pretty darned good because of her, as I report in my book. But I prefer the “after” Sondra.

Marilyn Ann Moss said that Raoul Walsh “was an example of someone who had great talent but who was a kind human being first. You don’t find that often in the annals of Hollywood”. People usually only see the glamour and “the meat parade” of the Oscars, as George C. Scott once put it, but are unaware that it’s a “cut-throat, competitive world”, according to Anthony Perkins. You researched this world in depth. Do you agree with these statements? How do you view the industry, as an insider and film historian?

I am not sure I agree with any of those statements, per se. I’m sure there are all kinds of human beings in the film industry, including kind ones, but more importantly, there is a range of behavior just as there would be in any microcosm. It’s just that the good and bad are magnified by the film industry’s importance (the glamour and money), its publicity, and its product – film and immortality. Not everyone is the same there. There are big differences between, say, Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn, back in the day, or Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood nowadays. There are similarities, true, but also differences in personality and character, and not all of them can be laid at the feet of glamour and money. But glamour and money does tend to distort behavior.

How did you start writing about cinema, and became such an expert? Was it love for movies that started it all?

I grew up out of doors playing winter and summer games and fishing and swimming on a lake. Probably the first movie I saw was Ben-Hur. My mother was a strict Catholic and thought movies were a bad influence; my father thought they cost too much money. In college I fell in with a group of people from the East Coast who were “film crazy” and had seen many, many movies growing up. Some of them founded and wrote for The Velvet Light Trap. They were also radicals against the war and involved in other political causes and issues. I agreed with them politically, and started watching a lot of movies with them. Our policy was: Picket Birth of a Nation but sneak in to see it if at all possible. My first article for The Velvet Light Trap was the outgrowth of a paper I wrote for a class that I was boycotting because of a campus wide strike. The subject was James Cagney, whom I had never before seen in a film before starting my paper. (Well, I may have seen one or two Cagney films in a class, but I knew nothing.) The paper turned into an article, and the article turned into a book. In those days there was no video or cable or internet, and we were discovering old films and writing about them from an historical and political point of view in a way that felt fresh and exciting. Before I knew it, although I was many other things, often at the same time, I found myself a film writer, and that became the path forward. This is obviously a condensed version of events…

You compare your work about Clint Eastwood with the Jack Nicholson book you also wrote. While Eastwood tried to control your research, Nicholson, although he didn’t want to participate, didn’t try to restrain you at all. They come across as entirely different persons. Behind the scenes, many people love Jack, and many hate Clint, as you say. Did you feel Clint’s shadow during your research? Was he aware of your progress or did he ever try to stop you?

Many people asked, “does Clint approve of what you are doing?” And when I answered in the negative – or told them to ask him – that was the end of our contact. (Not so in Jack’s case.) Some people said things like, “I have nothing to gain and everything to lose by talking to you”. You have to keep in mind that Richard Schickel was writing his authorized (sanitized) biography and many people were aware of this. Alternatively, many people cast aside or left behind or trampled in the past were sitting there waiting to be phoned.

The director Ted Post surprised me by answering the phone and saying, “I’ll be happy to talk to you, but only if you promise not to write the same bullshit as everyone else.” The screenwriter of Every Which Way But Loose, at that time (probably still now) Clint’s highest grossing film in terms of actual tickets sold and dollars taken in, said to me, “you want to talk to me? You’re the first person who’s ever asked. You do realize that I was sued out of existence by Clint …?” No, I hadn’t realized that, nor of much else that I learned.

So Clint was aware of what I was doing – I had told Schickel, for one thing – and occasionally I had to meet with people secretly. But in general, I was a flea and he was an elephant, and the elephant doesn’t notice or care about the flea.

Jack Nicholson strikes me as an easygoing person, well, not always, (!) but most of the time. And what you wrote matches other biographies. When he worked on The Witches of Eastwick, he was very relaxed, and seemed a “like a little boy, although he was very much a grownup, and saved the film”, according to Cher on a Michelle Pfeiffer bio. What do you think about Nicholson as a person and a colleague to fellow actors on set?

Jack is very hard working and almost studious as an actor, and he is very collegial with other actors in his scenes, doing as many takes as possible, speaking his lines off camera if necessary, etc. I admire his ethic as an actor and I think over the years now it has made him the Bogart of our generation – no exaggeration – meaning, an icon and a symbol as powerful and important as Bogart; but also an actor whose devotion to the craft has resulted in numerous classic films revolving around his performance. I prefer his persona and his range of films. (Clint is more the John Wayne of our generation, although I prefer Wayne.)

Clint’s success as an icon and star revolves more around his persona, and his acting tends to fall back on what Stanislavski (I believe) called “the despotism of acquired habits”. But just so there is no misunderstanding, it is Clint who is the laidback and easygoing one; Jack is wired, intense, unpredictable – more like the characters he plays – he can be very pleasant, charming and talkative at times, but other times he is moody and watch out! The fact that he is so diligent on the set, usually, speaks to his well-known professionalism as an actor.

Eastwood’s biographer makes some interesting statements about the actor’s personality, how he works, how he tried to damage the author’s career and go after his sources to do the same. Patrick McGilligan’s also explains he had nothing against this “complicated man in simple wardrobe”. The biographer could have taken an easier and more profitable path, writing a book just praising Clint, and he could have avoided my questions, some of them a bit tough, but he didn’t.

I read that, in the old days of Hollywood, many actors’ careers were launched and others destroyed very easily, not only by winning or not winning an Oscar, but by favors of all kinds, that sometimes took place in the offices of producers or powerful people. You think that Hollywood changed much since those days?

Has Hollywood changed from the casting-couch days? Yes and no. Certainly. But this is too big a question to answer glibly. There are many ways Hollywood is a better place – for African-American actors, for example, not as much for actresses or directors or screenwriters – and other ways in which it has stayed the same. I’m sure federal laws and the feminist movement put some curbs on the casting couch and some of the worst excesses, but as demonstrated by Jack’s life, drug use has always waxed and waned; and as demonstrated by Clint’s life, Hollywood stars have always felt free to dabble in politics. And both of them prove that one can misbehave with women with impunity.

Hollywood is no place to raise a family, that’s for sure – there are so many stories of broken families and hurt children – but that was true in the old days too. I was friends with the animator Faith Hubley, who worked in Hollywood holding script for the Three Stooges in the 1940s, and more than once she told me she never knew a single film industry family that sat down for dinner together at night.

Actors like Al Pacino and others, prefer to keep their distance from Hollywood. Up to a point, they remain outsiders. (Pacino stayed for many years in New York, for example, refusing to move to L.A.) They did it in order to keep their feet on the ground, but the industry wasn’t always kind to them. Pacino waited 20 years for his Oscar, after all those fabulous performances in the 70’s. What I mean to ask you is this: Could it be that Eastwood vicious temper and attitudes were a product of a competitive “working environment”, or was he that way before becoming famous?

I wouldn’t say Clint has a “vicious temper and attitudes”. He does have a temper, on occasion, if more so in the past; and he does have attitudes. But he is pretty much the same person he always was. I don’t think he was forged in the film industry. He was forged before he entered the film industry. He has grown and matured and changed in many ways, but also in many ways he is the same, only “more so” than he was as a young man. The personality, the character, the beliefs, they have remained the same. The acting style and approach has remained the same. Directing was obviously significant in his artistic and commercial evolution. But he was always, as I quote someone saying in my book, a complicated man in simple wardrobe, and has always been more complex than his appearance. One couldn’t predict about him, when he started out, that he would end up so important and iconic; and yet at the same time it doesn’t surprise anyone who knew him. He absorbed and learned from Hollywood whatever was necessary for him to do what he wanted for himself in his life and career.

Marlon Brando also said that “people need heroes, even negative ones”. He described his experience with Chaplin on A Countess from Hong Kong, saying that one must separate a man from his work, meaning that, while he regarded Chaplin as probably the “biggest genius cinema has ever produced”, he found him “a sadistic man” and “a mixed bag like all of us”. Your portrait of Eastwood shows a vindictive man who gratuitously destroyed many people’s careers and lives. Do you know if he still behaves like this? (Your biography covers the period up until 1999.)

I would disagree that I show that Clint vindictively destroys people and their careers. He has his reasons for the way he behaves, and they are good reasons from his point of view. He can be vindictive, but that is not what it is all about. It is about protecting and serving Clint – his life and career. Do I think he is the same way today as earlier in time? New editions of my book have been published in Spain and France, bringing his story up to date. People can change, although that is rare. I don’t know if he is “still the same” today. But I suspect he is, perhaps even more considering the evidence of his recent films and his Republican National Convention stand-up routine.

Clint’s career suffered a boom with Unforgiven, but I think that, although his budgets and production values may be higher, he’s a better director now, and has almost every critic at his feet, his career remains uneven. A great film seems to follow an unimaginative one. We have Mystic River but we also have Space Cowboys. How do you view his career before and after Unforgiven?

Is Mystic River a great film? I wonder. The book is better. Some of the actors are over the top; the ending goes on and on and on. Clint is an extremely competent director; he can walk into a room, know where to place the camera, and shoot a scene as well as anyone. The problem comes with scripts that aren’t polished, actors who aren’t rehearsed or guided, and scenes shot in one or two or three takes, among other things. Because he is so competent a director, and surrounds himself with production gloss, the films he directs can be very good – but rarely if ever great. When he is the star, audiences are happier. But often the choice of vehicle, as in the case of True Blood or Space Cowboys, for example, betrays his limitations.

Gran Torino is one of my favorite films in the post-Unforgiven period. But, in a way, the character he portrays is very similar to a retired ‘Dirty Harry’. Do you have any favorites yourself in the most recent phase of his career?

I love Gran Torino but mainly because it is Clint the actor and filmmaker as auteur with ideas that he has been recycling for decades: The grumpy, retired Dirty Harry-type; the great ‘reveal’ of tolerance towards the Hmong while the black street kids are treated like cartoons; the one-dimensional priest who is wrong; the family members who are worse than wrong, they’re contemptible… even the paean to a car, which is like Pink Cadillac redux. A very silly movie really, but one, like many Clint has made, that is canny about its audience. For me, the best film Clint has ever made as director is Letters from Iwo Jima, because he is not in it and because there are no obvious parallels to himself and because the film is very, very well done.

Many actors seem to have big breaks in their careers after working with Eastwood, which is natural, under the circumstances. Cécile De France, for instance, who starred in Hereafter, only has good things to say about working with Clint. I sometimes ask myself, “did he mellow with age?” For someone who was a tyrant on set, as you portrayed, he appears very relaxed. What do you think? Is this the continuity of the past’s publicity stunts?

Why wouldn’t an actor say something good about working with Clint? The pay is good and you can boast of being directed by a legend for the rest of your life. He’s warm, pleasant, etc. Hereafter is a pretty good film too! I never would say he is a tyrant on the set. He does things the way he wants to do them, and you accept his methods going in. Hardly a tyrant – I have written about Fritz Lang – so that is a tyrant. Clint has always been very relaxed about acting and directing. Too relaxed, I would say, if I were thinking like a critic; but who can argue with his success?

Eastwood filed a $10 million libel action in 2002 against you, and St. Martin’s Press. I understand that some cuts were made, which state that he beat his first wife Maggie and was scared to fight in the Korean War. These became public through news agencies. Are you allowed to say which other cuts in the manuscript were dictated by Eastwood himself? (Or what were they about, in vague terms?)

The cuts were not made in the original edition, which was allowed to continue in existence because we (the publisher and I) admitted no wrongdoing or errors of fact. In order to end the lawsuit we agreed to make cuts in all future editions only. So the French and Spanish editions include these cuts as well as updated material. You have mentioned the two main issues – slugging his wife, and that he was scared to fight in the Korean War (the latter was almost identically stated in Clint’s authorized biography by Schickel). The rest were pretty trivial, maybe a dozen small changes or cuts, including doing something about a passage quoting Clint’s mother from an item in the Oakland newspapers. (His argument was this inferred his mother had cooperated with my book – which she didn’t, and which was made clear in the chapter notes – but Clint once sued the National Enquirer on roughly the same grounds, insisting an interview the Enquirer republished from England implied his cooperation with the publication). Regardless of the changes, my six hundred page portrait of Clint – the kind of person he is, the kind of actor and filmmaker he is, how his life is reflected in his films – remained and remains pretty much intact.

I don’t know the US legal system, but you still can’t mention certain facts regarding that lawsuit. Do you feel there’s a sort of persecution on Clint’s part? (Or his team of lawyers, I imagine.)

Clint protects his interests and assets; that is the lesson of the lawsuit. His ‘image’ is one of his assets. I believe that if I had ended each chapter of my book with praise for his filmmaking genius, that I might not have been sued, because instead I linked his life to his persona, and to certain ideas and flaws in his acting and directing.

He sued not only to shut the book down, but to hurt or damage my career, and also – not unimportantly – to discover my sources and go after them in the same way. I don’t see it as persecution. It was predictable. If you read the book, you will see that he has often been litigious, and involved with lawyers and lawsuits and controversial court cases, even though he scoffs at lawyers in films like Dirty Harry and when speaking before the Republican National Convention.

Given his vindictive nature (maybe I’m thinking of J. Edgar here), do you think he still follows closely your career and statements, such as this interview? Did he try to do the same as he did with many ex-collaborators and friends, complicating their careers? This is a delicate matter, but for someone who writes about cinema, did you think his power in Hollywood could have compromised your own career as a writer? Did you have second thoughts about publishing it, during research or after you finished the book?

I always have second thoughts about whatever I’m writing, because all my books take stands. I doubt Clint follows me and my work closely nowadays, however, I’m still a flea and he’s an elephant, and I’ve done my writing about Clint. The settlement precludes another lawsuit against me or the book as it existed at the time the settlement was concluded. It doesn’t stop him from suing other people – you, for example.

Was the book’s publishing at risk of being cancelled, at some point?

The book was turned down by its initial publisher in America and by others later, all fearing backlash from reviewers and Clint suing. Believe me, I could have taken an easier path and made more money by writing yet one more book adoring Clint. But editors in the U.K. accepted it enthusiastically right away; they had emotional as well as political distance from the U.S., and understood its portrait of Clint and his films as emblematic of (not the best of) America and Hollywood. Eventually, St. Martin’s Press, where I had a long track record – and which knew my reputation for honesty and accuracy – published the book and defended it.

Did Clint Eastwood have access to the manuscript prior to publication?

Not that I know of, but it’s possible. Drafts always circulate more widely than you think. Somehow, when I was working on my Alfred Hitchcock biography, Donald Spoto got hold of an early draft and his lawyers threatened a suit because I was supposedly besmirching his reputation by challenging his “dark side” thesis. (The threat came to naught.)

Given the fact that he’s so popular and such a powerful figure in the business, did you get many negative reactions after the book was published?

I got plenty of negative reaction, but I also received plenty of positive reaction. You have to understand, as crazy as it may sound, that not everyone in America or the world thinks Clint Eastwood is a great artist or human being; not everyone follows his films avidly; and some people – critics as well as ordinary readers – were not only not surprised but grateful for an alternative point of view.

I always say, even to the people who are diehard Clint fans, the book may interest you; because my approach is always auteurist, and my book with all its unprecedented research sheds an auteurist light on Clint and his films.

Some people accused you of having something personal against Clint Eastwood. Even I sometimes felt it could be the case. But it didn’t fit the overall picture, the way you researched, the sources, everything. It’s just an opinion, but there are passages where you mention Clint rather harshly. Was this because you found his attitudes revolting? (Many of them certainly are, to say the least.)

I know it may astonish people, but I don’t write books about people because I am their fan or not their fan. For example, I barely knew George Cukor’s films, I knew next to nothing about his life and career, I couldn’t even pronounce his name properly, and the one time I met him I was treated rather shabbily by him – and yet I knew he was an important subject and that he would make a good subject for a book. The same with Clint. I always look at my subjects through the same lens: how they work – their methods – how much they shape their scripts (very important) – their religion, their politics, their sex lives, their values, their relationships with people, their tics and traits.

Although I knew more about Clint than my mother did, perhaps, I didn’t know very much about him starting out – and certainly I did not know what I found out. Most people who write about film are fans, and they write from that perspective. Since they adore this or that filmmaker – or star – they don’t want to hear anything that might affect their adoration. I understand that. But I am a biographer, I don’t think that way at all, and I maintain that my research and reportage deepens an understanding of my subjects. I realized, early on, that my delving into Clint’s life and career was yielding a portrait that was the opposite of the conventional view of him, and I believed – and believed – that in the vast sea of articles and books over-praising him there was room for one book that tried to truthfully document how he lives and works, while showing how his life contributes to the meaning of his persona and his films. I told you that I started out feeling skeptical about him in some ways – Dirty Harry, etc. – and it is true that I came to admire him less than some of my other subjects.

But I don’t praise Fritz Lang very much, for example, and I don’t believe the job of a biographer is to act like a fan. However, I didn’t have anything personal against him starting out, and I don’t feel I judged him too harshly; because I know how much I left out, and how I crafted the portrait judiciously, I would say I “judged” him (a word I wouldn’t use and which I am borrowing from your question) as fairly as I could, using the same criteria that I applied to Cukor, Lang, Hitchcock, Altman, etc.

Your Alfred Hitchcock biography was highly acclaimed, and judging from the reviews I read, essential reading for fans of his work, and the best one written about him. You also wrote other biographies, also with much acclaim, on several important figures in cinema History, like George Cukor, Fritz Lang or Nicholas Ray. Do these subjects find you, or is it the reverse? I ask this because you didn’t seem especially interested in Clint Eastwood, since there were already many books about him, as you state in the afterword.

Since I spent hours with Clint in the mid-1970s, interviewing him at serious length long before others did, and since before that time I showed his films in my college film society, you will have learned by now that I was always interested in him and his films. The truth is I only write about someone because I am able to convince an editor to give me a contract, because I am a professional, my work is a job, and I must earn money. After writing my book about Jack Nicholson, my editor agreed that a book about Clint would make a good follow-up. My book about Jack was called Jack’s Life, and the Clint book was going to be called Clint’s World. I still prefer it as a title: The world as his oyster.

What are you working on, at the moment?

I am working on a book called Young Orson. The title should speak for itself.

Is there anything you might like to add?

Let people know that I have visited Portugal and would love to return to see one of my books in a store in Portuguese. My books have been published around the world in a dozen languages, five or six of them are currently available in Spain, but none yet in Portuguese. Why not Clint?

David Furtado

Thanks to Patrick McGilligan



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