His early roles represented the ideal straight man; He rarely smiled, never said more than needed to be said, and was always on the right side of things. He was tough as nails and we liked him that way.
In "Million Dollar Baby" he showcased the strengths of his previous characters with the added dimensions of having been tempered by age and experience. There was an underlying kindness and concern in that character not seen in the characters of his youth. In this film we see the man struggle with hard-set beliefs adapting to the reality of the situation.
He struggles with the knowledge of the damage that boxers endure, and yes, this is a tough girl but, a girl, nonetheless. He is forced to face reality as he understands there is nothing else for this girl. This is it.
A parent's worst nightmare: He can't save her, he can only teach her how to keep safe and let go.
Films like Million Dollar Baby and Grand Torino are meant to be savored more than once. These films are not made for entertainment purposes in which a mindless two-hours can be killed. These performances, the dialogues, and depth of the characters stay with us long after the film is over.
The imagery is powerful in this film.
So what was that performance at the RNC? Why did we feel so uncomfortable watching it? and why was everyone so confused?
Everyone who had anything to do with Clint Eastwood being on stage has adamantly denied any involvement with the performance or having any knowledge beforehand of what was about to develop. So what happened?
The short answer may be that just like in the Super-Bowl ad, Clint Eastwood went rogue.
In the Super-Bowl ad Clint Eastwood praised the recovery of the auto industry in Detroit - The republicans called it a political ad in favor of President Obama. He was maligned for being a RINO, and there was much disappointment in those quarters for the perceived political intent. It was akin to Charlton Heston coming out in favor of sensible gun control.
It is just not done.
The fact is that Clint Eastwood did not ask permission or counsel on doing the ad. It was a personal thing for him. It depicted the willingness of all sides to make the country healthy and whole. Yes, it was half-time in America and we had to make a choice between doing the right things for the country, or continuing to deteriorate beyond recovery
On his show, this past Friday, Bill Maher had high praise for what it takes to get on stage and do improv with an empty chair. Mr. Maher is having a good time this week on Twitter making fun of the event even if he is impressed by the 80 year-old's performance. Calling him a string of insults prior to praising him may be, in retrospect, unwarranted.
What did you see on that stage when Clint Eastwood was talking to an empty chair? Did you see an old white man who had lost his mind and forgot to comb his hair?
Did you see an accurate representation of what makes up the base of the current incarnation of the Republican party?
What did you hear?
Did you hear the ramblings of an actor who forgot his lines?
Did you hear a dye-in-the-wool Republican reproaching the leadership of a party who has destroyed all he, and those like him, helped to build? - Did they wreck his carefully maintained Grand Torino?
Oh! and the hair? This lady on the video below comes to mind.
Perhaps it is worth to watch the performance again through a fresh pair of eyes and pay close attention to what he is saying, how he is saying it, and most importantly, what is missing. Do you hear praise for either party? or a condemnation of what our political parties have become?
Million Dollar Baby and Grand Torino were unpleasant and uncomfortable films to watch because they did not allow us to escape into a magical out-of-space adventure, but kept us firmly grounded into the messy reality of our lives. Not unlike Clint Eastwood's performance on stage at the Republican National Convention.
All those performances are worth watching more than once.
I gave Clint Eastwood such a wide berth didn't I? - From the liberal side it sure looked like a representation of the GOP "Base" - Now, he gives an interview and says, "President Obama is the biggest hoax perpetrated on the American people..."
If he had just kept his mouth shut, we would have continued to think that the incoherent ramblings on stage were a stroke of creative genius not many understood. Now? he looks like an old fool that would have done best sitting on the audience and clapping and booing on cue with the rest of the haters.
Author's note: I would like to thank Thurman Williams for a stimulating conversation that made this article a reality.
NY Magazine: Eastwood's Manager: Chrysler Ad 'Not a Political Thing'
Image(s) credit: Clint Eastwood: The New Yorker by Lauren Lancaster