Deadline: 1st June 2019
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Hello everyone, it’s time to go into May’s Director’s Chair and this month both myself and Rob, with Acting School 101, are highlighting the same person. The last time we did this was Sylvester Stallone, this time it’s Clint Eastwood.
Now, as a director, Eastwood’s first film was Play Misty For Me, which Eastwood discussed with producer Irving Leonard before he died. Eastwood was seeking more artistic control with his films and so was able to get Play Misty For Me made as his directorial debut. The film was a critical and commercial success, helping to establish Eastwood as a director. He followed this up by going into the Western genre with High Plains Drifter which, although a commercial success, was seen as derivative of Eastwood’s work in the Dollars trilogy.
Eastwood’s next big film would be The Outlaw Josey Wales. Originally directed by Phillip Kaufman, Eastwood ended up being dissatisfied with Kaufman’s work and got him fired. The resulting film was a massive success for Eastwood, with Eastwood’s role being one of the most iconic of his career.
In the 80’s, Eastwood started with Bronco Billy, which he considered to be one of the more relaxed shoots of his career, although it ended up being a box office disappointment. In 1982 Eastwood directed both Honkytonk Man, which was a critical success for him, especially in France, and Firefox, which was his highest budget film to date. He later took over directing one of his signature characters, Harry Callahan in the fourth Dirty Harry film, Sudden Impact, with the film one of the most quoted in Eastwood’s career, with the line “go ahead, make my day” even being quoted by President Reagan in a speech to Congress and in the 1984 election.
In 1985, Eastwood returned to Westerns with Pale Rider, inspired by Shane, which became one of the most successful films of the year and one of the best Westerns for a long time. With his next film, Heartbreak Ridge, Eastwood had issues with the Department of Defense over the depiction of the Korean and Vietnam wars, with the Department of Defense expressing contempt for the film.
Eastwood then followed up his interest in jazz by making Bird, about Charlie “Bird” Parker, which although winning Eastwood a Golden Globe for Best Director, was a box office bomb and was criticised by people like Spike Lee for failing to capture the essence and humour of Charlie Parker.
In 1992, Eastwood returned to Westerns for the final time with Unforgiven, a brutal deconstruction of the Western genre and a perfect footnote for Eastwood’s career in Westerns, with this being what I considered to be Eastwood’s finest acting performance. The film was a critical and commercial success, being the first of Eastwood’s films to win Best Film and Best Director at the Oscars. Eastwood then went into romance with The Bridges of Madison County, turning what was considered a bad and unfilmable book into a critical and commercial success, with the film being nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes and being one of the many films Meryl Streep was nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars for. His other films of the 90s, Absolute Power, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and True Crime, ended up receiving more of a mixed reaction than Unforgiven and The Bridges of Madison County.
In the 2000s, following the moderate success of Space Cowboys and the commercial failure of Blood Work, Eastwood made a string of his best films. Mystic River was nominated for Best Film and Best Director at the Oscars, but ended up losing to Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, whilst Million Dollar Baby earned Eastwood his second set of Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. He followed this with what I consider to be his greatest achievement as a director with Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, both films looking at the Battle of Iwo Jima from the American and Japanese side respectively. For me, Letters From Iwo Jima is Eastwood’s best film as an actor or director and is a stunning show of empathy for the Japanese army during World War 2 from an American director.
In 2008, Eastwood again made 2 films, with the second of those films, Gran Torino, being another critical success for Eastwood, with the snubbing of Gran Torino (along with The Dark Knight and WALL-E) from the Oscars being considered one of the major factors for the decision to up the number of nominees for Best Picture from 2009 onwards. His last film of the decade was Invictus, looking at the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa and how it was an important event during the early years of Nelson Mandela’s time as President of South Africa.
In the 2010s, Eastwood’s work as a director was more spotty. Whilst American Sniper was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and is one of Eastwood’s biggest commercial hits, it attracted both ridicule for a scene of a laughably fake baby, and criticism over the depiction of the Iraq War and Chris Kyle. Other films like J Edgar, Hereafter, Jersey Boys and The Mule received more mixed responses whilst The 15:17 to Paris was a critical bomb with the decision of Eastwood to have the three leads play themselves, whilst interesting on paper, not working at all in practise due to their poor acting ability. Still, Eastwood is going on as a director and actor, and it is likely that, baring any unfortunate circumstances, Eastwood will continue to direct for as long as possible.
As a reminder, all of the films Eastwood has directed are listed below.
- Play Misty For Me
- High Plains Drifter
- The Eiger Section
- The Outlaw Josey Wales
- The Gauntlet
- Bronco Billy
- Honkytonk Man
- Sudden Impact
- Pale Rider
- Heartbreak Ridge
- White Hunter Black Heart
- The Rookie
- A Perfect World
- The Bridges of Madison County
- Absolute Power
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
- True Crime
- Space Cowboys
- Blood Work
- Mystic River
- Million Dollar Baby
- Flags of our Fathers
- Letters From Iwo Jima
- Gran Torino
- J Edgar
- Jersey Boys
- American Sniper
- The 15:17 to Paris
- The Mule
I look forward to seeing whatever you send me.