By Pietro Pallotta
Clint Eastwood's latest movie, "Space Cowboys," was chosen to open the 57th International Film Festival in Venice this year, according to World News Link’s Pietro Pallotta.
But Hollywood's spaghetti western straight shooter and tough guy, perhaps best known for his role as Dirty Harry's Inspector Callahan, was not in Venice just to promote his most recent film. He was also in town to claim a well-deserved award for a lifetime dedicated to cinema.
Presenting Eastwood with the prestigious Golden Lion prize was the movie actress Sharon Stone, who has made headlines recently not so much for her movie work as for her new role as a mother. To the chagrin of many Venice festivalgoers, Stone, looking as glamorous as ever, opted against bringing her infant adopted son with her to the awards’ ceremony.
Eastwood, who recently turned 70, was in Venice with his wife, Dina Ruiz, a television journalist, their newborn daughter and last but not least, his mother-in-law. Eastwood is infamous for his dislike of giving long interviews, but perhaps mellowed by age and by the happy occasion; he gave some typically ironic comments on the world of cinema that he has worked in for almost four decades.
Following is an interview conducted by WNL:
Q: Your most recent film, Space Cowboys, inaugurated the latest edition of the Venice Film Festival. In choosing this title, did you want to recall the spaghetti westerns that launched your career 38 years ago?
A: The title is simply a play on words, emphasizing the behavior of two groups of people; cowboys and space pioneers. Cowboys were the pioneers of the Old West and now space has become the new frontier for the cowboys in my film.
Q: You are here in Venice not to compete, but to receive an award for your long film career from the lovely hands of Sharon Stone?
A: Sharon Stone is one attractive lady, and who knows if we'll be able to make a film together one day.
Q: What about your award? Were you pleased to receive it here in the country where your acting career took off?
A: I treasure a happy and unforgettable memory of Italy and above all, I dearly remember the famous director Sergio Leone.
Q: Well, after all the success here in Italy, what made you decide to go back to the States?
A: I had to really get back to the Old West in America. I felt the need to get a grip of my life and start taking control of my career. The only thing that has always been important to me in my career is creativity; I wanted to avoid being stereotyped into certain roles at all costs. I also wanted to have a say in staging, and so I set up my own production company.
Q: Can you tell us something about your childhood?
A: I grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Many people didn't have a dime to their names back then. Times were rough and I remember that we had to move several times, because my dad was constantly looking for work. He finally found a job as a gas station attendant. Growing up in these conditions, I had to prove that things would and could change.
Q: Is it true that you are still very close to your mother Ruth?
A: She's over 90, and I see or talk to her almost every day.
Q: Is it true that your mother wanted you to become a musician?
A: Yes. My mother Ruth taught me to love music. One day as I was looking through her things, I discovered a record by Fats Waller, and I felt good listening to songs by Chet Baker and Miles Davis. Bird my film about Charlie Parker, was my tribute to my interest in music, as already expressed in Honkytonk Man. The main character was a musician who played his songs along the streets during the Great Depression. That film represents a great part of me, there is a lot of me in it. Although cinema has become an important part of my life, music changed my life.
Q: Movies are becoming more and more multi-medial. Where has the movie camera taken the veteran actor Clint Eastwood?
A: I will keep searching for stories of men and women who have their own truths to tell. I have always done this in memory of Gary Cooper, John Ford, Preston Sturges, and Frank Capra. I have always maintained this ideal, even in my action films. Once the pistols held by the "gringos" and Inspector Callahan were put aside, my films have dealt with important themes such as the death penalty, sexual identity and the loneliness found in the hearts of women. Even in my most controversial films, I have never glorified violence.
Q: The latest Clint Eastwood film, which inaugurated this year's film festival, is a curious one.
A: In the 1950s, Chucky Egger and many other pilots took part in space missions in order to launch rockets over 3000 meters high. They used to do unbelievable things; they started experimenting with guided rockets' components and reached the speed of light. However, with the onset of NASA, these pioneers were forced to stop their trial runs. The aviation department gradually took over all their work and started launching American spaceships, at first with animals and eventually with men on board.
But these early pioneers were never taken seriously into consideration, partly because they had become too old or their spirit was too liberal. They were just too cow boyish. NASA developed the space program with men who were pilots, but not designers. So, NASA represents the space program, as we know it today, with its special missions, man's first steps on the moon and recent space projects.
My film is about a satellite in orbit that risks blowing up, and so there is a need to train and send someone to the satellite in order to repair its command system. My main character, a 60-year-old rocket designer, has set up a rudimentary command system, which only he can operate. Out of spite, he refuses to train others and volunteers to go into space to take care of the problem himself, with the aide of his old mates, interpreted by Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner.
Q: What made you decide to start shooting films?
A: I was chatting with Lew Wasserman, and I asked him to let me try
filming. Without thinking twice, he let me. He said that he wouldn't pay me above the union rates. I agreed, since the box office results were at risk.
We agreed that I would get a percentage of the earnings, and I ended up earning much more.
Q: How do you get along with a wife who is exactly half your age?
A: I don't see things in this perspective. We fell in love a little at a time. She seemed extremely attractive. I liked her, before falling in love with her, and this is a good thing. She didn't seem to want anything in exchange. I had no parts in my films to offer her. She liked being with me, and I enjoyed staying with her.
Q: You haven't always been a one-woman man, have you? With Dina, have you become one?
A: Sure. Sometimes, many things happen without our wanting them to happen.
I wouldn't advise anyone to follow my past examples. It has taken me longer to grow up than many others.
Q: For many fans, you will always be remembered as Inspector Callahan. Is Eastwood as tough as Dirty Harry?
A: I'm 70. I would look pretty ridiculous trying to play the tough guy at this age. When I was younger, this type of role, within certain limits, had some sense to it.
Q: Although you're 70, you have just finished directing and starring in Space Cowboys. How long do you plan on keeping up this pace?
A: John Huston directed his last film from his wheelchair and with a tank of oxygen by his side. Raoul Walsh worked with a patch covering his eye. So, directing is almost always possible, but acting always isn't. The day will come when I will call it quits.
Q: You haven't reached this point, have you?
A: No, but I'm getting close.
Q:Have you ever considered plastic surgery to look young again?
A: Never. Opting for cosmetic surgery means looking for something that you really aren't. In my opinion, when a man starts contemplating this decision, it's time for him to put a patch over his eye and stand behind the movie camera – Piedro Pallotta (WNL, Venice).
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