As a Filmmaker who happens to be Republican, I want to share a few thoughts about Clint Eastwood’s speaking at the Republican National Convention last night. Clint is an artist and if you don’t know, one who changed the Hollywood system when he became one of the first Actors to become a Director with PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971). Working in the film industry myself, I feel a great kinship with Clint as a fellow filmmaker and as someone who is politically active on a local level. And like millions of other Americans, I was very curious and being a Republican and a Filmmaker – very pumped to hear what he would say about this current Election.
Needless to say, Clint exceeded my expectations in ways I didn’t consider before I turned on my TV last night. I expected him a take on his now infamous Super Bowl Car Commercial from this past February. Wrong! Clint would just trot out, give an enhanced Oscar speech with a few great lines punched up with a Dirty Harry reference or mention that being the Mayor of Carmel, CA was more Executive experience than our President had. Wrong! I thought he would take back his “It’s Halftime” line from said Super Bowl commercial and say something like “Now this here in Tampa… this is Halftime” in his great, gravelly voice. Wrong! Finally, I thought “well, he has TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE coming out next month and won’t do anything to hurt his movie or his chances for one last Best Actor Nomination (lots of buzz on this). Wrong Again!
What Clint did last night was nothing less than extraordinary and a great, self-less sacrifice for his Country and his fellow Americans. By taking the stage last night and employing the empty-chair prop, Clint did what no other Republican or Mitt Romney could ever do… make it okay to make fun of the President and humanize him for his decisions, his choice of focus and most importantly, his choice of who he represents. Clint humanized the President and brought him down from the self-created (and self-restricting) lofty heights of the “untouchable” to the human level of “touchable.” In my opinion, the President’s Media and Campaign Guard have built an artificial castle wall around the President to his detriment. If President Obama and his Party play it smart and humble, we may find that Clint’s empty chair may help Obama 2012 because of such humanization. However, that isn’t likely and I think Clint probably took this possibility into account before last night.
Clint knew well before he flew to Tampa, got into a car and arrived at the Convention that he was going to get drilled for what he was about to say and do. He knew that the National and International Media would try to take out him, his persona, his incredible record as a filmmaker and his beliefs in right and wrong. He also knew that his chances of being invited to the Academy Awards one last time as a Nominee would be done as soon as the lights came up.
Clint also spoke out on behalf the thousands of us in the film and entertainment industry who cannot speak because we must fear loss of jobs, loss of opportunity or if you are an independent filmmaker… any consideration of your talent before your political or religious beliefs. Yes, Clint is an A-Lister quite familiar with success and having every actor in Hollywood wanting to work for him. His position in the film industry is safe (for now), but that could change as he tries to make his last few films. Clint, like any artist, is always looking for the next great story and inspiration and hoping he can try and make a masterpiece better than his last one. After an almost 60-year career, Clint still needs to get financing from someone and that number of someones might be shrinking right now. As a film-lover and fan of Clint’s directing style, I hope he doesn’t face retribution for last night’s empty chair moment. This man of good humor and grace has too much to offer us.
If you have not seen the great film GRAN TORINO (2008), you should. Like this weekend. For you will see Clint at his best as an Actor/Director and you will see what I feel was the inspiration for Clint’s trying to help his Country turns things around last night. At the end of GRAN TORINO, an older self-made gentleman named Walt Kowalski sacrifices himself in order to save his neighborhood and the good, defenseless people living in it. These folks didn’t look like or talk like Walt. They may not have shared all his beliefs. But what Walt does at the end of the film (I won’t tell you what he does), gives these good people a chance to change their destiny and be the best that they can be. That is what one Clint Eastwood bravely did last night. He told the American People that they are the best and he gave them a chance to be the best that they can be. Hopefully, like Walt’s Hmong immigrant neighbors in GRAN TORINO, we will make the most of it.
Jennifer Williams, Director/Co-Producer, FEAR OF A BLACK REPUBLICAN, www.fearofablackrepublican.com