Clint Eastwood's latest movie, about a security guard wrongly accused of planting a bomb during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, is a cautinary tale for our times, he tells Michele Manelis
What was it about this story of Richard Jewell that struck a chord with you?
The story was fascinating because it was a great American tragedy. For someone to have his life taken away from him after he did a heroic deed and then get the penalty of being accused of the actual crime, it just seemed like a unique situation and it seemed like it could make for a really great movie. I just couldn't resist. For some reason it plagued my mind. I guess you'd call it instinct. You get an idea, it sticks and keeps coming back to you and you feel compelled to do it.
What's your take on real news and fake news? Your film touches on that subject.
You know, I grew up idolising the FBI as an organisation. It had the purest people in the world working there. Nowadays we see that there are some mistakes being made and they've done some leaking to the press and things that are not good. It's scary. The situation that happened with Richard Jewell is an example of when things can go wrong if the truth isn't there all the way down the line. And this could be a horrible society if that became the norm.
What's your opinion of streaming platforms and how we watch movies these days?
I'm old-school and all the new stuff is a little bit ahead of me. To me, streaming and screaming are too close together. I'll eventually catch up but it's not an easy thing for me.
You're one of Hollywood's most enduring stars. To what do you attribute your career longevity?
I think it's luck. There's an old saying in golf, "I'd rather be lucky than good." It's the same thing in the movies. But there are so many things that go into it. The producing, the directing, setting it all up and each time it's like a different game. Just when you think that you've got it captured, it can drop you like a hot potato.
You've been working in Hollywood for many decades now. What have you learned?
Well, I started in 1953, getting a one-liner, if I was lucky, in a movie. And what I've learned during the years is that just when you think you know everything, you realise you know nothing. And with directing and producing, sometimes you just don't what people out there really want. Sometimes you think you are in sync with society and then sometimes you get way out-of-sync with society.
And then sometimes you think you are going to guide people by telling a story that is interesting, that you think is interesting and everybody should see it, but then a lot of people disagree with you. To answer your question it's really difficult because the longer you live, the more jobs you've done, the more you realise there's still a lot to learn.
Can you could share your observations on the Trump presidency?
That's really hard to do. My observations come under "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly." Every day is a surprise. It's interesting, you agree with some things and I guess that goes with anybody, any politician, whether it was George W. Bush or [Barack] Obama, everyone does things that are good and everyone does things that are stupid. Sometimes it amazes you how stupid they could be. But politically I am kind of out there. I'm not in any pocket; I don't have any particular philosophy, I just think I know dumbness when I see it. And you see a lot of it nowadays.
You're turning 90 in a few months.
You don't have to say it out loud. No, you are absolutely right.
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What are your plans? Do you want to continue to make a movie every year? Any dreams unfulfilled?
Sixty-something years ago when I started acting, [I never thought it was] going to end. You hope that it goes somewhere and you're lucky that it goes somewhere. Then you look back and go, "Why am I still here? Why am I not living in an old folks' home?" I've been lucky enough that the genes from my grandfather have kept me going. But there's no answer for that, either. In fact, there's no answer for anything if you really stop and look at it. You just do the best you can and just keep going.
What can you tell me about your grandfather?
Well, I grew up with him. He was a chicken farmer and I was born in the Depression. I was born in 1930 and the Depression was hard, everybody was depressed. We had nobody; everybody in the neighbourhood had nobody either. As kids, there was a difference because you didn't need a toy, you could have a stick and a rock, just little things would get your attention. Nowadays kids get to stream this and stream that and all kinds of movies and television. But in those days, you appreciated the little things.
It was an interesting time. But now you appreciate things better, hopefully you have aged gracefully, enough to accept the new as well. I'm not just in love with the old days, because they weren't good sometimes, "the good old days" but they were okay. Overall, it's been a good ride and I will continue to ride along on my make-believe horse.
Clint Eastwood directed and co-produced the movie Richard Jewell, which releases in New Zealand on Thursday, February 13