I don't like Clint Eastwood personally. I had a disastrous filmmaking experience with him, and ever since I have had an intense dislike for the man...and now I also have a massive distaste for his political acumen. The Associated Press reported on Friday night that Eastwood had been in the audience when Mitt Romney was speaking in Sun Valley, Idaho, to an audience full of people who paid up to $25,000 apiece to attend the event. When the actor was called up to the stage, he made Romney's day by endorsing him with the quote: "I think the country needs a boost. Now, more than ever, do we need Gov. Romney. I'm going to be voting for him." In February, he had told Fox News that he would not endorse any politician. This is a man who one described himself as "an Eisenhower Republican." Now Eastwood, 82, says he hopes Romney will restore a decent tax system that we need badly --"so that there's a fairness and people are not pitted against one another as who is paying taxes and who isn't." This is particularly ludicrous in light of Sen. Harry Reid's (unsubstantiated) charge that Romney had not paid any taxes for many years.
In the early '80s, I made a deal at Warner Bros. for a film we had developed called Heartbreak Ridge. I worked with a talented writer, Jim Carabatsos, to develop this film about a tough Marine sergeant at the end of his career. When we signed an agreement with the studio, we said we intended it as a vehicle for Paul Newman. But one day I got a call from Terry Semel, the co-chairman of Warners, saying, "Don't do anything with that script. Clint has read it and is interested." Some time later I got a disturbing call from Terry. "Clint wants to go ahead with Heartbreak, but he doesn't want anything to do with you and the writer. He only likes to work with his own people -- no strangers." Stunned, I asked what that meant for me and Jim. "We will pay you both your full fees right now, but you will not have anything further to do with the film." In those days, all studio contracts had such a clause: they could pay anyone off and throw them off the movie. (Now such a clause is not allowed in film contracts.) I asked if I would still get my producer credit and Terry hemmed and hawed, could not answer. If you see the film today, the very last credit on the "crawl" in the smallest possible type is a producer credit for Jay Weston.
Many months later Jim and I went to a theater on opening day to see what Eastwood had done to "our" film. He had changed the ending materially. While the original script had ended at a military training exercise in Louisiana, he had staged a full-scale recreation of the invasion of Granada and put the sergeant at the heart of that so-called war to rescue some American students from a nonexistent communist threat. Marcia Mason was excellent as the love interest but Eastwood had cut the heart out of the passionate love story, reducing it to a cliché. We both exited the theatre in a deep funk, but Jim turned to me and said, "Well, at least we have a a taste of the profits, so maybe we will make some money off of it." Which turned out to be a huge joke: a Warners Bros. business affairs exec told me Clint had something called "a rolling gross" clause, so the more money the film made the more he made and the less chance there was of any profit. Of course to this day I have never even gotten a profit statement on the movie, let alone a cent in profits -- and it did do very well. What was it he said about fixing the tax system?
Clint is a smart, experienced Academy Award-winning actor/director. I have enjoyed almost every film he has made in recent years except for J. Edgar, which I hated. I wrote a favorable review of the first film he directed, Play Misty for Me. I loved Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. His love of jazz is equal to my own. He is a cunning man who has won considerable success in a tough industry in which I have also made my career. Clint has won the respect of the entire world who believe he is a bit wiser and more perceptive than most of us. Which is why I am so deeply disappointed -- but not surprised -- by his actions this week. Have you seen that reality TV show hosted by his wife and daughters? Ugh. An embarrassment (to us and him) of huge proportions. Now I don't like his ill-conceived and somewhat ridiculous endorsement of a presidential candidate who is the antithesis of the particular traits which made the actor so popular. Instead of endorsing Romney, Mr. Eastwood, why don't you direct him on how to behave like a normal, caring human being. Roll cameras. Action. Cut.
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