Time will tell whether Clint Eastwood will be remembered for his phenomenal acting and filmmaking career or his bizarre improvised discussion with an empty chair representing President Obama at the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa. Or both.
In the meantime, the 82-year-old won’t allow a little controversy stop him from promoting his latest movie—a heartwarming drama in which he plays an aging baseball scout who reconnects with his adult daughter during what could be one of his final scouting trips. “Trouble with the Curve” is directed by Eastwood’s longtime producing partner Robert Lorenz, making his feature film directorial debut with a script by first-timer Randy Brown.
Eastwood’s crotchety Gus Lobel character suffers from many of the infirmities that come with aging but the longtime widower isn’t ready to hang it up, although there are forces within the Atlanta Braves organization that would like to see him retire once his contract is up.
Lobel eschews computer software generated statistics to determine whether a young player is potential Braves material. Instead, this veteran scout relies on his tried and true methods of observation and instinct. His attorney daughter (played by three-time Academy Award nominee Amy Adams) accompanies him to scout a potential first round pick in North Carolina, even though the few days away from the office may cost her an important promotion. Justin Timberlake plays an ex-ballplayer turned scout for the Red Sox, who becomes captivated by Lobel’s baseball-savant daughter.
Q: Did you think your appearance at the Republican National Convention would get the response it did? How do you feel about that experience in retrospect?
Eastwood: It didn’t get the response that I wanted because I was hoping they’d nominate me. (He laughs.) My ambitions were tremendous. I don’t know what the response was. My only message was that I just wanted people to take the idolizing factor out of every contestant out there and just look at the work and look at the background and then make a judgment on that. I was just trying to say that and I did it in kind of a roundabout way, which took up a lot more time, I suppose, than they would have liked.
Q: If you could do it over, would you say something different?
Eastwood: I’d probably say something else but I’d try to get the same message across: that people don’t have to kiss it up with politicians, no matter what party they’re in. You should just evaluate their work and make your judgments accordingly. That’s the way you do it in life in every other subject. Sometimes, in America, we get gaga and we look at the wrong values. I don’t know if I would go down the same way. I doubt it, because I thought of that about five seconds before we started. When you walk out there, you get an audience of 10,000 people that are extremely enthusiastic. Your mind goes blank, anyway. So you can say something else.
Q: Can you just talk a little bit about your relationship with aging? What are the pros and the cons?
Eastwood: Am I aging? (He laughs.) The pros? You know a lot more, at least until the time you start forgetting it all. So actually, aging can be a fun process to some degree, but ask me in a year or so from now and I’ll try to give you the same answer.
Q: How do you stay in such great shape?
Eastwood: I just exercise a lot (and) play golf with Mr. Timberlake. That’s what we did in our spare time (in Atlanta, where the film was shot).
Q: Can you talk a bit about working with Robert Lorenz, your longtime producer? Was it difficult to hand over the reins because you’re so used to directing your own films?
Eastwood: Well, it’s gotten horrible. (He chuckles.) I had to listen to everything he said. Actually, he did a terrific job, Rob’s been making noises about wanting to direct for some years now. When this property came along, it was what I wanted to do. After “Gran Torino,” I kind of thought this is kind of stupid to be doing both jobs. I’ve only been doing it for 40-some years. I thought maybe I should just do one or the other and allow myself a little bit of a comfort zone. So, this was an opportunity for that. He stepped right in and just took over. I didn’t have to do anything except watch Amy throw the ball.
Q: What adjustments do you have to make to communicate your performance to another director?
Eastwood: I had to make no adjustments at all because I’ve always maintained that there’s more than one way of doing things. A lot of people come up with ideas and, maybe out of a dozen of them, three or four of them are really great. So, I just kept it in my mind that somebody else is going to pilot the ship. That’s all. It’s actually quite relaxing because I just can sit back. When these fellows were all working I was practicing putting or something. It was a great, relaxing thing. I probably won’t do both again, at least for the moment. But I said I wasn’t going to act again a few years ago and that changed too. Sometimes you just lie a lot.
Q: What’s kept you passionate about your career over the years?
Eastwood: Acting gets in your blood after so many years. You always like revisiting it. It’s fun to meet new people and watch them coming along in different stages of their career. It’s fun to work with a girl (Adams), who knows how to throw a baseball. The great thing about Amy is she really is athletic and she can run. She doesn’t run with her hands floating out. She doesn’t throw the ball like that. She winds up and throws it. She’s obviously got a little bit of tomboy attitude somewhere in her life. It pays off in this role because, otherwise, you’d have to do it by some sort of trickery.
Q: What did you learn about baseball scouting in making this?
Eastwood: These guys are amazing guys. They spend about 300 days a year in hotels. They have to, because they’re going to invest in a kid who’s maybe 17 or 18 years old. (Some of the real scouts) told us amazing stories about being burned where they had guys that they thought were terrific and as soon as they got out of school and given multimillions of dollars to join this team, they’d all of a sudden go off and start drinking and run off with somebody else’s high school sweetheart. So, you just never know. They take a big risk. I guess if you make too many mistakes you’re out of a job.
Q: How was it playing a man, who is dealing with aging?
Eastwood: You get to a certain age and you’re just glad to be there. I don’t know what to add to that. It’s fine. You have to be a realist so you try to look for roles that are within the age you’re in. It would be kind of ridiculous if I say I want to play this 35-year-old guy. They’d have to get a sandblasting machine out and start to work. (He laughs.) You have to be realistic about where you are in life and enjoy it. I’ve enjoyed the journey to this stage and I intend to enjoy the rest of the journey.
Q: There’s a very brief scene, a flashback fight in the barn. When we see Gus’ face, is that a clip from one of your old movies?
Eastwood: There are numerous selections of me pounding on somebody in various pictures along the way through the ’60’s, ’70’s, ’80’s and ’90’s. But we chose one from (1982’s) “Firefox.” That was a good piece to use because I’m wearing somewhat the right clothes. It was fine, just fine.