By John H. Foote
On May 31, next year Clint Eastwood, two-time Academy Award winning Director, two-time Academy Award winning producer, two-time DGA winner and twice nominated for Best Actor turns 90.
His new film Richard Jewell is another superbly crafted example of cinematic storytelling, which Eastwood mastered four decades ago.
And once again the director brings a last-minute addition to the Oscar race, as he did with Million Dollar Baby (2004), Gran Torino (2008) and last years’ The Mule (2018). Though the latter two were shut out of the Oscars completely, Million Dollar Baby won four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Eastwood’s second Oscar and DGA for Best Director.
This new film should be in the race for several nominations, but its strongest chances are for Best Supporting Actor, Sam Rockwell (again!) and Kathy Bates in the Supporting Actress category with outside chances for Best Picture, Actor and Director.
Eastwood might slip into the race for a Best Director if the reviews are strong, but the competition is formidable. Still he is well loved by the entire film community, universally praised as a filmmaker, works well with actors and those who work with him once often say they would do so again for free. Sean Penn calls Eastwood, “the least disappointing icon I have encountered” claiming if he got a call to work with him again, he would in a “heartbeat”. Meryl Streep, Oscar nominated for her work with Eastwood in The Bridges of Madison County (1995), nearly swoons when asked about working with him. “Possibly, the greatest artistic experience of my life, along of course with Sophie’s Choice” she stated. Eastwood loves to shoot the rehearsals, often getting what he wants at that time, and then rarely does more than three takes. Actors revere him.
And as an actor, he has, like fine wine improved with age. No longer one dimensional, his work in Unforgiven (1992), The Bridges of Madison County (1995), Million Dollar Baby (2004), Gran Torino (2008) and The Mule (2018) were exquisite, deeply felt performances.
The biggest question mark is lead actor Paul Walter Hauser, best known as the overweight, dim bulb “hitman” in I, Tonya (2017) as the fool who sets up the Nancy Kerrigan attack, the actor was stunned to get a call from Eastwood about this project. He confesses to nearly fainting when Eastwood very casually offered him the role, frankly, the chance of a lifetime.
Hauser responded with a very fine performance, the kind on which impressive careers are built and awards are won. Though the field for Best Actor is the most competitive it has been since 2007, Hauser might crash the party with his effective, fine work.
Best Picture? A nomination perhaps, I mean, no one saw American Sniper in the race until it was nominated so really, who knows?
We will see when the film opens to wide reviews and more audiences see it. For now, the eyes are on Eastwood and his film Richard Jewell.
One of Canada’s best-known film critics, he spent 10 years on TV as co-host of Reel to Real, and another 10 in education (still writing as a critic) as Director of the Toronto Film School, where he created the curriculum for three programs and taught film history. Film has always been his passion. He has written for magazines such as Toronto Life, Fashion and Hollywood North, been quoted in the Los Angeles and New York Times, as well as the major Toronto dailies. Online he has written for such sites as The Wrap, In Contention, Awards Circuit and The Cinemaholic. His first book Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker, was published in 2010. His second Steven Spielberg: American Film Visionary, a massive volume, has just found a publisher and he’s working on American Film Renaissance – 1967-2018 with Nick Maylor. As a critic, he has had the good fortune to interview directors and stars such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Emma Stone, Jane Fonda, and countless others. As he quips, “Everyone but Jack Nicholson!”