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.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.