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Clint Eastwood

Why ‘A Perfect World’ Is Clint Eastwood’s Most Underrated Movie

At 91 years old, Clint Eastwood continues to be one of Hollywood’s most prolific directors. Eastwood often puts projects together quickly; Richard Jewell began filming in June and hit its December release date, and less than a year later he was back behind and in front of the camera for his latest feature Cry Macho. While Eastwood has teased that Cry Macho may be his closing chapter, it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll follow through with that promise or find another story that sparks his interest.

Compared to his other work, 1993’s A Perfect World is somewhat of an anomaly. Eastwood has nearly forty directorial credits to his name and gravitates towards westerns, action films, and thrillers. Based on the premise alone, A Perfect World sounds like it’s right up Eastwood’s alley. Set in Texas in 1963, the film follows escaped convict Butch Haynes (Kevin Costner), who takes an eight-year-old child named Phillip (T. J. Lowther) hostage while fleeing authorities.

Regret and destiny are themes Eastwood frequently explores, yet A Perfect World is among the most tragic and surprisingly unsentimental films of his career. Phillip isn’t utilized to soften the heart of the gruff Butch, nor is Phillip empowered by the dangerous experience. It’s a film about trauma that doesn’t heal; Phillip and Butch are able to momentarily bond while discussing their pasts, but their realities don’t change as a result.

As Butch travels with the boy towards an escape route in New Mexico, he’s steadily impressed by his captive’s inventiveness. Phillip steals a ghost costume, but it’s not framed as a cutesy moment. Rather, he’s shown a disregard for civility reminiscent of the man he just watched kill his own partner.

At 91 years old, Clint Eastwood continues to be one of Hollywood’s most prolific directors. Eastwood often puts projects together quickly; Richard Jewell began filming in June and hit its December release date, and less than a year later he was back behind and in front of the camera for his latest feature Cry Macho. While Eastwood has teased that Cry Macho may be his closing chapter, it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll follow through with that promise or find another story that sparks his interest.

Compared to his other work, 1993’s A Perfect World is somewhat of an anomaly. Eastwood has nearly forty directorial credits to his name and gravitates towards westerns, action films, and thrillers. Based on the premise alone, A Perfect World sounds like it’s right up Eastwood’s alley. Set in Texas in 1963, the film follows escaped convict Butch Haynes (Kevin Costner), who takes an eight-year-old child named Phillip (T. J. Lowther) hostage while fleeing authorities.

Regret and destiny are themes Eastwood frequently explores, yet A Perfect World is among the most tragic and surprisingly unsentimental films of his career. Phillip isn’t utilized to soften the heart of the gruff Butch, nor is Phillip empowered by the dangerous experience. It’s a film about trauma that doesn’t heal; Phillip and Butch are able to momentarily bond while discussing their pasts, but their realities don’t change as a result.

As Butch travels with the boy towards an escape route in New Mexico, he’s steadily impressed by his captive’s inventiveness. Phillip steals a ghost costume, but it’s not framed as a cutesy moment. Rather, he’s shown a disregard for civility reminiscent of the man he just watched kill his own partner.

Phillip was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness community by his mother and sisters, and Butch gives him a broader worldview. His naivete isn’t exaggerated; there are more blatant aspects of childhood that Butch is surprised to learn Phillip knows nothing about (such as Christmas or Halloween celebrations), but he’s also secluded from developing self-respect. When Hayne encourages Phillip to have confidence after the boy reveals he’s been bullied, it’s not positioned as an out-of-character moment of kindness on Butch’s behalf. The words of encouragement come as a surprise, and the scene is more tragic in revealing Phillip’s self-loathing than they are a charming moment of bonding.

Butch’s growing interest in Phillip’s development are strengthened as he reveals his own troubled childhood. Fleeing his violent father, Butch had already developed a reputation by the time he was a teenager and served a full sentence after being denied juvenile prison. Butch’s supportive words of Phillip are tragically ironic; they’re an attempt at replicating a father-son relationship he never had, even if he knows it isn’t sustainable.

While Phillip takes Butch’s lessons about right and wrong to heart, he also learns that his new father figure often doesn’t follow his own rules. As the pair hides at a ranch New Mexico, Butch becomes angered witnessing the violent outbursts that the owner Mack (Wayne Dehart) inflicts upon his wife. Butch threatens to kill him, and Phillip is forced to evaluate the situation in a split second. Is Butch justified, and would Mack’s death even resolve the situation? These aren’t questions an eight-year-old should have to consider, let alone bear responsibility for, but in the tense face off, Phillip is forced to be the voice of reason.

Eastwood casts himself as Texas Ranger Red Garnett, who aims to capture Butch alive before he sparks a conflict with other pursuing authorities. Garnett’s motivation in aprehending Butch is personal, as its revealed that he was the arresting officer that detained Garnett in his youth. Butch is unaware of the connection, but its a decision that haunts Garnett. While he thought that forcing Butch to see the consequences of his actions would’ve spared him of his abusive father, he realizes that it only hardened Butch’s outlook.

Eastwood frequently casts himself in the lead, but he’s equally effective in a supporting role. Garnett is far different than a character like Unforgiven’s Will Munny, as he’s not an evil man trying to redeem a life of hatred, but rather a career lawman regretting a misconstrued attempt at giving Butch a way out. Eastwood is terrific playing internalized guilt, as Garnett only gradually reveals his motivations to criminologist Sally Gerber (Laura Dern). While the film builds towards their confrontation, they don’t share words; Butch never learns of the man who sealed his fate, and Garnett never gets the chance to voice his apology.

Eastwood is no stranger to long runtimes, but A Perfect World’s 138 minutes don’t feel excessive. The suspenseful sequences are realistic; when Butch’s partner Terry Pugh (Keith Szarabajka) threatens to kill him, they discuss their options over an extended conversation. The two aggressive men have reason enough to hate each other, as they only escaped together out of necessity, but both understand the value in mapping an escape together. That Terry’s death only comes after he threatens Phillip is a great character building moment for Butch; he’s willing to risk his own future to protect Phillip in the film’s first true act of selflessness.

Although tension steadily mounts as Garnett follows Butch’s trail, the climax is more of an inevitability than it is the conclusion of a relentless chase. Butch’s death comes through another mischaracterized act of kindness; choosing to spend a few fleeting moments with Phillip, a simple gift is misinterpreted as a weapon by a triggerhappy sniper. In this moment all the characters see their “perfect world” slip away; Garnett loses his chance to confess to Butch, Phillip is doomed to return to his religious upbrining, and Butch loses his life after showing his benevolence. While he’s known for his lack of storyboarding and minimal camera setups, Eastwood’s meticulous approach to conflict in A Perfect World’s tragedy makes it more effective.

Eastwood is known for his hypermasculine characters, but A Perfect World is perhaps his best film about masculinity, as its trio of traumatized men are all punished for showing sensitivity. Eastwood’s films are frequently under fire for their political baggage, but A Perfect World doesn’t lionize its characters or offer an easy solution. It presents a slice of reality, and the flawed characters forced to inhabit it.

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Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood May Replace Steven Spielberg as ‘American Sniper’ Director

American Sniper – based on the late Chris Kyle’s memoir “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History” – has attracted some big Hollywood talent, ever since Bradley Cooper’s 22nd & Indiana production company picked up the rights in 2012 (with Cooper attaching himself as the star and producer). Case in point, Cooper’s Silver Linings Playbook writer/director David O. Russell was reported as being the first serious contender in consideration for the helming job on Sniper.

Russell has decided to look elsewhere, where it concerns the possible followup to his next project: the true-story historical dramedy American Hustle (also starring Cooper). Steven Spielberg appeared to be all-ready to commit as director on American Sniper back in May of 2013, but he then dropped out around three months later.

Deadline is reporting that Warner Bros. wants American Sniper to begin filming by the first quarter of 2014. That could mean the studio intends to release the movie during the subsequent awards season; or, at least, have the Sniper adaptation ready in time to make an Oscar-qualifying limited theatrical run in December next year.

However, in order for that to be feasible, WB is going to need a director known for working fast, efficiently and effectively to captain the American Sniper ship – which may be part of the reason why the studio has begun “tentative negotiations” with Clint Eastwood, so as to have the Oscar-winning legend take the helm. If a deal is struck, then Eastwood will begin filming his Jersey Boys musical adaptation at the conclusion of this month (August 2013, at the time of writing this), before he wraps up production a couple months later and then jumps head-first into principal photography on Sniper.

Kyle’s American Sniper book – detailing how the former Navy SEAL went “from Texas rodeo cowboy to expert marksman and feared assassin” – has been adapted into movie script form by Jason Dean Hall. The latter’s artistic credibility took a hit this past week, due to the poor critical reception for Paranoia (which Hall co-wrote). I’m taking the time to note this because Eastwood has a tendency to direct scripts with potential – something that Hall’s American Sniper script draft clearly has (given the talent it has managed to attract).

Problem is, Clint the director is able to work faster because he skips on polishing or fine-tuning the scripts he works from, as has become increasingly noticeable in his more recent films (see: Invictus, J. Edgar) – meaning, he may not be the right guy to give Hall’s American Sniper script draft any necessary tweaks it needs to realize its full promise. Moreover, Eastwood’s no-budge directorial temperament often gives rise to a slow-paced and soulfully-morose final product – but is that the right approach to Kyle’s story, passing over how respectful Eastwood would be towards his subject?

How about it, then: Clint Eastwood to direct American Sniper, yay or nay?

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Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood to Direct ‘Jersey Boys’ Film?

These days, actor/director Clint Eastwood is best known as the filmmaker behind hard-hitting dramas like Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River. However, the former Dirty Harry has been looking to try his hand at a very different genre for quite a while – the musical.

For years, Eastwood has been developing a remake of A Star Is Born, which was most recently brought to the big screen in 1976 with Barbara Streisand in the lead. Eastwood’s version – which would be the third remake of the original 1937 production – was set to star Beyoncé Knowles. However, Knowles has since dropped out of the project, leaving it in a state of limbo for now.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Eastwood will instead shift his focus over to another musical project with the film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Broadway production Jersey Boys. The plot focuses on the rise and fall of musical group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and uses the group’s music to tell its story. Jon Favreau had previously been attached to direct the film.

If Eastwood takes on Jersey Boys, the film would likely be his next directorial project, followed (presumably) by A Star Is Born. The latter film is currently courting Grammy-winning jazz singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding to star, though the project has also faced difficulty in casting its male lead. Sean Penn is among the most recent crop of actors being discussed for the role.

Eastwood’s decision to move on from A Star Is Born is a wise one, considering that project looks like it will take a while to gain any traction. Besides, a filmmaker as accomplished as Eastwood can lend just the right amount of gravitas to something like Jersey Boys. After last summer’s Rock of Ages failed to score at the box office, audiences may need convincing to check out another “jukebox musical.”

Do you think Eastwood is a good fit for Jersey Boys? Let us know in the comments section below.

Stay tuned to Screen Rant for the latest news on the Jersey Boys movie as this story develops.

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Clint Eastwood

‘Trouble with the Curve’ Images: Clint Eastwood Returns to Acting

Clint Eastwood hasn’t appeared onscreen in four years, and the last time he acted under the direction of someone other than… well, himself was in 1993. The 82-year old Hollywood legend returns to the big screen in Trouble with the Curve from his protégé Robert Lorenz, who’s worked on-and-off as an assistant director and/or producer on Eastwood’s films (beginning with Bridges of Madison County).

Eastwood co-headlines Trouble with the Curve alongside three-peat Oscar-nominee Amy Adams. The supporting cast isn’t shabby either, including John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Robert Patrick, Matthew Lillard (The Descendants), and semi-newcomer Joe Massingill.

Trouble with the Curve is a father-daughter relationship drama explored through the lens of an off-the-field sports drama. Newcomer Randy Brown’s script revolves around an Atlanta Braves scout (Eastwood) who on the verge of being put out to pasture, due to his diminishing eyesight and old-fashioned approach to recruiting players (obviously, he doesn’t subscribe to the Moneyball school of thought).

Eastwood’s character convinces his estranged daughter (Adams) to accompany and assist him on what could be his last assignment, to determine whether or not a promising power hitter (Massingill) has potential to make it in the big leagues. Timberlake plays a player-turned-scout who’s on good terms with Eastwood, but risks trouble when he starts getting too friendly with Adams.

Lorenz has the opportunity to demonstrate the directorial tricks he’s picked up on working with Eastwood over the years, while establishing himself as a reputable storyteller on Trouble with the Curve (his feature-length directorial debut). The two-time Oscar nominee certainly works as efficiently as his mentor, given the six-month turnaround between the film’s production start date and its release this fall.

Moreover, Trouble with the Curve could satisfy as a capstone to Eastwood’s acting legacy, much like Unforgiven did for his days working in the western genre; not to mention, Gran Torino served as a swansong to his career playing characters who’re rough around the edges (ex. Harry Callahan). If Eastwood turns in a performance deemed awards-worthy by his peers, well, that’s icing on the cake.

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