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Clint Eastwood

The Mule: The True Story Behind Clint Eastwood’s Drug Movie

Clint Eastwood’s The Mule is based on the true story of an elderly World War II veteran who ultimately becomes the oldest and one of the most prolific drug mules in the history of the United States. Primarily starring Eastwood as Earl Stone and Bradley Cooper as DEA Special Agent Colin Bates, with Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Ignacio Serricchio, Dianne Wiest, and more rounding the supporting cast, The Mule follows a horticulturist and Korean War veteran who earns money transporting drugs after his business goes under.

In The Mule, Earl Stone was once a prominent member of the horticulturist community and an award winner thanks to his daylilies, but the widespread adoption of the internet forced him to close down and not only lose his business but his home as well. But because he’s a cautious driver who’s never been pulled over in his life, he’s recruited to deliver drugs through Illinois for a cartel. Although he’s successful, he’s eventually caught by the DEA and sentenced to prison. All of this was inspired by the New York Times article “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule”, which chronicles the investigation into the drug courier with quotes from the federal agent who arrested him.

Eastwood’s Earl Stone is based on Leo Sharp, who was known within the Sinaloa Cartel as El Tata. Sharp was an aging World War II veteran who became a pioneering horticulturist after his airline business failed, particularly working with daylilies. But when that business started to fall by the wayside, too, he was recruited into drug trafficking and was so good at it that he became somewhat of a myth within the cartel. In the end, he was arrested by the DEA and sentenced to three years in prison, of which he served one.

In The Mule, Eastwood’s Stone is also a war veteran-turned-horticulturist who turned to drug-running after his business went south, but rather than having fought during World War II, the character is supposed to be a Korean War vet. Interestingly, though, Stone makes several remarks about Nazis, particularly to Serricchio’s character. Given the timeline of The Mule, it makes sense that the film moved up the war from WWII to the Korean War in order to retain the character’s age. While he was transporting drugs for the cartel, Stone also went by the codename Tata. However, he only made about a dozen runs in total over the course of several months, not almost ten years as was the case with Sharp.

Cooper’s Agent Bates is based on real-life DEA Special Agent Jeff Moore, who caught Sharp in 2011. While Stone’s arrest in The Mule was quite dramatic (for obvious reasons), Sharp’s arrest happened practically the same way, being caught on an interstate highway while driving a Lincoln pickup truck. After being arrested, Sharp pleaded guilty to the charges but attempted to avoid actual jail time by offering to pay his fine by growing Hawaiian Papayas for the US government. Stone, meanwhile, fully accepted responsibility in the film. In both cases, Sharp/Stone was able to maintain his daylily farm while in prison.

While The Mule is inspired by a true story, there are obvious changes to the narrative. Eastwood’s Stone is purely fictional, and how he lived his daily life is something that was conjured up for the film. Only the crux of the true story remains, which is that Sharp was an elderly war veteran who began transporting drugs across the midwest after his flower business collapsed. Sharp passed away shortly after he was released from prison due to his deteriorating health. While it’s fair to presume the same fate befalls Eastwood’s Earl Stone at the end of The Mule, the film leaves that part of the story ambiguous.

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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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