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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.

Clint Eastwood

The actor Sergio Leone wanted instead of Clint Eastwood for ‘A Fistful of Dollars’

Hollywood’s most decorated living legend, Clint Eastwood, broke through in the late 1950s and ‘60s as one of many western stars riding the genre’s concurrent wave of popularity. Having established a tough, squinting outlaw image in the foundational TV series Rawhide and mastering it in Sergio Leone’s legendary Dollars Trilogy, the handsome gunslinger consolidated his status as the iconic anti-hero cop Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry franchise.
Throughout his six-decade stint under the Hollywood limelight, Eastwood expanded his skillset to become a leading producer and director, earning four Academy Awards and four Golden Globes for his duties behind the camera. Remarkably, Eastwood is still active today at 93 years of age and is currently working on his final movie, Juror #2.
However, the nonagenarian may not sit atop such a humbling mountain of success as an actor and filmmaker if Leone hadn’t given him his big movie break in the 1960s. The Dollars Trilogy finished most memorably with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in 1966 but set off with A Fistful of Dollars two years before.
Although joining the cast would turn out to be one of the most important steps in Eastwood’s career, he wasn’t enthusiastic about the project at first. “I was doing Rawhide, and I was coming to a hiatus,” Eastwood once recalled in a BBC documentary. “I took three months off, usually around February, March and April every year, and my agent in Los Angeles called me up and asked me if I’d like to go to Europe and make an Italian, German, Spanish co-production of a remake of a Japanese film [Yojimbo] in the plains of Spain.”
“I said, ‘Not particularly,’” Eastwood recalled with a smile.
Another hurdle to Eastwood’s unseen future was the fact that Leone didn’t really want Eastwood for the role initially. “I really wanted James Coburn, but he was too expensive,” Leone told the BBC. “The Italian cinema is very poor. We got Clint for $15,000, Coburn wanted $25,000.”
Continuing, the Italian director explained why he was initially wary of Eastwood’s style. “I didn’t see any character in Rawhide, only a physical figure,” he said. “What struck me most about Clint was his indolent way of moving; it seemed to me Clint closely resembled a cat.”
Eastwood recalled becoming more intrigued by the project after reading the uniquely constructed script. “The script was in English, very strange English because it had been written by an Italian group of people who didn’t speak English that well – especially English with what you’d call the western kind of slang,” he explained. “It was like an Italian concert of what a western slang would be.”
“So, a lot of the dialogue was a little bit on the shaky side,” Eastwood continued. “I liked it, though, and I felt that maybe a European approach would give the western new flavour because I thought it had been in a very stagnant period at that point.”
Ultimately, Leone settled for Eastwood, and Eastwood settled for $15,000 from a total movie budget of approximately $200,000. Although the movie was released in mainland Europe in 1964, it wouldn’t receive its theatrical debut in the US until 1967. Taking $19.9 million at the box office, the movie was a monumental commercial and critical success as the progenitor of the spaghetti western genre.
Watch the trailer for the A Fistful of Dollars 4K restoration below.

 
 

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Clint Eastwood

“I don’t like it when it’s dumb”: Yellowstone Star Kevin Costner Revealed He Hates Western Genre Despite Sharing Clint Eastwood’s Rare Record In Hollywood

Taking a look at the rear-view mirror in the journey of Hollywood, everyone remembers the good old days when Western films dominated not just the US, but the entire world. And leading that charge was the legendary Clint Eastwood, along with stars like Kevin Costner following close behind. To this day, the effect of those classic pieces of cinema can be felt.
Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner
In fact, when we take a look at Costner’s career in the industry, many will realize that it was the 1985 Western classic Silverado that brought him to the spotlight. In the later stage of his career, he won two Academy Awards for his film Dances with Wolves, something that Eastwood has also managed to achieve. But despite leaving an everlasting impression, it seems like he doesn’t love the genre for being dumb.
Kevin Costner Reveals That He Doesn’t Love The Western Genre Because It’s Dumb
Kevin Costner in a still from Dances with Wolves Kevin Costner in a still from Dances with Wolves
While he may have been forgotten for a while in the changing landscape of Hollywood, the fans of the classic Western genre of films will never forget the impact Kevin Costner made with his films in the category. Going toe-to-toe in this genre with the face of old-school Western films Clint Eastwood himself, the actor and director has proved why he’s a genius in this department.
But despite achieving the extremely rare accolade of directing one of the only four Western films to receive the Oscars, also including Unforgiven by the Dirty Harry star, Costner reveals that this genre may not be his favorite.
In a past interview with Good Morning America, the former Yellowstone star talked about how he was not a big fan of the Western genre, the reason being that most of the films produced in it are dumb and illogical. He says that there’s too much of a straight divide between good and bad without any substantial form of moral complexity.
On top of that, he calls out the genre for being somewhat illiterate but has the potential to become so much more than just an illustrious piece of history. He said:
“[western] have to be literate. It’s too much black hat, white hat…I won’t tolerate bad language, meaning literacy of a western on TV or in film. I hate it. I don’t like it when it’s dumb because there’s such great opportunity because the architecture of a western should be to actually frighten you sitting in the dark, watching something. ‘That could have just happened to me. And I don’t know what I would’ve done’”
Thus, his new and unique outlook on the filmmaking of a Western film is what drives him to only make the best that the genre has ever seen.
What Was Dances With Wolves About?
A still from Dances with Wolves A still from Dances with Wolves
Widely considered to be one of the best films in the history of this genre, recognized by being awarded two Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director for Costner, Dances with Wolves may be Western filmmaking done right.
The film tells the tale of Civil War soldier Lieutenant John J. Dunbar, a man who is posted at Fort Hays, where he meets and develops a relationship with the native Lakota Indian tribe. Mesmerized by their lifestyle and simple outlook on the world, he soon finds himself being welcomed into their clan. But when Union Army soldiers come to their land with the agenda of uprooting the tribe, Dunbar has to choose a side.
Dances with Wolves, streaming on Prime Video.

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Clint Eastwood

“He was too expensive”: Clint Eastwood Starred in ‘Dollars Trilogy’ After Director Couldn’t Afford Another Oscar Winning Actor With $15000 Salary

In today’s day and age, Clint Eastwood’s name is one that echoes with terms such as legendary and brilliant. His ability to be expressive as an actor without having to say too many dialogues was one admired by many. Not only his skills as an actor, but being a talented director helped build his reputation in the best way possible.
Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
During his days as an actor, there were many films offered to him. Some he let go of, others he grabbed as soon as he could. One of his most iconic works is the Dollars Trilogy with director Sergio Leone. Despite the massive amount of fame that he got from it, there was an unfortunate yet slight chance that Eastwood would have lost out on the role because Leone wanted another actor altogether.
Sergio Leone’s Initial Choice for His Trilogy was not Clint Eastwood
One of Clint Eastwood’s biggest movie trilogies, the Dollars trilogy was something that came along his career, giving him a boost the actor never knew he needed. The year 1964 saw a rise in his fame from then on. However, as per BBC (via Farout Magazine), Eastwood was not Sergio Leone’s first choice for the film.
James Coburn
“I really wanted James Coburn, but he was too expensive,” Leone stated. “The Italian cinema is very poor. We got Clint for $15,000, Coburn wanted $25,000.”
The director revealed that because of the budgetary limitations that they had, there was no way possible for him to get James Coburn for the role. The actor wanted $10,000 more than what Eastwood had settled on, making it an absolutely impossible choice for them to hire Coburn. He elaborated on how being in the Italian cinema at that time did not give him flexibility with the budget. Due to this, Eastwood became his ideal choice and that in turn benefitted his career.
Clint Eastwood Almost did not Join Sergio Leone
Clint Eastwood’s career has been a rising climb for decades now. One of the reasons for this is his credible fame because of the Dollars trilogy. However, there was a slight chance that the actor would have given up on the role. According to a BBC documentary (via Farout Magazine), the actor was hesitant about saying yes.
Clint EastwoodClint Eastwood
 “I was doing Rawhide, and I was coming to a hiatus,” Eastwood remembered. “I took three months off, usually around February, March and April every year, and my agent in Los Angeles called me up and asked me if I’d like to go to Europe and make an Italian, German, Spanish co-production of a remake of a Japanese film [Yojimbo] in the plains of Spain.”
The actor/director stated that he was asked to make a film in a rather peculiar setting right after he was coming back from a three-month-long break. His reply to the same had been a rejection. In the end, he warmed up to the idea.

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