<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Patterson Don't Dismiss Actors Because of Their Politics

Don't Dismiss Actors Because of Their Politics


I recently took to saying “I like just about everything that Clint Eastwood does except when he talks to empty chairs.” Which is a way of saying that one can like the creative person and not their politics. And in Eastwood’s case, with me, that even extends to his politically incorrect works.

Yes, I am a fan of Dirty Harry. We’ll get to that. But first, allow me a small slice of the measure of a man and celebrities.

In 1980 I interviewed Eastwood. He’s now one among what is likely into the high hundreds and maybe even thousands of entertainers I have met and interacted with, including others whose politics I don’t agree with.

Another case in point there would be Jon Voight. The hour I spent with him was memorable indeed. The man is intense, to put it mildly. But it was a fascinating and lively talk I remember fondly in which our conversation ranged far beyond him and his career. He opened himself to me in a way too few famed interview subjects do. I credit his passionate urging for my finally reading a profound book he was in the middle of at the time, The Last Temptation of Christ.

He’s become a rather sour right-wing gasbag. Yet whenever I see him onscreen – most recently in the Showtime series Ray Donovan – I’m wowed by his skill as an actor.

My quick 20 minutes with Eastwood in a media round-robin on a junket was not anywhere near as intense as my time with Voight. But the man couldn’t have been any more gracious and refreshingly free from the many all-too-common effects of celebrity. He showed not a hint of attitude or self-importance, was good natured and humorous, and made me feel like I wasn’t simply a conduit to the public. That counts for something in my book.

The movie he was promoting, “Bronco Billy,” is a light-hearted neo-Western romp that is said to be the closest he’s come onscreen to playing himself. Simply put, the guy is an unpretentious charmer.

It was rather early in his directorial career, which by now is a rather significant one with numerous films I like that show a real skill mixed with versatility and mark his as a genuine modern American auteur: Bird, White Hunter Black Heart, A Perfect World, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, Invictus, J. Edgar and most recently Jersey Boys. Even if the last-mentioned Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons biopic has its flaws, it also has a genuine sense of time and place, an appealing and distinctive cinematographic look, and some killer acting performances. It so charmed me that it made me far more appreciate a singer and group that due to personal tastes I never much cared for since they first emerged on radio in my youth.

And as part of writing this, I looked into his political history and found he isn’t so quickly typed as his sad performance at the last Republican National Convention might indicate. Yes, he’s been a registered Republican since the first Eisenhower election – back when the GOP wasn’t filled with loathsome types like today – but he’s also sensibly opposed our nation’s often questionable post World War II foreign military actions, supported civil rights and the Equal Rights Amendment, and favors gun control (despite all the gun play in many of his movies).

As for the Dirty Harry films, well, I don’t take them too seriously or conflate them to think Eastwood some well-armed law and order crusader. And they are all morality tales – essential to most good storytelling – about a classic American rugged individualist, plus reliably entertaining.

With Eastwood (and Voight), we should not be so quick to dismiss significant work due to political stands we find distasteful. He’s a true force in American cinema whose contributions will stand the test of time.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email orca@prismnet.com.

From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2014


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