NEW YORK CITY—This day has already seen the New York Times lament the fact that Hollywood abandoned recently deceased director Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde) too early in his career. And now, 80-year-old Clint Eastwood, a poster boy for those who see experience as a benefit to telling stories, is talking about how two of his directing heroes were pushed aside when they still had more to offer.
Watch the trailer for Hereafter.
“I was always shocked about [the career of legendary director] Frank Capra,” he says in a room at the Juilliard School in Manhattan. “I spent time with him at his summer home, and he was always so bright, and I thought, ”˜Why isn’t he still working?’ Billy Wilder stopped directing in his 60s, and I thought, ”˜Here is this guy who is so bright, and he lived well into his 90s and didn’t work.’ And I never could figure that out, because I thought your best years should be at a point when you have absorbed all this knowledge. Maybe they just didn’t keep up with the times or they picked stories that didn’t work or they had a few pictures that didn’t sell well, and suddenly Hollywood, which is fickle, moved on. There’s a Portuguese director [Manoel de Oliveira] who is over 100 years old and still making films, and I plan to do the same thing.”
Hereafter, which opens Friday (October 22), is the 10th Eastwood-directed film to be released since he turned 70 in May of 2000. It stars Matt Damon as an American psychic who has grown tired of seeing dead people. Meanwhile, a French journalist and a British child are asking their own questions about the afterlife. Marie LeLay (Cécile De France) has become preoccupied with her survival of a tsunami, a fixation that has cost her a relationship and is affecting her career, while Marcus (twins Frankie and George McLaren) has lost his brother in a car accident and is trying to find someone who can connect him with his deceased sibling.
Steven Spielberg, who is an executive producer on the film, gave the Peter Morgan script to Eastwood. He says he liked it immediately, although he was concerned about the CGI needed to re-create the tsunami. Eastwood admits that he is old-school when it comes to special effects, but he was aware that if he was going to make the tsunami look believable, he would have to adapt to the technology.
“I thought it was good the way it didn’t need rewrites, but I could see that the tsunami would be very difficult to do,” he says. “I had fantasies of huge hoses and gallons of water running down the street and what have you.”¦I figured that it would be prohibitive, budgetwise. ”˜Where would we do that?’ In the old days, you would have done that on set and turned a lot of water loose, but with computer-generated elements, you can go ahead and do it even though with CGI it is one of the more difficult things to do. We shot the scenes in a lot of different places. Cécile was in a tank in London, and then we went to Maui and shot in Lahaina in the ocean, and from then on we had to preplan it and do the connective shots. It was the most expensive thing in the world, but I think it worked out rather well.”
Although he might have been somewhat out of his element in shooting the tsunami scenes, Eastwood’s vivid memories of his own near-death experiences involving water allowed him to feel comfortable telling the story of Marie’s battle to survive the giant wave.
“I remember when I was very young, my dad was taking me into the surf on his shoulders and I fell off and can remember it today, even though I was just four or five at the time. I can still remember the colour of the water when I was washed around in the surf before I popped to the surface again. Then, years later, when I was 21, I was in a plane that was ditched off the coast of California in the wintertime. As I was going in to shore, I kept thinking, ”˜Should I be thinking about my demise?’ but all I was thinking about was that there was a light in the distance. I was thinking, ”˜Someone is sitting by the fireplace and having a beer, and I just want to be in there. So I am going to make it.’ That was determination, but there was no sense of fate out there. I don’t think you get that much of a chance to think, and if you do, you’re probably going to be okay.”