When you think of Clint Eastwood, do you think of him as Dirty Harry, squinting and talking through his teeth? Or as the man who addressed a chair at the recent RNC? Or as the filmmaker who has a reputation for being able to make quality and efficient major motion pictures?
Of course that all depends on whether you're looking at him as an actor, as a man or as a filmmaker but Michael Goldman is only interested in Clint Eastwood the filmmaker in his latest book, Clint Eastwood: Master Filmmaker at Work. The book's title is clear where Goldman's focus lies, and needless to say, there's plenty of material to focus on the filmmaker without getting into the specifics of the actor or the man.
Goldman takes us right into the narrative and segments the book by addressing the different aspects of a Clint Eastwood film individually and collectively. He literally takes us on the set of two of Eastwood's most recent films where we discover how he works, how his crew works and how his actors work. They illustrate the differences of working for Eastwood and working for practically any other director inside or outside of Hollywood. It's not an easy gig, but Eastwood takes care of and respects his people which means whether you're looking to design the set or just help with craft services being on his crew is a special thing. Goldman illustrates why that's the case and why he has relationships that run decades long when so many of these partnerships only last as long as the project.
Chapters documenting his crew, his decision making process and even how he deals with the look of a picture explore how Eastwood approaches his craft and really illustrate the efficient and effective process Eastwood has created and cultivated. The book is packed with stories that detail different situations from practically every single one of his films. Whether it's the editing process or Eastwood's recent integration of special effects, Goldman shows us how Eastwood's approach differs from any other major motion picture director which all comes back to his belief and dedication to “good, creative and prudent filmmaking.” He strives to create a sense of realism, and that's true whether it means filming in Iwo Jima or in a house on a suburban street of Detroit. He works to create conditions that allow an audience to feel something real and the way he achieves this is nothing short of amazing. How many other people would cram five people into a tiny bathroom to shoot a scene when they could simply create an artificial set?
That's what makes the book special. Goldman isn't just dealing with a filmmaker and he knows it. He's helping us see and understand an auteur whose style and method are already legendary because he does things in his own way which has allowed him to make popular and influential films like Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino, just to name a few. His incredible access to Eastwood and the people he's worked with in the past and present allows Goldman to present Eastwood's filmmaking process in a way that makes the reader understand what it means to be a part of a Clint Eastwood movie and illustrates why and how that is such a special and rare thing.
Eastwood hires people he implicitly trusts and unlike many directors, he expects them to be professionals and do their job without direct influence or supervision. Much of that goes back to the “Malpaso Way,” a term referring to both Eastwood's production company and the method he wants everyone to approach filmmaking. He finds true professionals and keeps them — a major factor in his swift production processes. It's this mentality that's created a sense of loyalty in his crew. Those sentiments extend from crew members to A- list actors as the book explains how Leonardo DiCaprio came aboard for J. Edgar and how Eastwood was able to convince Meryl Streep to do The Bridges of Madison County after she initially declined. Hilary Swank tells us how far she would go for him and Sean Penn even has great things to say about Eastwood, which just cements how much people admire and respect him, because Penn rarely has anything great to say about anyone.
Time and time again, the people interviewed and Goldman himself bring home the idea that this is a man who knows about and is always concerned with “good, prudent, filmmaking,” and that sensibility is evident in everyone around him. Perhaps there's no better way to illustrate the professional quality that Eastwood has cultivated in his films then when we hear his longtime stuntman Buddy Van Horn casually mention that Eastwood asked him to direct three of his movies; as if Eastwood had asked him to move a light on set.
Interspersed throughout the book are rare pictures of Eastwood behind the scenes from pretty much every movie he's directed. Whether you're looking at a shot of Eastwood directing, or the crew setting up a camera, or never-before-seen production stills you find yourself viscerally feeling like you're on the set or in the scene. Rare photos of crew members fill the book as well to augment the notion that an Eastwood movie is about more than the man whose name is up top.
Goldman doesn't stray far from the logistics and practicalities of how Eastwood makes a film although he does touch on some of the tough moments, the biggest one being the tragic death of a crew member. Less is made of what seems to be a legendary feud with Kevin Costner; and one does wonder if Eastwood's dedication to a speedy production contributed to the make-up issues that many complained about in J. Edgar. Although never explicitly stated by Eastwood or Goldman, it's clear Eastwood is unwilling to stray far from his method and process but as the book illustrates with the films, people and bottom line, it's hard to argue with either.
Is it Eastwood's experience in productions that runs over 60 years that's made him this way? Or his upbringing? Or just his natural talent? It's impossible to say of course, and Goldman never asks or dwells on questions that would take us away from Eastwood's craft. Those are questions for another day, as the “how” of Clint Eastwood is more than enough to keep us interested and entertained for today.
To purchase the book you can visit the publishers website at http://www.abramsbooks.com/Books/Clint_Eastwood-9781419703881.html