Kevin Costner reckoned the best actor he ever worked with was Gene Hackman. He also said the biggest star he ever worked with was Sean Connery. He’s got good taste and both those chaps are living legends but, alas, neither have done a scrap of work for years. Ask me if I prefer Hackman or Connery and the only way to decide would be to flip a coin. I even have a soft spot for Costner but I don’t think he would resent me when I say that he isn’t even three whole leagues below those other two. Here I am, imagining a world that will never exist in which Kevin Costner reads this site.
The reason I say all this is because we must never forget that Hollywood only has one king. One solitary beast that not only still works like a dog (and in fairness produces a dog’s breakfast once in a while) but has also decided to put himself back on the screen after quite some time off it. Taken as a value of multiples of the worth of any given actor (and we’re sticking to men, just to keep it simple) he is the equivalent of Gene Hackman and Sean Connery combined. He is worth roughly 4 Harrison Ford’s, 8 Russell Crowe’s, give or take about 15 Kevin Costner’s and just shy of a very large number of Gerard Butler’s. Let’s say 300. In my book he is the beating heart of modern American cinema. He can do things no else can. He could definitely beat your dad up. And his name is Clint.
Clint Eastwood, when you really think about it, is even better than the dog’s bollocks. Please don’t stress yourself trying to argue otherwise. You could spend a lifetime trying to think about someone as great as Clint and you just wouldn’t get close. As legends go he may even qualify as the heavyweight champion of all time. Better than Humphrey and Jimmy (Cagney or Stewart) and O’Toole and Burton. I absolutely adore Richard Burton but even he isn’t a Clint. Clint isn’t an actor, he is a force of nature unlike any other. But hold on, what about De Niro, Nicholson, Hoffman, Pacino?! I like them all but, with respect, fuck that mate. Clint is so cool he could take on all four and would shit all over them.
Clint Eastwood is not only an actor, that’s just what makes him a legend. He is a director and producer of enormous power and simplicity. Simplicity in a very good way. That’s what makes him almost godlike. I have idolised him since my teens. He’s done some shit, just like everyone else, but I would still buy it on VHS and give it a whirl. His best films as either actor or director (often both) are nothing short of masterpieces and in his boundless wisdom he has decided to offer us another glimpse of his immortality in a new film called ‘The Mule’. It’s the first bit of serious acting he’s done since ‘Gran Torino’ and I cannot wait to see it. He is to films what Miles Davis is to music. And when he comes to pass they should rename Hollywood ‘Eastwood’. Just in case you’ve had your head stuck up your arse for the last 60 years here are 10 films that everyone should have to watch before they’re allowed to do a Clint Eastwood impression.
- For A Few Dollars More. Not the most famous of the ‘Dollar Trilogy’ but the best and the coolest. It has the funkiest baddies (including, bizarrely, brilliantly, Klaus Kinski) and the best soundtrack. Lee Van Cleef is terrific but it’s always Eastwood’s show. Incidentally, my dad let me stay up very late once to watch The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and that alone should have earned him a knighthood.
- Where Eagles Dare. One of the great war movies and one of Richard Burton’s best as well. Eastwood looks like a spring chicken in comparison but still gets himself noticed. Mind you he kills 73 German soldiers along the way so it’s pretty hard not to notice him.
- Dirty Harry. The start of a franchise that dipped as soon as the first one finished. Great way to start though. One mustn’t forget that Clint can do funny really well and though the humour in this may be kept on a leash it’s still delivered beautifully. This is where his remarkable 70’s really took off and Dirty Harry confirmed him as a proper star. And to think it was offered to Frank Sinatra.
- High Plains Drifter. For me this has the edge on The Outlaw Josey Wales. The intro up to the end of the barber shop scene is spellbinding and this is his first stone cold classic as a director. The Outlaw Josey Wales is still pretty much faultless.
- Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Quirky, funny and blessed with a young Jeff Bridges who seems to make Clint seem suddenly quite old. Beautifully made by Michael Cimino, who then went on to bore the world to death with The Deer Hunter.
- The Gauntlet. Not an obvious choice and one of his daftest movies but still a great slug of manly manliness and utterly pointless gunfire. Summed up nicely by this charming little exchange – “Did you find out anything?” “I didn’t find out dick”.
- Every Which Way But Loose/Any Which Way You Can. Just plain good fun. I can never decide which one is better. They also serve as a reminder to watch out for Eastwood’s ever present gallery of character actor chums like Geoffrey Lewis, John Quade, Roy Jensen and Bill McKinney: a gang that almost rival Sam Peckinpah’s gallery of rogues.
- Heartbreak Ridge. As much a comedy as anything else. Eastwood chose to adopt a gravel scratched, barbed wire rasp for a character both granite grizzled and many times harder than even a particularly robust nail. The short scene where he introduces himself to his new platoon is hilarious.
- Unforgiven. If you’ve seen Unforgiven (I would try it at least three times to soak up all its majesty) you’ll know what a towering achievement it really is. I recall Empire magazine giving it 4 stars when it came out. Which is why I haven’t bought Empire magazine for a very long time.
- Million Dollar Baby. Without question the most depressing Clint Eastwood film I’ve ever seen. He builds it up and then tears it down. Excellent work though and like Unforgiven was a rare correct decision by the arseholes at ‘The Academy’.
- Gran Torino. Because I’m watching it right now and because it’s a great film. Slumdog Millionaire and Danny Boyle won the picture and director Oscar that year. Who won best actor? Sean Penn. It beggars belief.
Mere mortals get 10. He gets 11. There are literally dozens more where they came from. He is 88 years old and still at it, which is worth remembering.
Don’t like Clint Eastwood? Your loss. Punk.
G B Hewitt. 26.10.2018