Clint Eastwood on Brutal Cops, Government Bureaucracy, and Antiwar Westerns

The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Judge conducted a fascinating interview with the great filmmaker and self-described libertarian Clint Eastwood that ranged from comparisons between Dirty Harry and J. Edgar Hoover to Eastwood’s  “antiwar” film The Outlaw Josey Wales. Here are a few snippets:

I ask Mr. Eastwood about the final scene in one of his earlier Dirty Harry movies, when his character throws away his badge after shooting one more "scumbag." Marshall Will Kane, played by Gary Cooper, does the same thing at the end of "High Noon" when the townspeople abandon him to face a murderous gang alone. It's a classic theme in Westerns: Does society expect too much from its lawmen, only to spurn them when they deliver?

"Society is at odds with itself," says Mr. Eastwood. "They want law and order but . . ." he pauses, perhaps thinking he sounds too much like Dirty Harry. "I was always intrigued by this guy who was frustrated by not being able to solve problems due to the obstacles put up by society itself—by the bureaucracy in society. . . . That didn't mean I was against a criminal's right to justice, to a defense, and all that sort of thing. Though a lot of people interpreted it that way because when you do those roles people go, 'Hey, that's the way the guy thinks.' That's kind of a left-handed compliment in a way, you think, 'Oh, I convinced you that much? Good!'"...

"As for Josey Wales, I saw the parallels to the modern day at that time. Everybody gets tired of it, but it never ends. A war is a horrible thing, but it's also a unifier of countries. . . . Man becomes his most creative during war. Look at the amount of weaponry that was made in four short years of World War II—the amount of ships and guns and tanks and inventions and planes and P-38s and P-51s, and just the urgency and the camaraderie, and the unifying. But that's kind of a sad statement on mankind, if that's what it takes."

Read the whole thing here. Jesse Walker discusses Eastwood’s vigilante cinema here.

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  • ||

    Go ahead, make my day

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Too bad he's so old... he'd make a great president.

  • ||

    That's exactly what I was thinking.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Unity and camaraderie at the price of tens of millions dead and hundreds of millions condemned to years of suffering and deprivation? Thanks but no thanks. Unlike Clint, I've been in a war. Believe me, peace is better. I would love to live in uninteresting times.

  • WTF||

    But that's kind of a sad statement on mankind, if that's what it takes."


    Read the whole statement.

  • dave c||

    Read the last sentence in the excerpt.

  • ||

    Did you RTFQ(uote), let alone RTFA, Alan?

    "But that's kind of a sad statement on mankind, if that's what it takes."

    Maybe you should go review Paint Your Wagon instead of making stupid comments; it's more your speed.

  • ||

    Oh, why did they have to ruin a perfectly serviceable wagon story with all that fruity singing?

  • Homer S.||

    Wait, wait, wait: here comes Lee Marvin. Thank God. He's always drunk and violent.

  • ||

    Where's anonypussy? She'll show us the way!

  • ||

    JUST STOP IT!!!

  • ||

    Nick, Nick!!!! Why didn't you give ME the movie reviewing gig???? I fellated you for all those years, all those hat tips!!!! Kurt Loder is OLD!

    /suck thumb

  • ||

    I visited your blog, Alan, that's kinda like going to war. Can I now talk out of my ass with authority too?

  • Paul||

    You must have read a different interview. Try again.

  • ||

    I didn't know he's been in the army during the Korean War or that he'd survived a plane crash.

    A the end of the first Dirty Harry movie, it's hard to argue that he didn't think anybody would see that renegade cop character as suggesting that some criminals don't deserve a right to justice or a defense, but...

    Having said that, the second one, Magnum Force, really is all about police corruption and the bad guys really are cops who think criminals don't deserve justice or a defense--so, taken as a whole, I think he's being straight up about that.

  • ||

    no alt text? wtf?

    "San Francisco PD! Put down the toy and step away from the Happy Meal!"

  • ||

    I just assumed Clint was pointing the gun at Damon, saying "The first time you put alt-text over my face will be the last."

  • Barely Supressed Rage||

    Ah ah - I know what you're thinking - did he fire six shots, or only five? Well to tell you the truth, in all the excitement, I kind of lost count myself. But being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and will blow your head clean off, you've got a question to ask yourself. Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?

    ...

    "I gots to know!"

  • Montani Semper Liberi||

    Funny story, but at the time the movie was shot, the .44 Magnum was no longer the most powerful handgun round. That title belonged to the .454 Casull. Although, S&W later regained that title with the .460 magnum.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Only to be overtaken by the Desert Eagle .50.

  • R||

    The .500 S&W has the .50 AE beat by quite a bit.

    .50 AE:

    300 gr (19 g) JHP 1,550 ft/s (470 m/s) 1,600 ft·lbf (2,200 J)

    .500 S&W:

    300 gr (19 g) FTX LEVERevolution 2,075 ft/s (632 m/s) 2,868 ft·lbf (3,888 J)

  • R||

  • Wind Rider||

    Any chance you're planning to post a vid of you quibbling about the statement while one is pointed right at your head?

  • ||

  • ||

    Pfeifer-Zeliska .600 Nitro Express Magnum

  • ||

    Because of its size, the Pfeifer-Zeliska .600 Nitro Express Magnum would really be required to be fired whilst resting on a bench clamp or small sand bags as shown in the image below.

    I don't know that I could still consider that a handgun then. It's really more of a hand-and-table gun or something of that nature. Still pretty awesome to look at.

  • DADIODADDY||

    second best to a carefully swung 34" louisville slugger for pure explosive fun and no reloading

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Although, S&W later regained that title with the .460 magnum."

    Only if you exclude specialized pistols like thebolt action Remington xP-100 that are chambered to fire various high power rifle rounds.

  • ||

    I watched a little bit of Dirty Harry a while back, and when he started blasting away in the dark at the first person he saw on the rooftop across the street, I didn't know what to think; eerily prescient, or just plain laughably ridiculous?

  • Barely Supressed Rage||

    Clint is probably my favorite. Just the other day I saw an ad for a giant anthology that's coming out on DVD later this year, of all his movies. As much as I like his movies, there are some I wouldn't bother buying, so it won't be worth it to me. Besides, I already have Unforgiven and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - my two favorites. Although I wouldn't mind having some of his other westerns, including Josey Wales.

  • ||

    The Beguiled is one of Clint's best. Even he said it's one of his favorite films; it's often overlooked because Clint plays against type in it.

  • Ice Nine||

    "Beguiled" is the best movie Clint was in for sure, even if Geraldine Page carried him. But "Misty" is right up there on the list. Again, Clint was Clint but Jessica Walter was superbly batshit scary.

  • ||

    And let us not forget Clint Eastwood's contributions to jazz, including directing "Bird" and producing one of my favorite documentaries, "Straight, No Chaser."

  • The Gobbler||

    ^^this

  • Ted S.||

    I hope the box set has The First Traveling Saleslady. Eastwood's role is fairly small and rather thankless: he gets romantically paired with Carol Channing.

    Channing also sings a rather frightening rendition of "A Corset Can Do a Lot for a Lady".

  • ||

    If not for Chief Dan George, Josey Wales would suck.

    "I didn't surrender, but they took my horse and made him surrender. They have him pulling a wagon up in Kansas I bet."

  • Virginia||

    Wales turned lame in every scene featuring that annoying family and grandma. The rest was classic.

    to hell with them fellas. buzzards got to eat, same as worms.

  • tote-road||

    Wrong. Josey Wales is to movies what Choctaw Bingo is to songs - long, full of interesting characters and thoroughly enjoyable. My favorite part was when Uncle Leo told Lije to tell Benny to "come up".

  • Barely Supressed Rage||

    "Pull, Lemuel..."

  • Brett L||

    How many people appreciate the musical McMurtry? I agree.

  • DADIODADDY||

    or his laconic portayal of a jet pilot in "Tarantula"?

  • Rich||

    Allow me: Get off my lawn!

  • Barely Supressed Rage||

    Yeah, I liked Gran Torino alot too.

    I want his M1.

  • ||

    Last I looked, Civilian Marksmanship Program, $950, rebuilt, new stock, new barrel, mixed numbers (i.e., not a collectible), absolutely like new, members only

  • Tman||

    I always thought Unforgiven did an excellent job of portraying why non-democratic/dictatorship style rule even in a small town on the frontier will always end up collapsing if there is not adequate justice for victims.

    By not punishing the dude who cut up the whore effectively, Daggett condemned the whole town to be over run by mercenaries and he paid the ultimate price.

    Also, what a great farking movie. Clint is THE MAN.

  • ||

    The whooshing sound you hear is that lesson going over the heads of our resident anarachocrapitalists.

  • ||

    The only whooshing sound I hear is the hot air spewed by someone who thinks a movie somehow tells the ultimate truth about...anything. Or maybe that's just you talking out of your ass. Or maybe it's just you being flatulent. They're all the same, regardless.

  • Tman||

    It's not an "ultimate truth" Epi, it's just a commentary. I agree that films are hardly a means for telling "ultimate truths" but you can't deny that the commentary in the movie is pretty deep. Shit all over it if you must, but the point still stands. Daggett ran Big Whisky like a petty dictator and he paid the price.

  • ||

    I wasn't responding to you, dude, I was responding to Tulpa's interpretation of your interpretation. Note the comment nesting?

  • Tman||

    Oh, sorry Epi. Also, fuck the comment system.

  • ||

    Unforgiven was a great movie.

  • Barely Supressed Rage||

    Yeah, now this is making me want to dig it out and watch it when I get home tonight.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Especially if you're suffering from insomnia.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Unification isn't really all it's cracked up to be. I'd far prefer a less advanced civilization with more freedom than a technocratic futuristic wonderland that has to worry about what to do with those troublesome dissenters.

  • ||

    I'd far prefer a less advanced civilization with more freedom than a technocratic futuristic wonderland that has to worry about what to do with those troublesome dissenters.

    That is a false dichotomy.

    A free society will always tend to be more technologically advanced then a less free society.

    You can run into cases where societies were free and then stop being free but retain a technological advantage...but over the long run those advantages will evaporate.

  • ||

    The Islamic caliphate vs. western Europe in 1200 AD. Discuss.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That may be true in a historically contingent sense, but it is conceivable for a society to be free and content with an agrarian or pre-industrial level of technology.

  • ||

    Or a society is so "free" that everyone has to worry that any technology they produce will just be stolen by someone stronger and possibly used against them. Also, they're too busy building castles and whatnot to keep from being bludgeoned by roving marauders who want their food supplies.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It's nice to see your core misanthropy coming through.

    You're not an authoritarian because you think government power will genuinely improve peoples' lives, you just think that stomping on the other guy's throat is the only way to stop him from doing it to you.

  • ||

    Here come the accusations of being an authoritarian. You guys are quite the one-trick ponies, are you not?

  • cynical||

    Yes, until another society with better technology and less concern for freedom comes along and enslaves it.

  • ||

    Have you ever lived in a less advanced civilization, Hugh?

    Less advanced means higher infant mortality, longer periods of sickness from contaminated water, lowered life expectancy, never traveling more than a few miles from your birthplace, and probably being at least a little hungry most of the time.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I didn't claim that there was no trade-off, but technological progress at all costs is not an unequivocal good.

    A two hundred year lifespan under an authoritarian Tulpocracy doesn't sound much like progress.

  • Sovereign Immunity||

    technological progress at all costs is not an unequivocal good.

    Bronze Age much Hugh?

  • Wind Rider||

    You make it sound like having a really cool smartphone while enjoying bong its, beer, and hookers is a bad thing or something.

    Are you a fucking nut job or something?

  • Hugh Akston||

    At no time did I insinuate that technology is bad. If we can have a technologically advanced and fundamentally libertardian society, so much the better.

    But if I have to choose, I'll pick freedom every time. Better to live a few years freely than a hundred years under a boot.

  • ||

    Thank you for a demonstration of false dichotomy, an unbalanced dichotomy at that. You conjure the most extreme example of unfreedom, "living under a boot", but only a minor disadvantage in technology (reduced life expectancy). The analogue of living under a boot would be living hungry, thirsty, sick, and confined to a few square miles that your primitive transportation can carry you. Probably with insects all over you, too.

  • ||

    High Plains Drifter is my favorite Clint movie, made even better by the fact that upon viewing the film, John Wayne said he'd never act in a movie with Eastwood. John Wayne was a fag.

  • Ice Nine||

    Very insightful statement from someone who *couldn't* act.

  • Barely Supressed Rage||

    Was it meant to be a compliment, as in "I wouldn't act in a movie with Clint Eastwood, because he's too good and would show me up"? Or was it a slam, as in "I wouldn't ever act in a movie with that guy; he sucks"?

  • ||

    Not a slam as in Eastwood sucks, but a slam in that Wayne thought the movie was vile and crossed the line as far as decency goes.

    On the other hand, Orson Welles had a lot of praise for the film.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I'd probably agree with you about High Plains Drifter. That Wayne hated it and Welles liked it merely confirms my thoughts.

  • Ted S.||

    I don't particularly care for John Wayne, but I really don't care for Orson Welles, whose movies grew increasingly bloated and self-indulgent (kinda like the director himself). Watch F For Fake sometime. Horrible, horrible stuff, but so many people praise it for what seems to me to be no better reason than the auteur theory.

  • BakedPenguin||

    F for Fake was very overrated. However, Welles made films like The Stranger and Touch of Evil (not to mention Kane). Apparently, The Magnificent Ambersons was pretty poorly cut, and Touch of Evil had a lot of revisions he didn't agree with. He could be a pompous ass, but he was innovative and brilliant at his best.

    Wayne was a fucking hack who had 5 facial expressions, and used them according to what he thought the character should be feeling.

  • Wind Rider||

    I think you give Marion a lot of credit for a range he consistently failed to live up to.

  • Barely Supressed Rage||

    That source of all authoritative information ever, Wikipedia, says: "John Wayne was offered a role in the film and was sent the script, butreplied to Eastwood some weeks after the film was released, expressing disapproval, saying that "the townspeople did not represent the true spirit of the American pioneer, the spirit that made America great"."

  • ||

    What, no love for Every Which Way but Loose?!? What about Any Which Way You Can? Shit, dudes, it has a monkey in it! A fucking monkey! What's better than that?

  • ||

    Shit, dudes, it has a monkey in it! A fucking monkey! What's better than that?

    A movie without Sondra Locke.

  • ||

    I guess you didn't get to enjoy many Eastwood films from 1976 to 1983, then.

  • ||

    Not really... although to this day, anytime I see some bikers at a stop light, I think to myself, "Right turn, Clyde", with the Black Widows theme music playing.

    There was a local punk band named Right Turn Clyde back in the 90s. They were actually pretty good.

  • Barely Supressed Rage||

    A movie without Sondra Locke.

    When I was a teenager, I thought she was hot. But I recognized even then that she couldn't act for shit.

    I loved The Gauntlet back then.

    "Hey, that's my chopper, Charlie!"

    "And this is my gun, Clyde."

  • ||

    Paging joe from Lowell...

  • ||

    You had me at "monkey."

  • ||

    No one has been pedantic enough yet to point out that Clyde is in fact an orangutan, and therefore an ape, and not a monkey?

    You people are such slackers.

  • Barely Supressed Rage||

    Orangutan, not monkey.

    "Right turn, Clyde."

    That biker dude was the same actor who played the dude that tried to sneak up and stab Clint's character in the back in High Plains Drifter.

    One of the best lines in the movie - The Stranger doesn't even turn around or flinch; just says "You're going to look pretty silly with that knife sticking out of your ass."

  • Barely Supressed Rage||

    Sorry it took me so long, Epi.

  • ||

    Do it better next time or you're fired. Fired, you hear me?!?

  • Wind Rider||

    Hey, in reality, you don't deserve any reply better than the Romulans gave about not being around much.

    "We were occupied. Elsewhere"

  • Brett L||

    "Right turn, Clyde."

  • Rinsewind||

    Umh...the Librarian would like to remind you that examples of Pongo Pongo are apes and would suggest that referring to them as monkeys is disrespectful, uncivil and off-topic.

    And that last "ook" was "or else", but I didn't say it.

  • ||

    Without Chief Dan George, Josey Wales would have been a boring John Wayne -style vengeance cartoon.

  • ||

    huh?

    Josey Wales was on the run the whole movie.

    He got revenge but he did not seek it. It sought him.

    Even if you interpret it so narrowly as you did the above innovation to the "John Wayne style vengeance cartoon" is enough to set the movie apart and make it subversive and interesting.

  • tote-road||

    Besides, he let Dean Wormer go in the end. That showed a lot of growth on Josey's part.

  • ||

    I just watched it....he was out of bullets and had a gun shot wound.

    So there is that.

    Another thing i noticed is the movie had a lot of first person shooter scenes.

    I have been playing Black ops lately which is probably why I noticed it.

    It seems like an innovation to me. I can't think of many movies especially back then that had that.

  • ||

    Like Jubal said, man is nature's ultimate joke on himself. The things we are programmed to strive for are precisely the things that make us unhappy. This, in the end, is the reef upon which the ship of dogmatic libertarianism is wrecked.

  • Hugh Akston||

    What the fuck are you talking about?

  • ||

    This is Tulpa's way of calling out for help. Just ignore it. Think of him as Natalie Wood, and you're Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken.

  • ||

    Limited government works anarchy does not.

    I guess now is as good of time as any to scream over that debate.

    Why you may ask would I defend Tulpa who was a total prick about the Arizona shootings?

    I have no idea.

  • ||

    Limited government is still statism, just a lesser degree of statism. Only anarchy is free.

  • ||

    We already have anarchy, just with really big security companies.

  • Wind Rider||

    Plus, you know what other kind of Wood doesn't float?

  • ||

    Natalie Wood?

  • ||

    Tulpa, that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Do you have the ability to choose which government you want to use regardless of geography? No, we don't have anarchy.

  • ||

    Do you have the ability to choose which government you want to use regardless of geography? No, we don't have anarchy.

    You wouldn't have a choice of which security company dominates your area in anarchy either.

    Oh, sorry. I forgot we're talking about the land of make-believe where the strong allow the weak to choose whether they want to be dominated.

  • ||

    My libertarian utopia invades your anarchy and rapes all of its women.

  • ||

    At least this is consistent with your performance in the original Giffords shooting thread.

  • The Gobbler||

    Mongo pawn in game of life.

  • Ted S.||

    I don't think Clint Eastwood was in Jubal.

  • Kenniwick man||

    The things we are programmed to strive for are precisely the things that make us unhappy.

    The three inch spear head embedded in my hip bone thinks this is the first true thing Tulpa has ever said about human nature.

  • Post-singularity libertarian||

    This, in the end, is the reef upon which the ship of dogmatic libertarianism is wrecked.

    Yeah but he got this part wrong.

    Still i give him props for bring up the subject.

  • ||

    thou art god.

  • Wind Rider||

    Hmm. Clint as a Stranger in a Strange Land.

    Talk about opportunities lost. He could have driven over from Carmel and talked to Heinlein about it, even.

  • LarryA||

    My favorite was Broncho Billy, with Sondra Locke in the rich-bitch role she’s perfect for.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Broncho Billy? It was Honkytonk Man where his character had tuberculosis.

  • ||

    A free society will always tend to be more technologically advanced then a less free society.

    The Islamic caliphate vs. western Europe in 1200 AD. Discuss.

    This sounds like one of those "Who was worse, Hitler or Stalin" setups.

    Wikipedia, says: "John Wayne was offered a role in the film and was sent the script, butreplied to Eastwood some weeks after the film was released, expressing disapproval, saying that "the townspeople did not represent the true spirit of the American pioneer, the spirit that made America great".

    He must have hated High Noon, then.

    The things we are programmed to strive for are precisely the things that make us unhappy.

    Speak for yourself. I strive for time to contemplate the sunset with a cigar and a glass of single malt.

    This, in the end, is the reef upon which the ship of dogmatic libertarianism is wrecked.

    How so? The fact that some people will fail to make themselves happy strikes me as having little to nothing to do with whether the Total State is good or bad.

  • ||

    In the year 1200, autocratic empires around the world were far more technologically advanced than relatively free Europe. The Caliphate is one example, along with Song Dynasty China.

  • RyanXXX||

    Give me Medieval Muslims over Medieval Christians any day

  • Paul||

    You have Medieval Muslims now.

  • cornholio||

    Who turned out to be more successful in the end, though? The Islamic Caliphates and the Chinese dynasties ended up stagnating and being surpassed by Europe. I would also point out that Europeans had less to work with with than muslims. The muslims conquered the Byzantines, who in better days had held dominance in trade, scholarship, and technology in the old Greco-Roman civilization, while the Germanic tribes conquered Rome, which was rotting away from the inside anyway (under an autocratic government no less).

  • cynical||

    You know, there's one thing in the history of both the Islamic caliphates and the Chinese dynasties that Christiandom, pretty much through sheer luck, managed to avoid: KHAAAAAAAN.

    Huh, an awful lot like Rome. I suppose the U.S. is lucky to be fairly resistant to land-based conquest.

  • ||

    I suppose the U.S. is lucky to be fairly resistant to land-based conquest.

    I wonder if a thousand years from now there will be a movie that describes "Starting a land war in America" as one of the worst blunders you can make.

  • ||

    "in the end"? Do you know something I don't?

    Europe has a much higher ratio of arable land than any of those other places, by the way. And the Byzantines had the same form of government as Rome did, obviously, since they were two halves of the same fucking Empire!

  • ||

    I always liked Heartbreak Ridge, it has Mario Van Peebles.

  • Wind Rider||

    This doesn't mean Epi is gonna be takin any long warm showers with ya.

  • ||

    RECOOOOOOOOON!!!!!!!

  • ||

    I wasn't interested in "Gran Torino," but I really like "Letters from Iwo Jima," "Million Dollar Baby," and "Bronco Billy." A J. Edgar Hoover movie sounds like a winner.

  • ||

    Gran Torino is the best movie of the last five years. Hands down. Watch it.

  • ||

    "Endeavor to persevere."

    We thought about that for along time

    "Endeavor to persevere."

    and after we thought about what he said "endeavor to persevere" we declared war on the Union.

  • tote-road||

    If often give this advice to my children (the endeavor part, small children would be over-matched against the blue coats)

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