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.