On the set of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, back in the mid-60s, Clint Eastwood supposedly
acknowledged to a co-actor a) that he had adopted his low, raspy voice by studying Marilyn Monroe, and b) that if he continued to perform in his vastly underplayed way, short on any kind of physical exertion, he could probably still be making films in his 90s. The Marilyn Monroe thing is kinda weird when you think about it. But the other observation speaks for itself.
Because here he is, more a specter now than an actual presence, closer to the corporeal ghost avengers he played in HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and PALE RIDER, but with a far softer aura than those avenging spirits displayed. His choices have naturally changed to meet the demands of acting/directing in the face of his approaching centennial.
For instance, thirty years ago he made two ‘buddy films’ wherein the buddy was an orangutan.
In CRY MACHO it’s a rooster – same idea but a tad more manageable for a man of 91. And then there’s the women, from coked-up wealthy wenches to salt-of-the-Mexican-earth widows, about whom FIR critic Victoria Alexander commented “Every woman in the film is attracted to him. How old does Clint think he is?” It is an amusing side-bar, and he clearly endeavors to make it work without us losing our willing suspension of disbelief. I have to add to this potpourri that he could probably transition over to playing Zombie roles at this stage. The minimal facial expressions would definitely work. As would the shambling gait. Zombies
shamble. He’s perfect for it. And his fans wouldn’t skip a beat. They’d embrace him in his new
Now of course, you all know I’m having a bit of fun at Clint’s expense. But it’s only because I
think he’s a marvel and a purveyor of eternal hope to nonagenarians everywhere, not to
mention a source of what appears to be eternal employment to the faithful in his inner circle.
Sooki Raphael, an old friend of mine who had been Tom Hanks’ personal assistant for a few
decades, was on the SULLY location, and told me afterwards that everyone on the crew had
white hair. They were Eastwood’s tech crew, traveling with him from shoot to shoot over the
decades, earning their livings due to his loyalty and longevity. It’s an important side of the Clint phenomenon that we neither see nor think about.
I caught the film in a movie theater. There were enough people in the auditorium probably to
pay for the afternoon screening. Good news, because at the theatrical screening of M. Night
Shyamalan’s OLD, the director came on screen before the actual film started and addressed the moviegoers, telling them that he makes his films for the big screen and that he hoped they would watch his films that way rather than at home on a TV or an iPad.
My wife and I looked around, and we were the only two in the theater. Ah, well, maybe CRY MACHO was an indication of a resurgence. One can hope. On the big screen the vistas of New Mexico where the movie was shot are staggering. Probably not so on a home viewing screen. This second unit work supplies some of what Eastwood’s performance does not. And stock footage representing his character breaking his back during a horse fall at a rodeo explains his frailty. In these ways he covers for the fading physical gifts at his command. (Incidentally, I think he probably over-played the frailty bit once he had the narrative set-up to do so. He sits astride a horse. He punches a few marauders in the face.
There were no reports of him in any distress during the shoot like there were about John Wayne during the making of THE SHOOTIST. He’s probably in pretty good shape, possibly in
better shape than he wants us to see. What baffles me is that, however healthy and spry he
might be, it is still some kind of miracle that he was not only able to get financial backing, but
insurance. For a shoot of that length and at his advanced age?! I’d like to hear about how they
pulled that one off.
Eastwood’s character Mike Milo is asked, then bullied, into going to Mexico to bring back a
former employer’s errant son. The actor portraying his charge, Eduardo Minett, puts up some
resistance, but eventually goes along with the plan, transforming over the course of the film
from an unappealing-looking ragamuffin to a rather handsome-looking kid, a subtle change but one which indicates his character’s maturity - a nice touch from the makeup and wardrobe
departments. Natalia Traven is wonderfully grounded and more naturalistic playing against
Eastwood than Minett is, as the matriarch of a very small Mexican village. (I wonder if she’s any relation to the mysterious B. Traven of TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE fame.) Other actors represent the impediments the two travelers encounter along the way.
I found that it had substance, if slight, and was a promise of fun mostly fulfilled. I wasn’t bored.
Was it Quentin Tarantino’s deadly prediction in play – that directors’ late-in-life films are
terrible? I think he missed on this one…if just barely.