Clint Eastwood's not a Republican. He's not a Democrat either. He didn't object when GQ classified him as a "social libertarian" in an interview last month, but it's technically not a form of libertarianism, which is okay, because Eastwood and politics were a bad match from the start. When the two get together, people inevitably wind up confused. Take Slate film critic Dana Stevens' lukewarm review of his latest effort, J. Edgar, which poses a question:
"What does Clint Eastwood, a Republican who was once a politician himself, actually think about the man who ruled over the FBI, and meddled in civilian affairs, for most of the last century?"
Eastwood's inscrutable politics was also on display in 2005 when the likes of Rush Limbaugh howled over the final act of Million Dollar Baby, where Eastwood's trainer agrees to help his paralyzed fighter end her life. It had been 17 years since Eastwood served as the Republican mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., not exactly a bastion of fiery conservative sentiment, and 13 years since he voted for Ross Perot over George H.W. Bush in the 1992 election.
But don't let the ending of Million Dollar Baby or the salty, commonsense liberal wisdom he's been sharing on the J. Edgar press tour fool you. (To GQ: "I don’t give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of") He's not a bleeding heart and probably wouldn't be thrilled to receive a GLAAD award. In that same GQ interview, he made a point of noting: "It’s not a movie about two gay guys. It’s a movie about how this guy manipulated everybody around him and managed to stay on through nine presidents." And in an interview with the Los Angeles Times earlier this week, he praised Herman Cain. "I love Cain's story," Eastwood said. "He’s a guy who came from nowhere and did well, obviously against heavy odds. He’s a doer and a straight-talker, which I don’t see enough of from either party.” That's what Eastwood likes: doers and straight-talkers. What Eastwood doesn't like: politicians.
New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael was the first to insist on politicizing Eastwood when she called Dirty Harry a "hardhat The Fountainhead" and warned readers the character was full of "fascist medievalism" because Harry killed a hippie and ripped off his peace chain. Which is ridiculous, because the hippie was a serial killer, and he was trying to kill Eastwood and a bunch of kids. Clint Eastwood doesn't care about culture wars, which could make J. Edgar a pretty dull movie: he just wants the doers and talkers to make sure everyone has a chance.
Politics got nothing to do with it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.