Post Magazine

January 2012

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 13 of 51

director's chair Clint Eastwood — J. Edgar C By IAIN BLAIR ARMEL, CA — As an actor, Clint Eastwood remains one of Holly- wood's last great male icons. But over the course of four decades and some 40 films, the star has also metamorphosed, not into some musty and much-honored legend but into an ambitious and accom- plished filmmaker. And while he may now be 81, Eastwood, whose eclectic credits include the Oscar-winners Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven, as well as Gran Torino, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Bridges of Madison County, Bird and the "Dirty Harry" series, shows no signs of slowing down. A long-time Oscar favorite, Eastwood This Oscar-winner takes on history, once again. looks likely to win more awards for his latest film, J. Edgar, a biopic (a perennial Oscar favor- ite genre) about J. Edgar Hoover, America's revered and feared controversial top cop for five decades who helped create the FBI. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover and co-starring Naomi Watts as Helen Gandy (his secretary for 54 years), and The Social Network's Armie Hammer as Hoover's long- time assistant Clyde Tolson, the film traces Hoover's life from childhood to his death in 1972, and hits all the big picture historical highlights — Prohibition, gangsters, the Lind- bergh baby kidnapping, German spies, World War 11, '50s Communists and radicals, '60s civil rights and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy and Presi- dent Kennedy (Hoover personally directed the FBI's investigation into the latter's death). The biopic, written by Milk Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black, also addresses the on- going speculation and rumors that Hoover — who never married or had kids — was secretly gay and had an intimate relationship with Tolson (the two socialized and even vacationed together). "I did see it as primarily a love story, as well Joel Cox and Gary Roach edited the film on Media Composer. as a character study," says Eastwood of J. Edgar. "I don't know whether it came out of just individual people that become attracted to one another — Hoover, Clyde Tolson and Helen Gandy — or was it just the times. Maybe you didn't trust that many people, so Hoover kept everything in a very tight order, so that he always had control. I guess he either knew that organizations could become rumor mills and be destroyed from within, or they had to be secretive. "As for Tolson, he was a guy he liked and they were inseparable pals," he notes. "They had lunch together every day or dinner 12 Post • January 2012 together every night, and in the script Lance has him say, 'There's not many people I can trust in the Bureau these days.' So that's kind of where it fits. Now, how deep the love story goes is up to the audience to interpret." With a lot of Oscar buzz swirling around the film at press time, four-time Oscar-win- ner Eastwood, three-time Oscar-nominee DiCaprio and the picture all look likely to receive nominations, while Oscar-nominee Watts and fast-rising star Hammer could also earn Oscar nods. But Eastwood has never been driven by awards or commercial it into a film-able script?' Then you decide if you like the story and if it's one you'd like to see as a film, and who you'd cast." The director says that DiCaprio was always his first choice to depict Hoover. "Leo brought so much to the role — great energy and a desire to do well, and that's what I really appreciated," he explains. "I've watched his career and he seems like an actor who's try- ing to expand his horizons. That's why he wanted the job. He actually came to us and asked for the part. I'd only had the script a few days and I was in the process of talking to Clint Eastwood on working with the same people so often: "There's nothing wrong with the old blood if it's really good." considerations when it comes to choosing his projects. "People offer you things in different forms," he says. "Sometimes they come in the form of a screenplay, sometimes it's a book. Unforgiven was a screenplay that seemed perfect when I read it, and I owned it for quite a few years and then decided to make it. Then I started making quite a few changes, and then realized I was wrecking it by making those changes, so I stopped and went back and just filmed it the way I got it. "Absolute Power was adapted from the best-selling novel by David Baldacci. Before that, someone gave me Madison County and I read it and thought, 'There's a good idea here but it's written rather flowery, so how do we pare it down into a screenplay?' In the case of a book, the big question is, 'Can you convert Warners about financing it, and then Leo said he'd love to be in it, so I thought about it and then threw that in the mix. Pretty soon we were off into casting the rest of the film." Once cast, the "biggest challenges were dealing with the film's 50-year scope and all the locations," explains Eastwood. "With all the different time periods, you had to make sure that all the puzzles were going to fit. If you leave one of the little hunks out of it, it's going to throw everything out of kilter." CREATING LOCATIONS Although Hoover lived his entire life in Washington, DC, the filmmakers found that many of the locations could be doubled in California, including a courthouse in Orange County for one in New Jersey, and various hotels and clubs substituting for historic PHOTO: KEITH BERNSTEIN

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Post Magazine - January 2012