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No Lint On Clint

Eastwood_2According to a recent story in Variety, Clint Eastwood is considering directing The Human Factor, a film about how post-Apartheid relations in South Africa were eased by the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Morgan Freeman will play Nelson Mandela in the film, based on John Carlin’s book "The Human Factor: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Changed the World,"  which will be published next year.

A story about rugby in South Africa may not strike a lot of his fans as quintessential Eastwood material, but the thing that keeps his work so fresh is that Eastwood has always been willing and eager to do new things. And it seems as if the older he gets, the less pressure he feels to take the easy route—in interviews he invariably talks about how the studios want him to do Dirty Harry part 13.

As a director he’s gone against the grain right from the beginning. His behind the camera debut, Play Misty For Me
(1971), was a thriller about sexual obsession that couldn’t have been
more different from the westerns and action films that made him a star. Ditto for the little-known Breezy (1973), an edgy May-December that Eastwood didn’t appear in.

Through his prime years Eastwood continued to do the kinds of films his fans expected, but he generally found some unusual aspect to keep it fresh. His westerns didn’t lack for action, but they were never simple shoot-’em-ups: they were elegiac and contemplative, challenging genre assumptions about the portrayal of violence.

After the magnificent Unforgiven, no one expected that Eastwood would do any more Westerns. But who expected him to tackle something like The Bridges of Madison County (1995)? Where many saw a soppy romance that was one step away from a Harlequin paperback, though, Eastwood saw another tale of a lost soul in mid-America, and turned a sow’s ear of a book into a silk purse of a movie.

Few filmmakers of any age have done as well as Eastwood since he hit his 70s. OK, forget about 2002’s Blood Work (a movie I suspect Eastwood made simply because he enjoys working and didn’t have a stronger project at the time), but Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima represent a string that not many filmmakers equal in their entire careers.

I’m looking forward to The Changeling, the film Eastwood will be making with Angelina Jolie. And if he turns down The Human Factor, I’m looking forward to whatever he does instead. He’s earned it.

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