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Actor at Work

The relentless productivity of Clint Eastwood.

Apr 5, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 28 • By SONNY BUNCH
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Readers looking for a through line might be better off going with something that Hughes writes about Eastwood’s directorial debut, Play Misty for Me. Mostly forgotten now, Misty’s themes aren’t particularly relevant. What does matter is this little factoid: “Budgeted at $950,000, the film was completed by Eastwood for $900,000 and four days under its five-week shooting schedule.” In Hollywood, this is what Eastwood is best known for: He doesn’t just work at a maniacal pace, he works at a maniacal pace and completes filming quickly and cheaply. Studios love him because he comes in under budget and on time, and actors love him because he doesn’t demand dozens of takes on simple line readings, or keep them lounging around waiting for the perfect lighting.

Of course, one can’t help but wonder if this incredible efficiency hasn’t hindered his work: Instead of laboring over a film in an effort to perfect it—to squeeze every last drop out of his cast and locations—he shoots, finishes, and moves on to his next project. Yes, he’s won a pair of Oscars, but could anyone make the argument that either Unforgiven or Million Dollar Baby is one of the best films of its decade? When the American Film Institute revised its list of the 100 greatest American films three years ago, only Unforgiven made the cut. 

So, yes: Clint Eastwood is the hardest-working man in show business, as Howard Hughes ably demonstrates. It’s important to remember, however, that efficiency and excellence aren’t typically the same thing.

Clarification: "Kingdom of the Blind," the video essay quoted in the review, was a two part review and the author, Matt Zoller Seitz, feels that the quote (taken from the first part) is not representative of the piece as a whole. "The second half is almost all criticism of Eastwood's various hypocrisies," Seitz writes, "and you made it sound as though what I tried and failed to do in the piece was make a case FOR Eastwood as an auteur with a complex, nuanced attitude toward revenge, when in fact the opposite is the case."

Sonny Bunch is a writer in Washington.

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