In “Trouble with the Curve,” which opens in theaters on September 21st, Clint Eastwood plays Gus, a scout for the Atlanta Braves who has been one of the best scouts in baseball for decades. But, despite his efforts to hide it, age is starting to catch up with him. Nevertheless, Gus – who can tell a pitch just by the crack of the bat – refuses to be benched for what could be the final innings of his career. He may not have a choice. The front office of the Braves is starting to question his judgment, especially with the country’s hottest batting phenom on deck for the draft. The one person who might be able to help is also the one person Gus would never ask: his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), who has never been close to her father.
At the film’s press day, I sat down with Eastwood at a press conference to talk “Trouble with the Curve” which marks the feature film directorial debut of his longtime producing partner Robert Lorenz. Eastwood discussed the pros and cons of aging and confronting the issue of age in this particular role, what it was like to turn the directing reins over to Lorenz, how he enjoyed playing opposite his athletic co-star Adams, what he learned about baseball scouts, what keeps him passionate about his career, and why it’s important to be realistic about where you are in life and enjoy it. He also revealed what inspired him to talk to a chair to get his message across during his recent appearance at the Republican National Convention.
Q: What is your relationship with aging, the pros and cons?
CE: Am I aging? The pros and the cons, well you know a lot more, at least until the time you start forgetting it all. Actually aging can be a fun process to some degree, but ask me a year or so from now and I’ll try to give you the same answer.
Q: How do you stay in such great shape?
CE: I just had a flat tire on the freeway. I didn’t have to change it myself. Just exercise a lot, play golf with Mr. Timberlake. That’s what we did in our spare time down there. Salmon and broccoli.
Q: How did your working relationship with Robert Lorenz change? Was it difficult to turn over the reins?
CE: Oh, it’s gotten horrible. I had to listen to everything he said. [Joking] Actually, he’s terrific, did a terrific job. Rob’s been making noises about wanting to direct for some years now and when this property came along, it was what I wanted to do. After “Gran Torino,” I thought this is kind of stupid to be doing both jobs. I’ve been only doing it for 40 some years and I thought I should just do one or the other. It allowed me a little bit of comfort zone. So, this was an opportunity for that and he stepped right in and just took over. I didn’t have to do anything. Watch Amy throw the ball.
Q: This is the first time you’ve acted for a different director since “In the Line of Fire.” After so many years of being your own director, what adjustments do you have to make to communicate your performance to another director?
CE: I had to make no adjustments at all because I’ve always maintained that there’s more than one way of doing things. A lot of people come up with ideas and out of a dozen of them, maybe three or four of them are really great. So I just put it in my mind that somebody else is going to pilot the ship. That’s all, and it’s actually quite relaxing because I just can sit back. When these fellas were all working, I was practicing putting or something, I don’t know. It was a great relaxing thing and I probably won’t do both again, at least for the moment, but I said I wasn’t going to act again a few years ago and that changed too. Sometimes you just lie a lot.
Q: What has kept you passionate about your career, excited to go to work with new generations of talent?
CE: It’s just acting gets in your blood after so many years and you just always like revisiting it. It’s fun to meet new people and watch them coming along at different stages of their career. It’s fun to work with a girl who knows how to throw a baseball. The great thing about Amy, I just want to relate to that in a second, is she is really athletic and she can run. She doesn’t run with her hands floating out and she doesn’t throw the ball like that. She winds up and throws it, so she’s obviously got a little bit of tomboy attitude somewhere in her life and it pays off in this role, because otherwise you’d have to do it by some sort of trickery, have a double come in, throw the ball, cut to the person in a close-up or something.
Q: What did you learn about baseball scouts?
CE: Well, these guys are amazing guys and like Rob says, they spend 200-300 days a year in hotels. But they have to, because they’re going to invest in a kid who’s maybe 17, 18 years old, so they take this kid and they’re going to offer him a tremendous amount of money to come with their team, they have to really vet them all the way down the line. They have to go down to the neighborhood, stay in the neighborhood, talk to the neighbors. “Would you want your daughter to go out with this guy?” Talk to the parents and find out what the kid’s really made out of, because a lot of them have been burned. They told us some amazing stories about being burned where they had guys that they thought were terrific, and as soon as they got out of school and they were given multi-millions of dollars to join up this team, they all of a sudden go off and start drinking and run off with somebody else’s high school sweetheart and what have you. So you just never know, but they take a big risk, and I guess if you make too many mistakes, you’re out of a job.
Q: Was it fun or scary confronting aging in this role?
CE: Hey, you get to a certain age, you’re just glad to be there. I don’t know what to add to that. It’s fun. You have to be a realist so you try to look for roles that are within the age you’re in. It’d be kind of ridiculous if I say, “Well, I want to play this 35-year-old guy” or something like that. They’d have to get a sandblasting machine out and start to work. It’s great. Be realistic about where you are in life and enjoy it. I’ve enjoyed the journey to this stage so I intend to enjoy the rest of the journey, a long one I hope.
Q: How did it feel to see your younger self in the flashback clip?
CE: Feels just fine. There’s numerous selections of me pounding on somebody, various pictures along the way through the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, etc. etc. So it was fine. That was a good piece to use because I’m wearing somewhat the right clothes. It was fine. It was fine, better than having somebody else do it.
Q: What’s your take on “A Star is Born”?
CE: “A Star is Born” is a project that we’re going to do down the line. It’s not imminent right now. It’s six months away.
Q: Did you know your appearance at the Convention would get the response it did,
and how do you feel in retrospect?
CE: Well, it didn’t get the response that I wanted because I was hoping they’d
nominate me. My ambitions were tremendous but I don’t know what the response
was. My only message was that I just wanted people to take the idolizing factor
out of every contestant out there and just look at the work and look at the
background and then make a judgment on that. I was just trying to say that and I
did it in kind of a roundabout way which took a lot more time I suppose than
they would have liked.
Q: Would you have given the convention speech differently if you could do it
CE: Probably. I’d probably say something else but I’d try to get the same
message across that people don’t have to kiss up with politicians for the sake
of no matter what party they’re in. You should just evaluate the work and make
your judgments accordingly. That’s the way you do it in life and every other
subject, but sometimes in America we get ga ga and we look at the wrong values.
I don’t know if I’d have done it the same. I doubt it because I thought of that
about five seconds before we started. When you walk out there you get an
audience of 10,000 people that are extremely enthusiastic and you don’t really
get a chance – - your mind goes blank anyway so you come up something else.