Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story
Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story (2013) makes the case for what most film critics and many filmgoers have known for years: Over the course of one of the longest active careers in Hollywood, Clint Eastwood has transformed himself from western movie icon to Hollywood superstar to one of the greatest and most intelligent directors of our time.
The 65-minute documentary from longtime film critic, film historian, documentary filmmaker, and Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel plays like a companion piece to his 2010 documentary The Eastwood Factor. Where that earlier production profiles Eastwood the actor and icon, Eastwood Directs focuses on his legacy as the director of over thirty films, with special attention paid to a few of his greatest and most important accomplishments: his directorial debut on Play Misty for Me (1971), the films that earned Eastwood his Oscars® for Best Director and Best Picture, Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004), his ambitious biographical portrait of J. Edgar (2011).
You might say that the evidence speaks for itself, but Schickel promises "the untold story" and he follows through. There are new interviews with Eastwood, who is his usual modest self as he shares stories from the set but generous with his praise as he discusses his greatest influences as a young director, Sergio Leone (who made him an international movie star in the Dollars films and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, 1966) and Don Siegel (Coogan's Bluff  and Dirty Harry  among others).
Less shy are filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg and actors Meryl Streep, Gene Hackman, Hal Holbrook, Hillary Swank, Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Hardin, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, and Morgan Freeman. They have no such modesty when they discuss Eastwood's legacy or, in the case of his co-stars, his gifts as a director of actors. Streep describes his approach to directing actors as "a seductive diffidence" and marvels that Eastwood and his stars line up with the crew and the extras at lunch. Longtime collaborators discuss the loyalty Eastwood commands thanks to his egalitarian set. Revealing behind-the-scenes footage confirms that Eastwood is a confident and easy-going filmmaker who treats his cast and crew with respect. Schickel gives us a sense of what it's like to be on an Eastwood set, and it's as different from the Hollywood cliché of spoiled stars and tyrannical directors as you'll find.
With a career as long and rich as Eastwood's, some major films are unfortunately only touched upon (such as Bird , one of Eastwood's most personal projects, and A Perfect World, 1993), but Schickel makes his point. Eastwood has not only made his mark as a major American filmmaker, he has consistently redefined what a "Clint Eastwood" movie is over the course of a career that spans more than fifty years as an actor and forty years as a director. Martin Scorsese, as perceptive a filmmaker and critic as we have, sums up his evolution as a filmmaker: "If the stories are becoming more complicated, the style doesn't. That's the difference."
"I like the way he operates. I want to be like Clint." - Tommy Lee Jones
By Sean Axmaker