Clint Eastwood sat down with Darren Aronofsky yesterday afternoon at the Tribeca Film Festival for a directors' talk in which the pair discussed various aspects of modern filmmaking, including negotiating with studios, playing to actors' egos, directing kids and their own overarching motivations.
"I have wanted, since we started the festival 11 years ago, to have Clint Eastwood here," Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal said while introducing the pair. "I have always admired him." The directors’ conversation was preceded by Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story, a documentary on Clint Eastwood’s work as a director, featuring interviews with various actors, producers and writers with whom he has worked over the years. Industry figures like Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, Gene Hackman, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Brian Grazer weigh in on the personality of the Oscar-winning director. These friendly accounts paint Eastwood as something of a cross between the Dalai Lama and Laird Hamilton – he rarely loses his temper, is guided by an egoless calm, puts actors at ease and has been known to order surf and turf for his crew on Fridays.
In the conversation, Aronofsky (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream) described filmmaking as perpetual pain, and pressed Eastwood on whether he was actually that unflappable on set. "I believe your inner clock is going to tell you what to do," Eastwood said. "If you get a committee, all the committee can do is take away your confidence." And as Eastwood leaned back casually in his directors’ chair, the testaments from his peers seemed increasingly accurate. The director spoke slowly and deliberately, cracking jokes at his own expense, exuding a confidence born of 82 years, and as many victorious gunfights.
"I know a lot of people fell in love with the auteur theory, but you’re merely a platoon captain," Eastwood said. "If somebody does something to enhance the overall project, you have to be smart enough to grab it. If they are doing something to bring down the project you have to be smart enough to understand that and go back into the drawing board."
Aronofsky followed up with more technical questions. Sometimes Eastwood will get the actors dressed, the crew ready, and shoot the first take because he finds those can be the best. He avoids instant replay, as well as digital film, and while he won’t do as many takes as other directors, he’ll have more shots and setups. He prefers not to use the word "action" because it makes actors nervous; he says it’s like throwing a "firecracker out there."
But where does he get the passion to keep going, the younger director wanted to know? Eastwood considered the question. "Sometimes when you are not in production, you think, ah, I’m about to take some time off or something, but then the moment you pull the trigger on one shot, you are kind of going, 'Ok, I’m ready, let’s go.' You’re ready to charge the hill, and right through the picture," Eastwood said. "And I don’t think you ever lose it, probably. Who is the Portuguese director who is a hundred and five and still making films? That’s always everybody’s dream. Wouldn’t it be great to be a hundred and five and still making films?"