The rules for reporters covering the opening of the Smithsonian’s new Warner Bros. Theater were firm: “You will have the opportunity to ask Clint Eastwood one question.”
Great. Like the power dynamic isn’t brutal enough talking to Hollywood’s one-man Mount Rushmore under any circumstance, let alone on a “red carpet” with a rope between him and us to enforce the social striation. We had to narrow it to one perfect question. But which?
Why do you think the Academy denied Leo an Oscar nomination for “J. Edgar”? Are you happy with the current governance of Carmel-by-the-Sea? Of all the great young actors coming up in the early ’90s, why cast Jaimz Woolvett as the Schofield Kid in “Unforgiven”? Would you work with an orangutan again? Can we have ten more questions? Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
We would not ask who Eastwood is endorsing for president, because everyone else does, and he never really answers. “You want me to go for Ron Paul, is that it?” he smirked when the Daily Caller guy, a few stops ahead of us on the carpet, pointedly asked who Eastwood would support “as a self-described libertarian.” We would not ask him how to make it in showbiz; the “Glittarazzi.com” team tried that one. “Study study study, practice practice practice,” he said. Face it. He doesn’t need to give a juicy soundbite at this stage of his career.
Seeing as how the setting was the new movie theater at the National Museum of American History, we asked the prolific filmmaker if there was any historic figure or era he’d still like to tackle.
Well, no. “I wouldn’t be able to think of it until I saw a story that related to it ,” he said. “I get excited about things as they come about. I don’t have any long-range quest to visit any genre or era. . . Story is the thing.”
To launch the new theater, the Smithsonian also enlisted Patrick Leahy, the movie buff and senator from Vermont; and Barry Meyer, CEO of Warner Bros., which underwrote construction to the tune of $5 million. Eastwood noted that the theater will open this week with a Humphrey Bogart film festival, followed by one devoted to his own work in June.
Too soon to put him in a museum? “Mr. Bogart has been deceased for a while now,” he joked. “I was hoping it would be a while before they showed Clint Eastwood movies here.”
And then Eastwood told a story that went something like this: A suburban matron, driving her car, gets pulled over by the cops. She volunteers to them that she’s got a concealed weapon permit, and a Smith & Wesson in the glove box. Anything else? Why yes, a .357 Magnum in the center console. Anything else? Why, yes, a .40 caliber Glock in her handbag.
So the cop asks her, “‘My God, woman, what are you afraid of?’ and she says, ‘Freakin’ nothing!’”
Ha! It had nothing to do with museums or movies or politics or anything — but now we know what to ask the next time we run into Clint Eastwood: Know any good jokes?
Read earlier: Clint Eastwood talks ’J. Edgar,’ politics and why he’s still working at 81, 11/11/11