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Focus : A Fistful of Eastwood : Cinemax looks at actor-director every which way

March 21, 1993|JOHN N. GOUDAS

Any way you look at it, it is shaping up as Clint Eastwood's year. His movie "Unforgiven" has earned him a Directors Guild of America award, nine Academy Award nominations, including best picture, and two for Eastwood himself as best actor and best director. The actor, who generally keeps a rather low profile, has been seen in an hour-long chat with David Frost and is the subject of the Cinemax special "Clint Eastwood: The Man From Malpaso." The latter is being shown on selected dates throughout March on the premium channel's "Crazy About the Movies" series.

The Cinemax offering was produced by the husband-and-wife team of Gene Feldman and Suzette Winter, who have also given us terrific shows about the careers of Ingrid Bergman, Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Shirley Temple, Robert Mitchum and Michael Caine. In fact, it was the show spotlighting Michael Caine that prompted Clint Eastwood's people to contact the Feldmans about doing a show on him.

"Suzette and I were on vacation," Feldman recalled, "when we were contacted about doing a show about Clint Eastwood, and I immediately called Cinemax and asked them if they were interested in such a show and they grabbed it. It all happened very fast."

Asked about his impression of Eastwood, Feldman said, "Clint has a rather unique protective coating that works for him very nicely. He is not inundated by fame and has none of the affectations of stardom. He's a very bright guy, but he's not out to overwhelm you with his erudition.'

On the day the Feldmans were to tape Eastwood for a few hours in a suite at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, the actor was detained and Feldman left the suite for a few minutes. In the interim, Eastwood arrived and was met by the technicians. He sat in a chair and said he was ready to go, totally relaxed. Feldman came back and they started rolling the cameras.

"He never said he wouldn't talk about certain things and was completely open during the interview," said Feldman. "You can't help but like the man. In fact, no one who worked with him even hinted that he wasn't nice. That is not to say that he doesn't expect everyone to do their job and do it well. He has brought in all his films on time and never over budget."

Eastwood is also extremely loyal. When he was working in the TV series "Rawhide," one of the directors on the Western series was Ted Post. After Eastwood achieved his first international success with the Italian-produced "spaghetti" Westerns, Hollywood started wooing him, hoping he could duplicate the success at the box office in a Hollywood-produced Western.

The film was the 1968 "Hang 'Em High" and when it came time to assign a director, Eastwood insisted it be Ted Post. At first, the studio balked but Post ultimately got the job and the film went through the roof at the nation's box office. Eastwood continued making films in Hollywood. With "Dirty Harry," he became a bona-fide superstar.

Always interested in all aspects of filmmaking, Eastwood secretly harbored a desire to direct. He approached the powers at Universal Studios about the possibility of directing a film titled "Play Misty for Me." The studio head agreed, but they said they wouldn't pay him for directing the film, only for acting. Eastwood offers a whole group of anecdotes such as this one in the show, which utilizes many well-selected clips from his work.

Clint Eastwood has been labeled everything from the "last Hollywood icon" to "a throwback to the old Hollywood movie stars." What he is, according to Gene Feldman, is a talented, unpretentious filmmaker who has paid his dues and is now ready to reap the rewards--which may include an Oscar on March 29.

"Clint Eastwood: The Man From Malpaso" airs Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. on Cinemax.

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