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Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio talk about making 'J. Edgar'

The director and actors talk about making 'J. Edgar' and the future of dramas in Hollywood.

November 06, 2011|By Rebecca Keegan, Los Angeles Times

Hammer: This is a conversation I had with myself a lot before we started this project. It seems like it's "I need you to be with me," "Now you walk home," "Now I need you." That kind of thing. It seemed a little like an abusive relationship. So I had dinner with a buddy of mine who's gay, and I just sort of walked through everything that happened in the script, and he goes, "You break my heart." And I go, "Why?" He goes, "Well, now I'm convinced you're 100% heterosexual… That's just the deal if you see even a spark of something in someone where they look at you and they go, 'I care about you. I could be there for you.'" And that's really all Clyde wanted out of Hoover was for him to make those little gestures. That's what kept him around.

There's a very small group of people in Hollywood able to get this kind of film made right now. Was it hard to get a studio to green light this movie?

Eastwood: It's getting smaller all the time. Everybody wants to make something they think is a surefire winner, though nobody knows what a surefire winner is, in my opinion. If you can make a good picture that actually has some substance, that's doubly good nowadays 'cause most everybody else is trying to address how many CGI plates we're gonna do, what little being is gonna come in from another asteroid…

DiCaprio: … little being from another asteroid? You've got me laughing on that one.

Eastwood: Well, that's the thing I can think of that I'd hate to do the most. Whatever the formula of the moment is, I'm glad I'm not making it.

DiCaprio: There has been a complete dropoff of rated-R dramas anywhere above $30 million. They just don't exist. I did "Blood Diamond," "The Aviator" and "The Departed," I don't think any of those movies would be made right now. Anything that has any sort of edge to it, those movies aren't being made.

What is the budget for J. Edgar?

Eastwood: $35 million.

Is the industry aversion to R-rated dramas a cyclical thing?

Eastwood: Everything is cyclical. It's all about that first-weekend box office. I don't know if "Double Indemnity" or "Sunset Boulevard" or "On the Waterfront" would get made today. Everybody would go, "Oh, who wants to see a picture about dock workers?" I've been through it with two pictures in a row, with "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby." I approached Warner Bros. and another studio simultaneously, and the other studio said, "We don't do dramas." I said, "You don't do dramas? What are we doing here?"

DiCaprio: It does feel like the middle ground has fallen out. I'm only saying that from personal experience, saying, "I'd like to make that movie" and hearing, "Oh, they're not making those types of movies anymore."

Eastwood: You have to go with your instincts. I remember when I was about to make "Fistful of Dollars" a big article came out that said, "Italian westerns are finished." I said, "Swell." Then, of course, [the film] came out, and it did something. I'm so glad for the dozens of times I haven't listened along the way.

PHOTOS: 'J. Edgar' premiere at the AFI Fest

rebecca.keegan@latimes.com

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