You Don’t Mess With the Eastwood

Clint Eastwood and Spike Lee

There were quite a few good stories released upon the web today, but none were more interesting than the feud rising between iconic directors Spike Lee and Clint Eastwood. This little tidbit started in Cannes a couple of weeks ago when Lee was trying to promote his upcoming war film The Miracle at St. Anna, which is slated for a release in October. Set in 1944 Italy, it will tell the story of four black American soldiers who get trapped in a Tuscan village during WWII.

Okay, so when his career is all said and done, with great films under his belt such as Malcolm X and Do the Right Thing, Lee will undoubtedly be regarded as one of the major influences on African American cinema. That’s all well and good, but you don’t lash at other filmmakers, least of all Clint Eastwood, and criticize them for not portraying black soldiers during the WWII era. Here’s what Lee had to say about Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers

“Clint Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total, and there was not one Negro actor on the screen. If you reporters had any balls, you’d ask him why. There’s no way I know why he did that…But I know it was pointed out to him and that he could have changed it. It’s not like he didn’t know.”

Now, I could go on and on about why Spike Lee needs to learn to think before he speaks (I’m trying to put it nicely because I respect Lee as a director), but I can’t really say it any better than Eastwood himself:

“The story is Flags of Our Fathers, the famous flag-raising picture and they didn’t do that. If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people’d go: ‘This guy’s lost his mind.’ I mean, it’s not accurate. A guy like him should shut his face.”

He didn’t mention even mention that Letters From Iwo Jima was about the Japanese side of the story. Where are African Americans going to fit in there? Seriously, this had to cross Lee’s mind when he made that vacuous comment, right?

Eastwood continued his defence by referring to his upcoming film Changeling. A smash hit at Cannes, the film will star Angelina Jolie and is set to be released on Nov. 7. The film is set in 1920s Los Angeles, a time when there wasn’t a high population of African Americans.

“What are you going to do, you going to tell a fuckin’ story about that? Make it look like a commerical for an equal opportunity player? I’m not in that game. I’m playing it the way I read it historically, and that’s the way it is. When I do a movie and it’s 90 percent black, like Bird, then I use 90 percent black people.”

Eastwood has a well documented reputation of openingly defending against comments made towards his movies. This little dispute between himself and Mr. Lee even has a history. It goes way back into the 1980s.

“He was complaing when I did Bird (the 1988 biopic of Charlie Parker). Why would a white guy be doing that? I was the only guy who made it, that’s why. He could have gone ahead and made it. Instead he was making something else.”

And now I’ll close this article with a little hint of hiliarious irony. Eastwood’s next film is called The Human Factor, about Nelson Mandela’s attempts to foster national unity in post-apartheid South Africa.

When asked if he was going to remain historically accurate, Eastwood said “I’m not going to make Nelson Mandela a white guy.”

In response, Spike Lee told MTV today that he would be taking the “Barack Obama high road” and that “it’s not a feud.”

Contributing Sources: The Guardian, MTV Movies Blog

Sound Off: What is your reaction to the comments made by Eastwood and Lee?

Nate Deen is a 20-year old aspiring film critic/essayist from Pensacola, Fla. He just graduated with an AA degree in journalism from Pensacola Junior College. He will be attending the University of Florida soon to continue his studies in journalism and film. His goal is to either pursue a writing career in entertainment, sports or perhaps both, but his dream is to write and direct his own movies. Recently, he's been devouring classic films, American and foreign. His favorite directors include Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Alfred Hitchcock. If he had to make a top 10 list of the greatest films of all time, they would be: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather I and II, Vertigo, The Third Man, Schindler's List, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Raging Bull, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and City Lights. He runs his own movie review website, www.cinemaitis.com.

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