BY GENE TRIPLETT
LOS ANGELES — “Am I aging?” Clint Eastwood asked with mock surprise.
Those were the first words out of the 82-year-old Hollywood legend’s mouth in response to the opening question at last weekend’s news conference at the Four
Seasons Hotel, promoting his new movie, “Trouble with the Curve.”
In the film, Eastwood plays a veteran baseball scout who’s losing a vital tool of his trade — his eyesight. So a reporter had asked the star to weigh the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of getting older.
“The pros and the cons? Well, you know a lot more, at least until the time you start forgetting it all. Actually aging can be a fun process to some degree. But ask me a year or so from now and I’ll try to give you the same answer.”
One event in his life the press won’t soon allow him to forget is the night he spoke to an empty chair and an imaginary President Barack Obama at the Republican National Convention, where he was appearing in support of Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy. Eastwood himself has joked that Democrats who were watching thought he was going senile, while “Republicans knew I was.”
A reporter asked Eastwood how he felt about the experience in retrospect.
“Well it didn’t get the response that I wanted because I was hopin’ they’d nominate me,” he said, flashing a wry, thin-lipped smile that gathered crinkles around his eyes. “My ambitions were tremendous.”
Then, a little more seriously: “I don’t know what the response was. My only message was that I just wanted people to take the idolizing factor out of every contestant out there and just look at the work and look at the background and then make a judgment on that. I was just trying to say that and I did it in kind of a roundabout way which took up a lot more time, I suppose, than they would’ve liked.”
Eastwood has played the politician himself in his time, serving as mayor of his hometown, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., for one term, and as an appointee on the California Parks
and Recreation Commission. A self-described Libertarian, he has supported causes and candidates on both sides of the political fence.
But he’s dedicated most of his long life to filmmaking — on both sides of the camera — as actor, director, producer and even musical composer.
“Trouble with the Curve” marks the first time Eastwood has not directed himself since the 1993 Secret Service thriller “In the Line of Fire.”
For this film, which centers around Eastwood’s ailing Atlanta Braves baseball scout Gus, and Gus’ distant, troubled relationship with his adult daughter Mickey, played by Amy Adams (“Doubt,” “The Fighter”), Eastwood chose his longtime producing partner Robert Lorenz to direct.
“Well it’s gotten horrible,” Eastwood joked about his new working relationship with Lorenz. “I had to listen to everything he said. Actually he did a terrific job, I thought. Rob’s been making noises about wanting to direct for some years. And when this property came along it was what I wanted to do.
“After ‘Gran Torino’ I kinda thought this is kinda stupid to be doin’ both jobs,” he said, his familiar rasp becoming rougher as he continued to talk. “I’ve only been doing it for 40 some years, and I thought maybe I should just do one or the other and allow myself a little bit of a comfort zone. And so this was an opportunity for that and (Lorenz) stepped right in and just took over and I didn’t have to do anything except watch Amy throw the ball.”
The film also stars Justin Timberlake as a prematurely washed-up pitcher who’s now trying his hand at scouting, John Goodman as the Atlanta Braves’ chief of scouts, and Matthew Lillard as a young, ambitious, numbers-crunching member of the organization who wants to edge out old guys who don’t believe in computerized scouting.
Eastwood said it wasn’t hard to get used to acting under someone else’s direction again.
“I had to make no adjustments at all because I’ve always maintained that there’s more than one way of doing things,” he said. “A lot of people come up with ideas and maybe out of a dozen of them, three or four of them are really great. So I just put it in my mind that somebody else is gonna pilot the ship. That’s all.
“And it’s actually quite relaxing because I just can sit back and when these fellas were all working I was practicing putting or something, I don’t know. It was a great relaxing thing and I probably won’t do both again, at least for the moment.
“But I said I wasn’t going to act again a few years ago, and that changed, too. So, you know, sometimes you just … Sometimes you just lie a lot.”
Travel and accommodations provided by Warner Bros.