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Friday, October 01, 2010

Clint Eastwood Cover Gallery: 1990s

In 1990 Eastwood starred as a character closely based on the legendary film-maker John Huston in White Hunter Black Heart, an adaptation of Peter Viertel's roman à clef about the making of the classic The African Queen. The film was shot on location in Zimbabwe in the summer of 1989, although some interiors were shot in and around Pinewood Studios in England. The small steamboat they used in the whitewater scene is the same boat Humphrey Bogart's character captained in The African Queen (1951). The film was closely based on the novel, although the ending was changed to the killing of an elephant, even though in Huston's memoirs An Open Book (1980) he had claimed to never have killed an elephant in his life and believed it was "a sin". It received some critical attention but only had a limited release, earning just $8.4 million.

White Hunter, Black Heart by Peter Viertel (New York, Doubleday, 1953; London, Allen, 1954)
Panther Books 1146, 1960, 284pp, 5/-.
Penguin 0140-13044-6, (Aug) 1990, 432pp. [FC: Clint Eastwood]

Later in 1990, Eastwood directed and co-starred with Charlie Sheen in The Rookie, a buddy cop action film. Raúl Juliá and Sônia Braga play German villains engaged in an illegal luxury car theft operation. The film, shot in San Jose, California, features an unconventional female-on-male rape scene. Critics were unconvinced with the macho jiving between Eastwood and Sheen and improbable scenario, and believed that many of the actors were miscast. Vincent Canby of the New York Times described the film as "astonishingly empty" whilst Glenn Lovell of the San Jose Mercury News  strongly criticised what he called "blatant racial stereotyping", from the Hispanic car thieves, the Puerto Rican with a comic German accent to his Brazilian sex kitten bodyguard. Released in December of that year, the film was a commercial success and earned a reasonable $43 million at the box office in the United States. 1991 was only the third year in 20 years of Eastwood's career where one of his films didn't appear in the cinemas. The reason for this was an ongoing law suit filed by Stacy McLaughlin, whose car Eastwood had rammed out of his parking space in the Malpaso parking lot. In the end Eastwood was victorious but agreed to pay McLaughlin's court fees if she agreed not to appeal.

The Rookie by Tom Philbin (New York, Warner 36113-5, 1991)
* Warner edition distributed in UK?

Eastwood rose to prominence yet again in the early 1990s, rising above the lull in his career he had been experiencing for years, proving another benchmark in his career. In 1992, he revisited the western genre in the self-directed film, Unforgiven, taking on the role of an aging ex-gunfighter long past his prime. The film was written by David Webb Peoples, who had written the Oscar nominated film The Day After Trinity and also co-wrote Blade Runner. The idea for the film dated as far back as 1976 and originally went under the titles The Cut-Whore Killings and for a much longer period during the 1980s ran under the title, The William Munny Killings.  The project was delayed, partly because Eastwood wanted to wait until he was old enough to play his character and to savor it as the last of his western films. The film, also starring such esteemed actors as Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris and then girlfriend Frances Fisher, laid the groundwork for such later westerns as Deadwood  by re-envisioning established genre conventions in a more ambiguous and unromantic light. Much of the cinematography for the film was shot in Alberta, Canada from August 1991 by director of photography Jack Green. Production designer, Henry Bumstead, who had worked with Eastwood on High Plains Drifter, was hired to recreated the "drained, wintry look" of the Western.

Unforgiven was a great success both in terms of box office and critical acclaim. Unforgiven earned between $13 and $14 million in ticket sales in its opening weekend, becoming the best-ever opening for a Clint film. It eventually earned $160 million in ticket sales in the United States alone. The critical reaction to the film was very positive. Jack Methews of the Los Angeles Times described the film as "The finest classical Western to come along since perhaps John Ford's 1956 The Searchers." Hailed by many critics as one of the best films of 1992, Richard Corliss in Time wrote that the film was "Eastwood's meditation on age, repute, courage, heroism--on all those burdens he has been carrying with such grace for decades". The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Eastwood and Best Original Screenplay for David Webb Peoples. It won four, including Best Picture and Best Director for Eastwood. Eastwood also garnered the Best Director Award from the National Society of Film Critics. As of 2010, Unforgiven is the last western film that Eastwood has made.

No novel or novelisation.

In 1993, Eastwood played Frank Horrigan, a guilt-ridden Secret Service agent in the thriller In the Line of Fire, co-starring John Malkovich and Rene Russo and directed by Wolfgang Petersen. As of 2009, it is his last acting role in a film he did not direct himself. This film was a blockbuster and among the top 10 box-office performers in that year, earning a reported $200 million in the United States alone.

In the Line of Fire by Max Allan Collins (New York, Jove, 1993)
HarperCollins 0006-47856-5, (Aug) 1993, 320pp.

Later in 1993, Eastwood directed and co-starred with Kevin Costner in A Perfect World. Set in the 1960s, similar to Lonely Are the Brave, it relates the story of a doomed character pursued by the state police using modern transportation and communication. It grossed $31 million in box office receipts in the United States with overseas gross over $100 million, making it a financial success. The film received largely positive reviews, although some critics believed that the film at 138 minutes was too long. Janet Maslin of the New York Times  believed the film was the highest point of Eastwood's directing career to date and remarked that "it gives real meaning to the subject of men's legacies to their children". It has an 85% score on Rotten Tomatoes. In the years since its release, the film has been acclaimed by critics as one of Eastwood's most underrated directorial achievements. Cahiers du cinéma selected A Perfect World as the best film of 1993.

A Perfect World by Dewey Gram (New York, Signet, 1993)
Signet 0451-18179-4, 1993, 218pp, £4.99. [FC: Kevin Costner]
Butch Haynes was a hardened convict serving forty years for armed robbery. Now he's broken out of prison and taken a sheltered, lonely eight-year-old boy hostage as he heads across Texas to Mexico. Though frightened, young Philip Perry finds something unexpected in his captor--something that seems a lot like compassion.
__Red Garnett is a wily Texas Ranger leading the manhunt for Butch Haynes. Racing against time to apprehend the convict and his hostage, Garnett is haunted by his memory of Haynes as a boy, and a grievous error Garnett committed. His life is further complicated by an aggressive young female criminologist who insists on using science to solve a problem created entirely by man.
__Nothing about this situation is simple, and no solution will be completely right. But each person travelling under the hot Texas sun is taking his chances, knowing this can never be ... a perfect world.
In May 1994, Eastwood attended the 1994 Cannes Film Festival and was presented with France's medal of the Comandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Jeanne Moreau  commented, "Its remarkable that a man so important in European cinema has found the time to come here and spend twelve days watching movies with us". On the jury at Cannes that year were also two people very familiar to Eastwood, Catherine Deneuve (with whom he had an affair with back in the mid 1960s) and Lalo Schifrin who had composed most of the jazz tracks to his Dirty Harry films.

Eastwood continued to expand his repertoire by playing opposite Meryl Streep in the love story The Bridges of Madison County (1995). Based on a best-selling novel by Robert James Waller, it relates the story of Robert Kincaid (Eastwood), a photographer working for the National Geographic who has a love affair with a middle-aged Italian farm wife in Iowa named Francesca (Streep). Eastwood and Streep got along famously during production and such was their on-screen chemistry that a number of people believed that the two were having an affair off-camera, although this has been denied by both. The film was also a hit at the box-office and grossed $70 million in the United States. The film, unlike the novel, surprised film critics and was warmly received. Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote that Clint had managed to create "a moving, elegiac love story at the heart of Mr. Waller's self-congratulatory overkill", whilst Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal described The Bridges of Madison County as "one of the most pleasurable films in recent memory".

The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller (US; as Love in Black and White, London, Sinclair-Stevenson, 1992)
Mandarin 0749-31578-0, 1993, xii+171pp.
Mandarin 0749-32034-6, (Aug) 1995, 224pp.[FC: Clint Eastwood]

Eastwood directed and starred in the well-received political thriller Absolute Power. The film's ensemble cast featured Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Scott Glenn, Dennis Haysbert, Judy Davis, and E. G. Marshall. Eastwood played a veteran thief who witnesses the Secret Service cover up a murder the President was responsible for.

Absolute Power by David Baldacci (London, Simon & Schuster, 1996)
Pocket Books 0671-85503-4, (Apr) 1997, 469pp.
Pan 0330-41964-1, 2003.

Eastwood directed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which starred John Cusack, Kevin Spacey and Jude Law, based on the novel by John Berendt. Several changes were made from the book. Many of the more colorful characters were eliminated or made into composite characters. The reporter, played by John Cusack, was based upon Berendt, but was given a love interest not featured in the book, played by Eastwood's daughter, Alison Eastwood. The multiple Williams trials were combined into one on-screen trial. Jim Williams's real life attorney Sonny Seiler  appeared in the movie in the role of Judge White, the presiding judge at the trial. Advertising for the film became a source of controversy when Warner Bros. used elements of Jack Leigh's famous photograph in its movie posters without his permission. The film received a mixed response from critics and has a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times  wrote, "I enjoyed the movie at a certain level simply as illustration: I was curious to see the Lady Chablis, and the famous old Mercer House where the murders took place, and the Spanish moss. But the movie never reaches takeoff speed; its energy was dissipated by being filtered through the deadpan character of Kelso."

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (New York, Random House, 1984)
Vintage 0099-52101-6, (Jun) 1995.
Vintage 0099-27685-2, (Apr) 1998.

In 1999, Eastwood directed True Crime. Clint Eastwood plays Steve Everett, a journalist recovering from alcoholism, given the task of covering the execution of murderer Frank Beechum (played by Isaiah Washington). Everett discovers that Beechum might be innocent, but has only a few hours to prove his theory and save Beechum's life. The film was a large box-office bomb domestically, easily becoming his worst performing film of the 1990s. It had an opening weekend gross of $5,276,109 in the US and grossed $16,649,768 total in the US, out of a budget of $55 million. It received mixed reactions from critics, with a score of 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. James Berardinelli wrote, "True Crime has the potential to be a truly memorable film, and, for more than three-quarters of its running time, it is poised to live up to that potential. But then there are the final twenty minutes, which proffer the almost-painful experience of watching compelling drama devolve into mindless action. True Crime's denouement is perplexing and exasperating, because, aside from generating some artificial tension, it contributes nothing to the story as a whole, and, consequently, serves only to cheapen it."

True Crime by Andrew Klavan (US; London, Little, Brown, 1995)
Warner 0751-51682-1, (May) 1996, 448pp.
Warner 0751-51827-1, (May) 1999, 439pp.

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