Clint Eastwood might be the most recognizable star in Hollywood history. He’s also an outspoken conservative, which can be career suicide in the film industry.
Eastwood’s fame and talent supersedes Hollywood bias, allowing him to be earnest in his political views.
Now Eastwood is talking about a dangerous trend he saw in the early ‘70s that has slowly festered over the decades.
Eastwood believes political correctness is damaging our culture.
You likely couldn’t make a movie like 1971’s “Dirty Harry” today. Clint Eastwood confirmed as much while visiting the Cannes Film Festival for a 25th anniversary screening of his Academy Award-winning 1992 masterpiece, “Unforgiven.”
“It was far-out at that time, so I brought it to [director] Don [Siegel] and he liked it,” Eastwood said from the Cannes stage about the original “Harry,” a film that spawned four sequels starring Eastwood.
“A lot of people thought it was politically incorrect. That was at the beginning of the era that we’re in now with political correctness. We are killing ourselves. We’ve lost our sense of humor. But I thought it was interesting, and it was daring.”
“Dirty Harry” tells the story of detective Harry Callahan, a determined man with an affinity for .44 Magnums and a growing frustration with bureaucracy. The film’s controversy was focused on its no-nonsense approach to criminality. Callahan was an unforgiving gunfighter, one with no interest in the motivations of criminals or the sob stories of those trying to kill him.
The film was a fantasy, essentially, an answer to the cultural movement in film and society to put the focus on the criminal rather than the victim. “Harry” launched a string of near-vigilante movies that swung the pendulum in the other direction, reminding the world of the victims of crimes and the people who hunt the same criminals we’d been rooting for on the silver screen for so long.
Of the controversy surrounding the film’s central character and view of crime, Eastwood told MTV back in 2008, “I was told when I first got the script that other actors had liked it but had reservations about the political elements of it. But even at that age, I was not afraid of it. To me, it was an exciting detective story. It was a fantasy. Here’s a guy who is so dogmatic that nothing is going to stop him when his mind is made up.”
Some critics, such as Pauline Kael, suggested the movie was fascist in its view of the world, a notion Eastwood has always rejected.
“I didn’t care less. Somebody else called it a fascist masterpiece. People are always calling people names, the great right-wing conspiracy or the great left-wing conspiracy. You make a movie, and if somebody reads something into it, then great, more power to him. [Director] Don Siegel and I were both very moderate politically. We didn’t think much of it. We just had a good time with it.”
If “Dirty Harry” were released today, Harry Callahan would undoubtedly be the villain of the film.
“Dirty Harry” co-writer John Milius, a staunch conservative, has a track record of creating unapologetic characters who are politically incorrect.
Milius hasn’t steadily worked in feature film since the early ‘90s.
However, as movie heroes become more and more watered down, perhaps the film industry could use a dose of John Milius.