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GO AHEAD, MAKE HIM PLAY

CLINT EASTWOOD, JAZZ PIANIST

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Long before they ever pulled a trigger, the fingers of Clint Eastwood were engaged in something equally delicate-tickling the keys of a piano. Now he’s playing music on screen for the first time. In the new In the Line of Fire, Eastwood portrays a tough, dedicated Secret Service agent with a penchant for performing: In a couple of barroom scenes, he gently cruises his way through ”Willow Weep for Me” and ”These Foolish Things,” then offers a tongue-in- cheek up-tempo version of ”As Time Goes By.” The jazz-loving character is almost Method-acting-close to the offscreen Eastwood. The actor-director, 63, notes several similarities: ”In a conversation with Rene Russo, who plays Agent Lilly Raines, she asks me what demographics I represent, and I tell her, ‘White, piano-playing, heterosexual male over the age of 50.’ I can relate to that. There’s another scene in which I’m accused of not spending money on anything but jazz records. And in a scene in my apartment, we show the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue and you hear ‘All Blues’ from that album.” The self-taught Eastwood, whose first instrument was the flugelhorn-”which wasn’t considered too hip in those days,” he says-soon switched to piano, focusing on ragtime and blues. ”By the time I was in my mid-teens I had picked up enough knowledge so they let me play piano at the Omar Club in Oakland, where the laws were very loose and I was allowed to work for meals and tips.” Even now, the actor is never far from a keyboard: He keeps one at home, one at the office, and a portable model for use on location. Though his lifelong interest in jazz would later lead him to direct the 1988 Charlie Parker biopic Bird and executive-produce the 1988 documentary Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser, Eastwood kept his own musical performances out of the movies until 1984’s City Heat. For that adventure- comedy team-up with Burt Reynolds, Eastwood played boogie-woogie blues alongside Hollywood jazzmen Mike Lang and Pete Jolly on the soundtrack-without credit. Finally, the secret is out. Hey, Clint, play ”Misty” for us.

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