It was Mitt Romney’s night, Clint Eastwood stole the show, and InvisibleObama is now a Twitter sensation. But it was the Empty Chair that made it all possible. Entertainment Weekly sat down
on with the chair of the moment to discuss how it all came together.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you get the call that you would be performing with Clint Eastwood?
EMPTY CHAIR: Not until the last minute, but I’ve known Clint for years. We did some work together in the 70s — he broke me over a few guys’ backs in the Philo Beddoe movies. When I retired to Florida a few years back, we kept in touch. Then he called and said he was coming to the RNC, and this just seemed like a perfect opportunity to do something again.
What’s it like working opposite Clint?
Well, a lot of directors like to make a big show of themselves, but Clint is so gentle and calm. He doesn’t even bother saying, “Action.” Just, you know, “When you’re ready…”
So there was a rehearsal? Clint seemed to be ad-libbing.
Everything he did and said was exactly as we rehearsed it. Well, except for when I cracked up after his Biden joke… [Laughs] A grin with a body behind it!
So you share Clint’s conservative leanings?
Oh sure. In fact, he’s moderate. I’m Birch to the core.
Forgive me, but you seemed a little nervous. Was this the biggest crowd you’ve ever performed in front of?
Nervous? I never moved. Not once! Do you have any idea what discipline that took? When I started with Lee Strasburg at the Actors Studio in 1953, I would just sit in that studio for days on end. Weeks. Never flinching. Last night was a piece of cake.
At any point during rehearsal, were you tempted to maybe say, “Hey, Clint, I think it would be funny if I have a line”?
No, no. Did Norm’s Bar Stool ever say a word on Cheers? Never! And look at him… a legend! You should see his spread on Jupiter Island. You might say he’s the Daniel Day-Lewis of chairs, but we say that Day-Lewis is the Norm’s Bar Stool of actors.
What about the whole Invisible Obama thing–?
Acting! You thought he was there, right?
When you’re a chair actor, you have to believe that someone is sitting on you — even when there’s not. I can tell you, without ever having met President Obama, exactly what it would feel like to have him sit on me. I’ve studied his weight distribution and his slouch, everything.
So what did he feel like?
Bony. But graceful. Not a lot of shifting.
You mentioned you know Clint from his Every Which Way movies. Do you prefer those more-active roles?
At one time, maybe. But I can’t do that anymore. I’m too old for that stuff. I was in everything for awhile: Westerns, soaps, Mel Brooks movies. But nothing lasts forever, you know? I took a role in Shawshank Redemption, tried to stretch my range, playing a table. You know, the wooden table that Brooks Hatlen uses to hang himself? Well, it takes James Whitmore — who I’d known since Alcoa Theatre — 46 takes to hang himself. Each time, he rocks, I rock, and then — boom — I hit the floor. I never recovered from that physically.
Well, you look great. Truthfully.
Thank you, thank you. I try, you know?
Did last night make you miss the spotlight just a little?
Nah, I had my run.
So you’re not resentful that Invisible Obama is getting all the publicity?
What are you talking about?
Someone started an imaginary Twitter account and it already has about 50,000 followers.
A Tweedy account?
Twitter. It’s a social-networking service.
You know I’m a chair, right?