Clint Eastwood, stirring up Oscar buzz yet again with ''Million Dollar Baby,'' reflects on his 50-year career, from young scrapper to Hollywood champ

By Chris Nashawaty
January 20, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST
Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood Photography by Jeff Riedel
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Clint Eastwood almost never got the chance to make Million Dollar Baby. When he took Paul Haggis’ script (about a grizzled trainer taking on a female boxer, played by Hilary Swank) to Warner Bros., the studio that’s been his production company’s home for years, he was given a lukewarm reception. ”Warners wasn’t sure about a boxing movie because I guess they don’t do so well these days,” says Eastwood, signaling his disbelief by squinting his signature Rushmore squint. ”But I said, ‘This isn’t a boxing movie, in my mind. It’s a movie about a lot of other things. It’s a love story and it’s about hopes and dreams. It just takes place in the world of boxing.”’ The studio relented when he told them that if they weren’t going to pony up, he was going elsewhere. But, he adds, ”they might have been a little more interested if I said I wanted to do Dirty Harry 9 or something.” For the record, Eastwood is making his next film, Flags of Our Fathers, at DreamWorks.

It has to be more than a little sweet, then, that Eastwood’s folly is now the studio’s best shot at statuettes this year. Not that Eastwood’s the sort of guy to take pleasure in that kind of told-you-so vindication. No, what seems to please him more than anything these days is the feeling that after more than 50 movies, he’s just now hitting his groove. ”People seem to be surprised by that,” he says, laughing. ”The other night, an extremely well-known director, the most well-known director, said to me, ‘You’re offering great hope for all of us coming up behind you because you’re doing your best work now in your 70s.” In case you were wondering, yes, it was Steven Spielberg.

We sat down with Eastwood to talk about some of those 50-odd films. The good, the bad, and even the ones with the orangutan. Here’s what he had to say…

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  • PG-13
  • 132 minutes
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