ESQUIRE – A mess of gnawed-open peanut shells litters the stoop of one of the Spanish-style bungalows on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California. Since 1975, this bungalow, in the shadow of the massive Soundstage 3, has been the home of Clint Eastwood’s production company, and when Eastwood and I walk up to the front door, we both notice the shells, bleaching in the hard-white late-afternoon sun.
“Those yours?” I ask him.
“Kind of,” Eastwood tells me. “There’s a squirrel around here. I like to put peanuts out for him. He’s a nice guy. He comes right into the office sometimes. The other day, I opened the door and he was clinging on to it.”
Eastwood is eighty-six now. But if you think he’s devolved into that old man on your block who walks around talking to squirrels, you’re dead wrong. Eastwood does not stop. Never has. Twenty years after most guys would be in full-on coast mode, Eastwood is still vital and vibrant, still pushing himself creatively. The guy is an inspiration, a reminder that we should always be evolving.
Most days you’ll find Eastwood here, at his office, doing what he likes to do, what gives his life meaning: work. Or, more accurately, creating. Over the past few weeks, he has been holed up in one of the editing bays here, his six-foot-three frame splayed out in an old brown Barcalounger, working with his editor to finish Sully, the thirty-fifth film he’s directed in a career that stretches back to 1955. Sully, which stars Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley Burnett Sullenberger, the pilot who landed his disabled plane in the Hudson River in 2009, is like many of Eastwood’s films of late—the story of a man who takes action and does what is right but suffers consequences at the hands of second-guessers.
Sully shares a September release date with another film about a man who stands up for what he believes is right: Snowden. Directed by Oliver Stone, it tells the story of Edward Snowden and features Eastwood’s son Scott as Snowden’s superior at the NSA. It is the biggest role to date for the thirty-year-old. And let’s be clear: It’s not easy being Clint’s son, let alone taking up the family business. And then there’s their fifty-six-year age difference. For much of his childhood, Scott lived with his mother, Jacelyn Reeves, in Hawaii (Clint fathered him out of wedlock), and the two men didn’t spend any real time together until Scott moved to California to live with his father during high school. In the past few years, however, they have grown closer, especially after Clint cast Scott in a small part in Invictus. A few minutes after Clint and I sit down in the study of his wood-paneled office, underneath an old French-language movie poster for All Quiet on the Western Front, Scott arrives.
ESQ: Your movies have similar themes. Sully stands up for his principles against people who want to take him down. And Snowden stands up for an entirely different set of principles. Both films arrive at a time when we are looking for individuals with integrity.
Clint Eastwood: Well, we have a great lack of it now. It’s a madhouse out there. You wonder, what the hell? I mean, Sully should be running for president, not these people. Scott’s movie sounds fascinating. I want to see it because it’s about deserting your country … for whatever reasons you have. Snowden became famous for the wrong reasons, as Sully became famous for doing something spectacular.
Scott Eastwood: It’s an interesting time. My father’s definitely old-school. And he raised me with integrity—to be places on time, show up, and work hard.
ESQ: Scott, when you were growing up, you didn’t see a lot of your father, right?
SE: Yeah, I lived with my mom in Hawaii until I pissed her off. And then I came to live with my dad and pissed him off. [Laughs.]
ESQ: When you were a teenager and Clint was laying down the law, did you think, This guy scares the crap out of me?
SE: Oh, yeah, sure.
CE: He was a pretty good kid. Not much of a problem. His mother gave him a lot of values, because she’s a good person.