Clint Eastwood Sits Down With Bill O'Reilly

This partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Feb. 25, 2005, has been edited for clarity.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: "Personal Story" segment tonight, actor Clint Eastwood, a movie legend who has now appeared in 67 films, directed 27 others. Mr. Eastwood is nominated for Best Actor, Best Director, his movie "Million Dollar Baby" is up for Best Picture. He may be out in the lobby giving people pictures of himself. He's up for everything, this guy. He joins us now, Clint Eastwood.

I appreciate you being a stand-up guy, coming on. And I know how busy you are.

"Million Dollar Baby" I liked. We had a debate on this program a couple of weeks ago. And I told the audience I liked it a lot. But I want to know what message you wanted to get across in the film.

CLINT EASTWOOD, FILMMAKER: Well, when you first approach it, a story by F.X. Toole, it was a boxing story — he did a series of boxing stories, but this one actually was a love story. And boxing — it's in and around boxing. So all of his stories are that way. And they're usually an adventure beneath that, but this was a father-daughter love story. And it was a father — a man finding the daughter he never had the relationship with. And she, the father that she missed dearly.

O'REILLY: So it was a surrogate father attached to a young woman who is striving. So to you, it was a more relationship film. That was a primary focus of the film.

EASTWOOD: Exactly.

O'REILLY: And then it gets blown up into an issue film, the euthanasia. Did that surprise you?

EASTWOOD: Well, I don't — it could be blown up, but I didn't see what the blow-up is. It's — it wasn't that — it isn't a message for anything. But nowadays — in the old days, it was everybody was talking about the knee- jerk liberals. Now we have sort of the knee-jerk conservative group that has — tries to politicize everything. But it wasn't a political film. It's merely a relationship film, adventure. It doesn't make a statement for or against anything. It just happens to be the way the story comes out.

O'REILLY: Well, you also did it fair and balanced. I mean, you had the priest in a key part of the film, advising against this in a very, very articulate way. That's what — I said, look, he presented both sides of it. And that's all you can do for the audience. You weren't trying to brainwash anybody in my estimation.

EASTWOOD: No, actually, the priest is right. When he says it, he says to him, he says, you do this thing, you'll be lost somewhere deep within, inside you forever. And he's absolutely right.

O'REILLY: Well, I enjoyed the movie on a number of different levels. It's entertaining and it's also a smart film. But it's interesting, your last three films that you have gotten a lot of attention for, "Unforgiven," "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby" now, have all been kind of dark, you know? They haven't been what Hollywood wants, happy ending, dancing around, this is fun, films.

Now are you a dark guy? Are you giving us the dark Clint Eastwood view here?

EASTWOOD: No, no. Sometimes the story is that way. Sometimes the dramas end up that way. It's...

O'REILLY: Are you attracted to that kind of material, with a lot of edge?

EASTWOOD: Well, I like a drama. And I like — I think that's the basis of good films, or good plays, is to have a nice drama. And sometimes you have to have some sort of dark conflict either within yourself or against other people.

O'REILLY: But I suspect, and I could be wrong, that you find that fascinating, that you're fascinated by that.

EASTWOOD: Well, you suspect right.

O'REILLY: Because I've — "Play Misty for Me" was your first movie that you directed, and that was dark. You know, you're looking into people's psyches and trying to figure it out.

EASTWOOD: Exactly.

O'REILLY: Am I brilliant or what?


EASTWOOD: You're just a very perceptive person, that's all.


O'REILLY: Yes, I know, I know.

When we come back — we're going to take a break. I want to get to your big career, and you raise an interesting point: The critics back in the "Dirty Harry" days said you were fascist. You know? They were yelling at you, screaming at you for ruining society. And now the conservatives are yelling at you. So you're like...

EASTWOOD: Well, I don't think there's that many people yelling. I think there's one or two. But what happens is everybody magnifies the one or two. But the majority of critics have been very kind to this film...

O'REILLY: They like you now, the critics.

EASTWOOD: So I just — well, maybe they like — at least they like this project...

O'REILLY: No, they like you. They love you here. But it used to be, 30 years ago, you were gunning people down, they didn't like you.

EASTWOOD: Well, I was younger and prettier then. It's easier to hate a guy like that.


O'REILLY: I just think it's fascinating that you come from the Sergio Leone westerns to Dirty Harrys and now you're John Huston, a guy you admire, that's who you are.

EASTWOOD: Well, that's what happens when you get time and grayed. You put a few miles on the trail.

O'REILLY: All right. Well, we'll take a break. We'll come back and we'll talk with Mr. Eastwood about his career and about his chances on Sunday night to win Best Picture of the year.

And then later, why did actor Lee Majors move his kids out of Los Angeles? He'll be here to tell us as "The Factor" continues all across the USA and all around the world.


O'REILLY: All right. Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly. Continuing now with Clint Eastwood, who's nominated as Best Actor, Best Director. His film "Million Dollar Baby" maybe the Best Picture and here he is.

When I was a little kid I used to watch you in "Rawhide." Rowdy Yates. You know?

EASTWOOD: You're way too young to remember that.

O'REILLY: And — no, I was there watching that, and when you think back about it, from going from "Rawhide" to the top of your profession and staying there for 40 years, what is the main attribute that you have that has made you successful?

EASTWOOD: Well, many things. Just a lot of perseverance, much like the character in this current film. You have to be persevering. But you also have to be lucky. And I've been very lucky. I've taken advantage of a few breaks that came along and moved along with them. But I don't like to say — be frivolous and say that everything is just luck off the top of your head. Hard work is certainly important, but you've got to have — you've got to be able to take advantage of a few breaks.

O'REILLY: And you don't live in Hollywood. You're not a Hollywood guy. Why? You're almost like an outsider. You've always been an outsider.

EASTWOOD: Well, I live in Northern California. I was born and raised up there. And so I like it there. And I don't dislike it here in Los Angeles, but I just like it there.

O'REILLY: But you're not a Hollywood kind of guy. You know what I'm talking about here? Yeah, I can't see you calling anybody "babe," I just can't see that.

EASTWOOD: Not always, babe.


O'REILLY: You know what I'm talking about.


O'REILLY: You come across as a regular guy. It's why folks like you. You come across as like a guy who could be living in Alabama.

EASTWOOD: Maybe I'd draw the line there — no, there's nothing wrong with Alabama. But I like Monterey peninsula. I was there in the Army. I felt it was a terrific place. I figured if I ever had a buck, I'd come back there. And that's the way it happened.

O'REILLY: You have an elderly mother, right, she's still alive.

EASTWOOD: Ninety-six, yes.

O'REILLY: Does she believe what's happened to you?

EASTWOOD: She's coming with me on Sunday.

O'REILLY: She's coming to the Academy Awards?

EASTWOOD: On Sunday, yes.

O'REILLY: Do you ever talk to her about your success?

EASTWOOD: No, not really. I mean, she once in a while will say she's happy with something, this or that, if she likes a project. Some of the earlier pictures of mine she didn't care for as much because the action — she's not that action-oriented crowd, but "Million Dollar Baby" and "Mystic River" and some of those, she liked the storytelling.

O'REILLY: Do you get embarrassed by all the attention and accolades and adulation, does that embarrass you?

EASTWOOD: Yes, a little bit. But the main thing is I'm in for a penny, in for a pound. You're trying to make — I've been in the picture business for over 50 years. You might as well just go with it. And you're not making the picture to have anybody not recognize it. So why complain?

O'REILLY: When you're one of the most recognizable people in the world, people will always want to say stuff to you. Is that tough to deal with people coming up to you all the time?

EASTWOOD: Well, sometimes. But sometimes people come up and you can have a really nice conversation, if they're nice. Other times it's how you feel. You hear the same question over and over again, how do you feel about what? I don't know, I feel fine. I guess maybe when you get past 70, other people start asking you how you feel.

O'REILLY: You are, you're 75. You're going to be 75, right?

EASTWOOD: Seventy-four right now.

O'REILLY: You're in good shape. You lift weights or something?

EASTWOOD: I feel (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Yes, I work out every day and stay with the program. You've got to — you get habits from — as a young man. You just have to stay with them.

O'REILLY: How about eating. Do you eat special?

EASTWOOD: Just be careful. Just try not to ingest a lot of fats and just try to eat carefully.

O'REILLY: You have an 8-year-old daughter, too.



EASTWOOD: And you eat careful and have a relatively modest lifestyle, you can hang around and watch them grow up.

O'REILLY: No indulgence?

EASTWOOD: Nothing I'd like to talk about.


O'REILLY: OK. When you were over in Spain making those Leone westerns, which, I love those things, you know, Lee Van Cleef, Tuco, Eli Wallach, love those things. Did you ever have any idea on how your career was going to evolve? Did you have a vision going from point A to B?

EASTWOOD: You know, you just have a vision of what you'd like — what you try to do. After doing the three westerns with Leone, of which I enjoyed very much, but after "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" I felt that it was time to get out of there. It was time for me to move on and try some other things. So I came back and tried to do some stories that had a little bit different subject matter.

Otherwise I could have been just doing one genre the rest of my life. And I don't think I'd be acting or directing films if I stuck with the one genre.

O'REILLY: You did the western thing, very successful, segued into the detective thing, Harry Callahan, and then you took the heat from Pauline Kael and these people who thought you were a fascist dog, a conservative, a terrible person.

EASTWOOD: Well, you know, everybody has their opinion, and they're welcome to it. I just happen — if you can convince somebody that you are the renegade that you're supposed to be playing, then that's complimentary in some fashion.

O'REILLY: But you never had trouble with the Dirty Harry movies with the level of violence or the vigilantism of some of them?

EASTWOOD: Well, no, the vigilantism, I'm just appealing to — we were just telling what we thought was an exciting detective story, Don Siegel and myself. He wasn't a right-winger, that's for sure. And neither was I.

O'REILLY: Just wanted to make movies that were fun.

EASTWOOD: That's it, just moviemaking.

O'REILLY: Now your next project is "Flags for (sic) Our Fathers," a World War II...

EASTWOOD: "Flags of Our Fathers," yes.

O'REILLY: And you're doing Spielberg, right?

EASTWOOD: I'm directing it for Spielberg's company...


EASTWOOD: ... he'll produce it.

O'REILLY: That's going to be a huge project for you. Where are you going to shoot it?

EASTWOOD: You know, right now, I'm in the feasibility studies phase. So what I'm doing is finding out where and how to do it. It is going to be a little bit complicated.

O'REILLY: Right, it's now like "Million Dollar Baby," which is small...

EASTWOOD: All here in Los Angeles and a very small thing. No, this one goes back and forth between 1945 and 1996. And it's going to be — it's a period — anytime you're dealing with a period picture, it's complicated.

O'REILLY: Well, I admire you very much. I've said this to the audience before. I've followed your career from the very beginning. And you're a self-made guy. No uncle in business. You don't kiss anybody's butt. You were a pool digger. "Revenge of the Creature," was that the first movie you were in?


O'REILLY: Some creature was chasing you.

EASTWOOD: As a matter of fact, it was.


EASTWOOD: As a matter of fact, it was.

O'REILLY: And you made it on your own terms.

EASTWOOD: Well, you know, you've got to just keep grinding. It's a tough business to get into, and you don't get into it if you don't love it.

O'REILLY: Right. Well, you've done very well. And I do believe you will prevail in the Best Picture on Sunday.

EASTWOOD: Well, I hope you're right. But in the meantime...

O'REILLY: When am I wrong, Mr. Eastwood?

EASTWOOD: You're never wrong, I know.

O'REILLY: Yes, I'm never wrong.

EASTWOOD: I'm just going to go there and be there with my 96-year-old mother and my lovely wife, and that's going to be it.

O'REILLY: Good for you. And we really appreciate you taking the time to come in and talk to us.

EASTWOOD: Thank you, Bill. A pleasure being here.

O'REILLY: You're always welcome. Thank you.

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