Million Dollar Baby is a 2004 film directed, co-produced and scored by Clint Eastwood and starring Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman. It is the story of an under-appreciated boxing trainer, his elusive past, and his quest for atonement by helping an underdog amateur female boxer (the film's title character) achieve her dream of becoming a professional. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
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Million Dollar Baby 2004 DVD Widescreen Hilary Swank Clint Eastwood Morgan Freeman
Million Dollar Baby 2004 Great set of 10 Hi Res glossy 6 x 4 photos Golden Globes Hilary with Clint etc
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Entertainment Weekly interview Jan 2005
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
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...
In 1954, Eastwood signed on to become one of the last contract players at Universal. He received $75 a week and turned up in a handful of B movies like Tarantula. But that was only half of the attraction.
''It was a great deal for a young guy. You'd go there and they'd have a speech professor from UCLA and they'd have acting coaches and then you'd go out and ride horseback. My first role was in a picture called Revenge of the Creature. I played a lab assistant. It was a dumb scene, but they needed to fill time in the story. I did maybe 12 or 14 bits like that, and then they threw me out after about a year and a half. They were dropping the contract program. There was a year or two there that I didn't work as an actor at all. I dug swimming pools. But then I went out and did a couple of television shows. Most of us from that era — Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Burt Reynolds — we all ended up doing television series.''
Eastwood played Rowdy Yates on Rawhide from 1959 to 1966. He got paid $700 an episode (''pools of dough''). And in 1964, during the show's winter hiatus, he received a strange movie offer...
''The William Morris office said, 'We've got this screenplay we'd like you to look at. It's a picture in
Europe — an Italian/ Spanish/German co-production with European actors.' And I thought, I've been doing a Western all year long, I don't want to do that. But my agent asked me to read it, so I did. It was called El Magnifico Stragnero (The Magnificent Stranger), and I recognized right away it was a Yojimbo rip-off. But I thought it was clever. They didn't want to give me any dough. Just $15,000. I was married at the time, and I thought, I've never visited or Germany and this probably won't be seen more than 35 miles outside of Spain . So [my wife] said, 'What the hell, why don't you do it?' Rome
''I never thought it was going to be anything. Then there were some articles in the trades saying this movie A Fistful of Dollars was doing great business. I had no idea it was our picture [the Italian financiers had changed the film's name without informing Eastwood]. But then the phone started ringing and it was the Italian company saying 'Come on back [for a sequel], this thing is a real phenomenon!' I said, 'I'd like to see the film first.' So they sent it over and I rented a screening room and ran it for some friends and apologized before it started. And when it came on I said, 'Hey, this is pretty good!'''
Eastwood's ''Man With No Name'' spaghetti-Western trilogy (1964's A Fistful of Dollars, 1965's For a Few Dollars More, and 1966's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), directed by Sergio Leone, not only kick-started his movie career, but turned him into a cheroot-chomping international icon as well.
''I recently did some relooping for the reissue of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly — here I am looping a guy who's younger than my oldest son! I was in my 30s when I was doing those. But I think they hold up. I always liked the first one because it's the first, but I think the second one may be the most interesting. The third one definitely had the best production, but by then they were drifting toward extravagance.''
1968's Where Eagles Dare was a WWII action thriller best known for the unlikely pairing of Eastwood and Richard Burton.
''It wasn't a great script, but one thing I had never done was work with another major actor like Richard Burton. We lived totally different lifestyles. I showed up in Levi's and he showed up in a private jet with Elizabeth Taylor. They called and said, 'Come on up to the room, we have a bar!' It was splendid. It was an era of
that doesn't exist anymore. He was a great guy, a great storyteller, the kind of man's man you'd like to hang out with.'' Hollywood
1969's Paint Your Wagon will always be remembered — not necessarily fondly — as the movie where Eastwood and Lee Marvin break into song in the Old West.
''This one wasn't like Singin' in the Rain, where it had a cohesive plotline. They started out with a real dramatic story and then made it [fluffy]. When they changed it around, I tried to bail out. It wasn't my favorite. I wasn't particularly nervous about singing on film. My dad was a singer and we'd have sing-arounds. But certainly Sinatra wasn't worried.''
1971's Play Misty for Me wasn't just a first-rate thriller about a jazz DJ who's being stalked by a deranged lover; it also marked Eastwood's debut as a director.
''I went to the studio — Universal, under Lew Wasserman — and I told them they had a little property I wanted to direct. And he said okay. I thought, Boy, that's easy! Then my agent told me that they didn't want to pay me. I said, 'That's great. That's the way it should be. Why should they pay me when they're taking a chance? I should have to earn my way in.' My agent wasn't overly pleased with that idea. But they paid me a percentage, which ended up being better at the end of the day anyway.''
That same year, Eastwood starred in Dirty Harry. As the hair-trigger, make-my-day Det. Harry Callahan, Eastwood touched a cultural nerve. Moviegoers decided he was a star. But in a poisonous review in The New Yorker, Pauline Kael called the film ''fascist'' and ''deeply immoral''...
''Maybe in her mind it was deeply immoral, but it wasn't fascist. It was just another morality that she didn't agree with. This was just a picture taken from the point of view of sympathy for the victims of violent crimes, not the criminals. We just thought we were making a good detective story. We weren't thinking it was making a political statement. And when people started politicizing it, we were astounded. 'Can't you just sit back and enjoy the movie?' But that became kind of the fad with her in those days, and she became well-known for doing it. It didn't bother us.''
Perhaps the strangest role on Eastwood's résumé is Philo Beddoe in 1978's Every Which Way but Loose — a movie that paired Eastwood with an orangutan named
Clyde. The country & western comedy made a then-shocking $85 million in theaters and led to the inevitable 1980 sequel, Any Which Way You Can.
''They gave me the script and I thought, 'This is something. This is kinda crazy. But there's something kind of hip about it. This guy's out drifting along and his best friend is an orangutan.' I mean the scenes of talking to an orangutan about your troubles, I'd never seen anything quite like it. He has a romance that falls through, he doesn't get the girl, and then he goes off with the orangutan [laughs]. I thought, What could be better? I wouldn't put it in the time capsule of films you did that you thought were great, but everything's a challenge.''
1988's Bird, a biopic about troubled jazz musician Charlie Parker, was a labor of love for Eastwood. He won a Golden Globe for Best Director, but the film bombed.
''I heard there was a script about Charlie Parker floating around over at
. So I went to Warner Bros. and said I'd love to do it over here. They had a project that Columbia wanted, so they swapped. Kevin Costner ended up doing it [1990's Revenge]. I thought Bird was a good picture. Forest Whitaker was terrific in it, and Diane Venora. It was one of those ones where critics weren't sure about jazz, and audiences weren't either. It got some nice reviews, but it was a tragic story and it had flashbacks within flashbacks. It was tricky. I didn't go off and mope or anything. I did the best I could and just moved on. Columbia 's Kevin Costner picture didn't do well either.'' Columbia
1992's Unforgiven not only earned Eastwood Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture, it was also his first movie to pass $100 million. Some took the film's theme about a once-violent man atoning for the sins of his youth as a mea culpa from Eastwood, repenting for the violent films of his past.
''It's fine if people wanted to interpret it that way. But I wasn't repenting for anything I'd done. I'm not that haunted by my past. The script was called The William Munny Killings, and it had been kicking around a while. When it was originally submitted to me, the lady who worked for me as a reader at the time absolutely hated it. Never even gave it to me. She wrote a report on it that said it was the most vile, terrible screenplay. I still have that report.... Anyway, years later, in 1982, I bought it. I thought, 'This is something that might be great down the line. I could stand to be a little older doing it.' So in '82 I put it in a drawer, in '92 I brought it out. It was time to return to the genre, and I fell in love with it all over again.
''Morgan [Freeman] was always an admirer of The Outlaw Josey Wales and he said, 'If you ever do a Western, keep me in mind.' So I called him and said, 'Would you ride along with me on this one?' Then I called up Richard Harris in the
and I said, 'This is Clint Eastwood calling.' And he said, 'Who is this?! Is this Ed?!' I said, 'No, this is Clint Eastwood.' And he said, 'You'll never believe this, but I'm down in the screening room watching High Plains Drifter.' I said I was calling because I had a screenplay for a Western that I wanted him to read and he said, 'Stop! I'm in it!' [Gene] Hackman was interesting because I gave it to his agent and he said no, he didn't want to do anything violent. But I went back to him and said, 'I know where you're coming from. You get to a certain age and I'm there too, where you don't want to tell a lot of violent stories, but this is a chance to make a great statement.' Bahamas
''I was glad to get the Oscar because in my mind it was probably the last of that genre that I was going to make. Maybe that's why I put it in the drawer. It's almost like fate.''
1995's The Bridges of Madison County, based on Robert James Waller's best-selling romance, may be Eastwood's most revelatory performance as an actor. He and Meryl Streep play two strangers who fall in love after a chance brief encounter.
''I think the preconception was that the book was extremely popular and people thought it was slightly syrupy and a little too flowery. But I liked that it was a love story where nobody had an affliction of any kind. It wasn't like those old movies where the woman had brain surgery and Rock Hudson comes in to tell her she was going to be okay. It was very, very simple. It was just two people out of kilter with society — an offbeat guy searching for himself and a gal who was a war bride who never quite fit in. The studio was talking about going to a European actress, but I thought there had to be some
to her even though she was from Americana . And Meryl responded right away. She'd read the book and she said she didn't care for it. But I said, 'Read the script.' And she liked it. Having a good person as a foil certainly helps, because acting is an ensemble art form. Clark Gable is only as good as Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night.'' Italy
Eastwood says getting 2003's
made wasn't easy. But not only did the blue-collar Mystic River crime story turn out to be a commercial hit, it also earned six Oscar nominations. Boston
''At this particular time in my life, I'm not doing anything as a moneymaker. It's like I'm pushing the envelope the other way to see how far we can go to be noncommercial. But I'm definitely not going for the demographics of 13- to 15-year-olds. I didn't know if
would go over at all. I had a hard time getting it financed, to tell you the truth. But I just told Warners the same thing I did with Million Dollar Baby: 'I don't know if this is going to make any money. But I think I can make a picture that you'd be proud to have in your library.'' Mystic River
60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl and the Hollywood icon reflect on his legendary career in this report for CBS News Sunday Morning. 6th Feb 2005
His is a story that's still very much being written.
Clint Eastwood started out in Italian-made westerns, such as "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," playing "the man with no name."
"The old spaghetti westerns," as he put it to Stahl.
"You almost didn't say anything," she noticed.
"(I) did three of those," Eastwood responded. "It wasn't necessary to say anything. They were all a visual experience."
But these days, says Stahl, both the man and the name are among the most recognizable in the world.
He’s made nearly 60 films in 50 years, from shoot ’em up crime dramas, to cowboy and orangutan comedies, to romance, to character-driven dramas.
And he has directed 25 of them, beginning in 1974, with "Play Misty for Me."
With the release of his latest movie, "Million Dollar Baby," this former "B" movie star and sometime director is being lauded as a master of American cinema, Stahl says.
Does he think "Million Dollar Baby," which has been nominated for seven Oscars, is his best work yet? "You know, Lesley, I don't think it's up to me to know. …I'm always trying to do a — a good job. …and, yeah, I think I'm doing my best work right now."
At 74, Eastwood is not just doing his best work, he’s doing most of the work. He stars in "Million Dollar Baby," but he also directed, produced it, and even composed its score, prompting Stahl to ask whether he considers himself a control freak.
"No," came the reply, "because I like the participation of everyone."
"Your reputation as a director," Stahl pointed out, "is that you’re very quiet on the set, that you bring the movie in under-budget and ahead of time, which is, for the most part, unheard of. I heard you shot "Million Dollar Baby" in 38 days. Is that true?
"It was 37 days," Eastwood corrected her.
"Thirty-seven days?" Stahl repeated. "Oh, excuse me! But we have to nevertheless ask you how do you do that. How do you direct yourself? …Do you divide yourself into two people? It's just…seems so impossible."
"You just divide yourself into two people, yeah," Eastwood said.
"What if," Stahl wanted to know, "Clint the actor needs a rehearsal, and Clint the director says, ‘I'm not gonna rehearse you, Clint. I'm sorry.’ "
"No, no," Eastwood said. "If Clint the actor wants a rehearsal he – obviously, there's a certain cooperation between the two people."
"Million Dollar Baby" is about the relationship between a woman, determined to become a prize fighter, played by Hilary Swank, and her jaded trainer, Eastwood. It was a movie that the studio, Warner Bros., did not want to make, Stahl notes.
"They saw it as a 'boxing movie,'" Eastwood explains. "I saw it as a love story."
"Well, which is it?" Stahl wondered.
"It's a love story," Eastwood said. "It's a father-daughter love story. And it's about hopes and dreams. And it's about people and the fragility of life."
Fragility of life? Who’da thought you’d hear such a thing from the guy who played "Dirty Harry," hard-as-nails inspector Harry Callahan, Eastwood’s most famous role.
"You know," Stahl remarked, "I'm— I'm sitting here listening to you, and I'm thinking, "Dirty Harry" has — has become sensitive.
"Well," Eastwood countered, "I don't think he was insensitive then. …I think 'Dirty Harry' was probably sensitive toward the — the victims of violent crime."
Harry as a sensitive guy? Stahl wasn’t buying it.
Eastwood feels a need to defend Harry, who was seen as the emblem of Hollywood’s most violent movies.
"He felt the technicalities of the law were running the system which, in 1971, that was kinda the feeling people were getting."
"Well, he was kind of the hero…in the sense that he was fighting our battles," Stahl observed.
"Yeah," Eastwood said. "The average citizen liked it. Sociologists were disturbed by him."
"You want to say, 'Lighten up?'" Stahl wanted to know.
"Yeah, lighten up," Eastwood answered. "It's just a detective story. It's just one point of view."
But in 1992, Eastwood directed and starred in "Unforgiven," a kind of anti-western with a strong anti-violence message. There was no clear black-hat or white-hat.
It won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and after nearly 40 years in the business, Eastwood was in a whole new filmmaking stratosphere.
Stahl said, "So much of your career up until the last couple of years really was spent playing the…squinter with the kind of sneer. …You're nothing like that. Where did that guy come from?"
"Really," Eastwood replied, "it's much more fun to play something you're nothing like than what you are. …It’s much easier to hide yourself in a character."
And hide himself in his hardened characters he did.
Eastwood grew up in Northern California during the Great Depression. His father, Clinton Eastwood Sr., moved his family from town to town to get work.
"So what kind of a kid were you? Did you play football? Were you in the 'in crowd'?"
"No, I wasn't. I was kind of a— a— (chuckles) I was kind of a backwards – kid," Eastwood said, chuckling. "You probably hear this from everybody, ’cause almost everybody who gets into the — the film business, they're sort of a — the guys who are introverted and off to one side. But I didn't get into plays. I didn't do— I didn't want to be an actor. I just— I didn't want to stand up in front of any audience at all. That was the last thing I'd ever want to be involved with. I liked— I think I liked playing the piano."
Eastwood found a certain comfort at the piano, the one thing his family always took with them. His mother, who is 96-years-old, nurtured her son’s love of music.
"Well," Eastwood recalled, "when I was 11-years old, I used to imitate records and try to bang 'em out on the piano. I drove— drove my mother crazy, I think. ‘Cause — I'd be sitting there working a riff over 20 times in a — in a row."
"You taught yourself?"
"My mother knew how to read music and everything. But I just kinda learned off of records. And so, I was listening to records and I'd play 'em over and over. And in those days, they were ‘78s’ and vinyl. So they'd get sort of gray after a while."
"You actually sang in a movie," Stahl reminded him. "Most people probably don't remember this. Didn't you burst out into full throttle, singing in "Paint Your Wagon?"
"Well, I didn't burst out into it. I sang in that picture— the way I thought the character would sing."
He doesn’t sing too often, but he has composed songs for 10 of his movies, and now his 36-year-old son, Kyle, writes songs for his father’s movies, too.
Kyle, who acted alongside his dad in "Honky Tonk Man," isn’t the only one of Eastwood’s seven children to appear in his films.
"Your daughter, Allison, was in 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.'"
"Yeah, and she was in 'Tightrope' years ago, when she was a young girl. She played my daughter."
Daughter Francesca was in the 1999 film, "True Crime," and daughter Kimber was in "Absolute Power" in 1997.
"You do this. You put your kids in."
"Yah, once in a while. If — if they're right for the part and they really want to do it."
"Are you a grandfather?"
"Yes, I am. …just call me gramps."
"OK. Gramps. Well, you're in pretty good shape."
He used to work out strenuously, every day.
"You were doing 1,000 pushups and 10,000 sit ups and 300,000 — I don't know. Do you still work out like that?"
"The 10,000 might be slightly exaggerated."
"Slight — a slight exaggeration?"
"But I still do. I still work out on a daily basis. And I like it. …In 'Million Dollar Baby,' it was great, because we had a gym. We had a whole gym there. …Everybody at noon time would see how many — who could do the most dips on the dip bar, you know. And…I did the most. And at 74, I could still do 30 of them. So that wasn't too bad."
Today, he is married to Dina Ruiz, a former television reporter who is 35 years younger. They have an eight-year-old daughter, Morgan, who appears in a scene with Swank in "Million Dollar Baby."
"I think she liked it," Eastwood says. "Whenever it comes on, she hides her eyes. You know, she can't watch it."
"Maybe she has some of your shyness?"
"Could be. But…I don't see it in any other — any other areas," he laughed.
Eastwood is up for a Best Actor Oscar for "Million Dollar Baby," an award he’s never won. With the film also up for Best Picture, he’s heading into this month’s Academy Awards with, shall we say, cautious optimism.
How much does he want to win?
"I don't know. …You know, it's — you can't — I wanted it last year. We were up last year with "Mystic River." And it was the year of the hobbits."
"You want at least one?"
"You know, you just go there and you go there. …All you can do is just show up and hope it works your way."
Meantime, he’s already working on his next film — about soldiers at the battle of Iwo Jima.
Will it be an anti-war movie?
"Well, it won't be necessarily a propaganda, war-is-great movie, that's for sure."
He’s going to direct it, and as of now, he says he won’t appear in the film. But that doesn’t mean "Million Dollar Baby" is the last you’ll see of Clint Eastwood, the actor: "I was very — very satisfied being in back of the camera, watching the younger people up in front— doing all the — the main work. …And then, all of a sudden, this came along and there was a — it was a good role for me. So I jumped into it. So I had to come — I had to un-retire before I retired, as far as the front goes. I didn't want to do one of those 'Frank Sinatra' retirements where you — you retire, and six months later, you're back out again.
"Yeah," Stahl remarked. "But you have."
"But I've done it."
"You've done it."
"I just didn't announce it."
"So, are you going to announce a retirement again," Stahl chuckled, "or are you just going to see what happens?"
"I'm just never going to say never. Or never say anything. That's the main thing. It's just — just keep my big mouth shut."