Conversations with Clint: Paul Nelson's Lost Interviews with Clint Eastwood 1979-1983
A belated happy new year to everyone. Sorry I did not post my usual Christmas wishes last year, but it has been a very busy time for me. However, I can start the new year here with a very special book that we started promoting way back in 2011.
Long considered lost, these extensive interviews between legendary Rolling Stone journalist Paul Nelson and Clint Eastwood were discovered after Nelson's death in 2006.
Clint Eastwood has forged a remarkable career as a movie star, director, producer and composer. These newly discovered conversations with legendary journalist Paul Nelson return us to a point when, still acting in other people’s films, Eastwood was honing his directorial craft on a series of inexpensive films that he brought in under budget and ahead of schedule. Operating largely beneath the critical radar, he made his movies swiftly and inexpensively. Few of his critics then could have predicted that Eastwood the actor and director would ever be taken as seriously as he is today. But Paul Nelson did.
The interviews were conducted from 1979 through 1983. Eastwood talks openly and without illusions about his early career as an actor, old Hollywood, and his formative years as a director, his influence and what he learned along the way as an actor—lessons that helped him become the director he is today. Conversations with Clint provide a fresh and vivid perspective on the life and work of this most American of movie icons.
I spent most of the latter half of 2011 excitedly waiting for the arrival of this book. After several conversations with Editor Kevin Avery, my expectations were certainly running high. So when Conversations with Clint Paul Nelson's Lost Interviews with Clint Eastwood, 1979-1983 arrived, I wasted little time in uncovering some new stories from this interesting period of Eastwood’s career. I have to admit, once I had started reading, I struggled to put the book down. Yes, I realise that any other long-time Eastwood fan might endure the same problem, but it had been a very long time since I had been so engrossed. Perhaps it was because the interviews were retrospective and from my era? The book wastes little time or space for photos, its pages are comprehensive and packed (from cover to cover) with solid one-to-one interviews. Eastwood seems incredibly at ease throughout, an iconic figure that is both interesting and intellectual, but above all, he remains a realist. This fascinating compilation of interviews cover a five year period, perhaps not his must fruitful in terms of box office receipts, but certainly a period which covered more personal films such as Bronco Billy and Honkytonk Man. Nelson naturally unravels the transformation and maturity in the actor/director as his career and life progress into more challenging areas. Nelson also allows Eastwood to answer in his own relaxed style and pace which, as a result, brings out witty, sensitive and philosophical responses. The conversations between Eastwood and Nelson are so relaxed and informal; you almost feel the urge to engage in the wonderful exchanges. Paul Nelson's Conversations with Clint is an exemplary read, and a praiseworthy piece of work on the part of Editor Kevin Avery who has collated it in such wonderful fashion. A 5 star read that I would recommend to all readers, regardless of whether you are an Eastwood fan or share an interest of film in general. Superb!
Kevin Avery has performed a great service to film lovers by bringing to light Paul Nelson’s remarkable interviews with Clint Eastwood. Nelson was an appreciator of Eastwood in the seventies, before he had won wide critical recognition. In these fascinating and wide-ranging conversations, the actor-director discusses with complete candor both the art of his films and the realities of filmmaking in Hollywood.
- Andrew Sarris, Author of "Notes on the Auteur Theory" (1962)
"Paul Nelson was the first serious film aficionado who, way back in the early '70s, turned me on to the importance of Clint Eastwood as an actor, filmmaker and American icon. He showed me the S&W Magnum .44 he kept under a pile of sweaters in his closet. ‘Same as Dirty Harry,’ he said, explaining that if he was going to write about men with guns he had to know how it felt in his hand. We were both devoted to F. Scott Fitzgerald and hoping that Clint Eastwood would play Gatsby in the upcoming film, which, of course, he didn't." “The repartee between these two straight shooters is more revealing of the inner workings of Hollywood and the creative process of Clint Eastwood than anything I've ever read before.”
-Elliott Murphy, singer-songwriter
"At a time when most critics didn’t take Clint Eastwood seriously, he had no admirer more prescient or loving than the late Paul Nelson. And Nelson—still insufficiently appreciated for his stubborn indifference to fashionability, but a smoke-wreathed legend to his 1970s colleagues—will never have a posthumous rescuer more devoted and scrupulous than Kevin Avery. Unguarded, searching, and occasionally very funny, the uniquely intimate interviews collected in Conversations With Clint morph as we read into the ideal script for a lost Eastwood movie on the nature of friendship. I’m sure Paul would be pleased that the alternate title that kept springing to mind was that of a John Ford Western: Two Rode Together.”
-Tom Carson, critic for GQ and author of Daisy Buchanan’s Daughter
“This is what happens when an artist interviews an artist: Nelson’s acute critical engagement with Eastwood’s films yields more insight from the moviemaker than any reader could have hoped for. Can a collection of interviews be called poignantly brilliant? This one is.”
-Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
“I found that Conversations with Clint is invaluable reading, not just because it’s a uniquely in-depth series of interviews with someone who always had a sense of himself as an enduring figure. It also takes us inside the head of Paul Nelson—the interviewer himself—whose states of mind complete the story. The best interviews have always been two-sided—a conversation—and Conversations is just that: a compelling look at an extended eyeball-to-eyeball encounter, complete with blinks and flinches.”
-Elvis Mitchell, host of KCRW’s The Treatment
“An amazing find! Hip journalist Paul Nelson's lengthy, detailed, casual yet riveting, long-believed lost conversations with the iconic director-producer-star Clint Eastwood, who has had one of the most extraordinary careers in the history of the American screen. A must for any true film lover.”
“Paul Nelson’s resurrected ‘lost’ interviews represent deep-dish Clint. Nelson recognized the magnitude of the actor-director’s talents earlier than most—Eastwood had only made it up to Sudden Impact in 1983 by the time of the final interview—and they clearly had an easy rapport. The result sees the star opening up on his early struggles, how he learned from observing on Rawhide, his close collaborations with Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, money, politics, celebrity, and why he prefers early Bergman and Kurosawa to their later films. Clint has given many interviews, but this is one of his best, definitely of great interest to anyone who takes his work seriously.”
-Todd McCarthy, critic for The Hollywood Reporter
Eastwood consistently provides subtle insight into the life of an actor and his decision making process speaking frankly about what he saw in roles or projects, and what he thought of the results.
-Offbeat (New Orleans)
Nelson failed to finish or publish any features based on these lengthy interviews, which are valuable for their insights into Eastwood's mind and developing art during a crucial transitional period. Highly recommended for any reader interested in Eastwood's films.
LJ Express (online)
Amazing... One of the great things about the book is Eastwood's detailed discussion of the nature of the influences that led [Eastwood] to direct, and the allusions that come to mind for him while making films.
-The New Yorker’s “Front Row” blog
Eastwood sounds less like the monosyllabic Dirty Harry character he was most famous for playing at the time than like a brilliant, thoughtful, articulate- talkative, even- director and actor.
Out of nowhere comes a great book on the Clint Eastwood of 30 years ago, when, more than just a big star, he was a divisive symbol of American populist justice. Their fluid, far-reaching conversation should have been put in a time capsule. Happily it was.
-Sight & Sound
The interviews- more like conversations, not mere question-and-answer sessions- show us an Eastwood who is (in marked contrast to many of his iconic characters) articulate, thoughtful, friendly, and outspoken. Reading his thoughts on a wide variety of subjects- religion, the genesis of his own directing style, Dirty Harry, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, and much more- we feel, for pretty much the first time, as though we've seen Eastwood the man and not just Eastwood the movie star or acclaimed director...this treasure trove of new material brings altogether fresh insight into the man and his career.
One of the best film books of the year is also one of the most unusual.
The Wall Street Journal online
A fascinating selection of writings.
Reading these interviews almost makes you feel sorry for Nelson, who never had the chance to be the first to herald Eastwood as the auteur he would eventually become. Fortunately, Conversations with Clint shows that he was, at least, the first to recognize it.
-The Independent Week
This is a quick read and a fine portrait of a megastar halfway through an iconic career.