Tuesday 27 November 2018

Clint Eastwood plays a guy 'even older than me' in drug drama 'The Mule'

Reported by Brian Truitt, USA Today Nov 27, 2018. 

One positive about being Clint Eastwood,Oscar winning director: Make a movie about men in the twilight of their lives – like, say, the world’s oldest drug courier – and you always have a really good option as your star. 

Still, Eastwood didn’t initially think of himself to star in “The Mule” (in theatres Dec. 14) until a fellow producer suggested he'd be the best man for the job. 

“All of a sudden, I started thinking, 'Well, it might be kind of fun to play a guy who was even older than me,' ” Eastwood, 88, recalls with a chuckle during an exclusive interview, his first for the movie.

His newest film – Eastwood directs and stars for the first time since 2009’s “Gran Torino” – is inspired by the true story told in a 2014 New York Times Magazine article “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule.” It chronicled how Leo Sharp, a Detroit horticulturalist and World War II veteran, ran into financial trouble with his flower business and wound up transporting kilos of narcotics from Mexico.
In “The Mule,” lonely and cash-strapped Earl Stone (Eastwood) is estranged from his ex-wife Mary (Dianne Wiest) and daughter Iris (real-life daughter Alison Eastwood) – though he has a better relationship with his granddaughter Ginny (Taissa Farmiga). He's facing foreclosure on his daylily farm when he accidentally and unknowingly gets involved in an illegal but well-paying operation.

“Then it's, ‘Maybe if I tried it one more time I could afford to do this and that,' " Eastwood says. “Pretty soon, he's in high cotton, getting paid an enormous amount of money to transfer this material. It's an enormous amount of money that he's able to spend helping people, but he's really into criminal activity.”
That ties into the parallel story of Colin Bates, the DEA agent played by Bradley Cooper who's charged with chasing down Stone and ending this trafficking ring. Eastwood’s supporting cast includes Michael Pena and Laurence Fishburne as government operatives, Ignacio Serricchio as Stone’s cartel handler and Andy Garcia as a cartel boss.

Stone’s story is different from Sharp’s, mainly because “we don't know what he incurred when he was on the road doing all these trips,” Eastwood says. One detail that the filmmaker did hook into: Sharp was making so much money that he became a Robin Hood-like character who would stop and help those who needed it. “He was able to get his farm out of hock and live a rather odd life.”
While “doing things that most men his age would not be doing” as a “wealthy knight of the roads,” Stone also tries to mend relationships with his family before it’s too late, Eastwood adds. “All of these factors fit in to make it a character that's got complications, just like everybody does in real life. Sometimes people wander astray and then they try to reinstate feelings, and it's very difficult.”
Eastwood patterned his character partly off his own grandfather, who owned a chicken farm that the filmmaker would visit as a child. “He wasn't the guy who went off and did a lot of wild things, but he could have been, if he was of a different nature,” Eastwood says. “He worked as an older man, he moved like an older man, and I tried to emulate his walk and talk and everything else.” 
But Eastwood could also personally understand the character’s predicament and choices because "I'm fairly far along in life,” he says. Stone’s illegal work “becomes a savior for him, but morally, it's collapsing. So on one hand, life's coming up, and the other hand, it's going down. And one of these days, he has to pay the piper on it and face the fact that he's been doing the wrong thing.”
My special thanks to Dave Turner and Olly Peden 

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