A little bit ago I posted regarding Spike Lee's comments at Cannes, accusing Clint Eastwood of tacit racism because no black actors appeared on screen in Flags of Our Fathers or Letters from Iwo Jima. "If you reporters had any balls you'd ask him why," he told reporters. "There's no way I know why he did that -- that was his vision, not mine. But I know it was pointed out to him and that he could have changed it. It's not like he didn't know."
That post touched a nerve and elicited a barrage of comments from you folks, some of them nasty, but many interesting and thoughtful. So I figured I'd be remiss not to report Eastwood's recent response in a Guardian article to Lee's remarks.
Eastwood expressed a sentiment regarding Lee that I guess a number of you would agree with: "A guy like him should shut his face." Elaborating, he defended the historical accuracy of his depictions, pointing out that no black people participated in the impromptu Iwo Jima flag-raising ceremony depicted in Flags of Our Fathers. Eastwood also pointed to Bird, his 1988 biopic of black New York jazz musician Charlie Parker, and his forthcoming Nelson Mandela film The Human Factor, where, he promises, he won't "make Nelson Mandela a white guy."
Eastwood implies in the Guardian piece that Lee actually complained when he made Bird two decades. ago. That can't be right, I thought. Surely, a guy accusing Eastwood of not casting a sufficient number of African-Americans in his films wouldn't have complained about Eastwood's decision to tell the story of a famous black musician. Right? Well, I did some digging, and found these comments from Lee on the subject, made during a discussion of Lee's own jazz film, Mo' Better Blues:
"I saw Bird, Clint Eastwood's portrait of Charlie Parker, in the fall of '88. Bertrand Tavernier's 'Round Midnight, which was released two years before, was a slightly better film, if only because of saxophonist Dexter Gordon's performance. Both were narrow depictions of the lives of black musicians, as seen through the eyes of white screenwriters and white directors. Shortly after seeing Bird, I read that Woody Allen was planning a film about jazz. Now, wait a minute! First Clint Eastwood, and now Woody Allen! You know I couldn't let Woody Allen do a jazz film before I did."
Now that we've heard from Clint, all we need know is to hear what the Coen brothers think about Lee's accusation that their films treat life as a joke.