I stumbled across some Clint Eastwood news this week while I was bagging interviews for EW’s upcoming Fall Movie Preview issue and talking with Oscar-winning Crash writer/director Paul Haggis about his new film, In the Valley of Elah. Set to quietly knock you down starting September 14, Elah is a mesmerizing and sad true-life mystery-procedural about a retired military man (Tommy Lee Jones) investigating the disappearance of his soldier-son after the kid goes AWOL upon returning from a tour of duty in Iraq.
Not to rave on about it for too long, but Elah is the kind of great movie that rivets you as an entertainment at the same time it carefully sets about saying something deeper about the present time. Much more subtle than Crash, the movie is a brave risk — and whaddaya know, it turns out to be tough to make a film like that in this day and movie-age. Haggis told me it only came together because his friend Clint Eastwood, for whom Haggis wrote the script for Million Dollar Baby and Flags of Our Fathers, read the Elah screenplay and then called up Warner Brothers and put in a good word for the project.
So I asked Haggis if the rumor was true that he originally offered the Tommy Lee Jones part in Elah to Eastwood. His answer, in the Q&A reproduced after the jump, seems to indicate that we might’ve seen the last of Eastwood onscreen. Though Eastwood hasn’t officially announced any kind of retirement, it sounds like the 77-year-old director of Unforgiven may be done with acting.
Entertainment Weekly: There was talk of Clint playing the Tommy Lee Jones part. Is that true?
Paul Haggis: Well, that was my idea, but it was never his. (laughs) [Eastwood] told me from the beginning he was never gonna act in anything else. He said, "Well, Paul, I was in retirement, I came out of it to do Million Dollar Baby (pictured, with Eastwood and Morgan Freeman). I don’t think I can go out better, do you?" I went, "Oh, damn, how can I argue with that?"
EW: I didn’t realize he’d retired from acting.
PH: Yeah! [Million Dollar Baby producer] Al Ruddy, who was his friend, sent him the script [for Baby] and talked him into considering it again.
EW: Is that widely known?
PH: No, I don’t think so.
Hard to believe, but it’s worth remembering that Eastwood hasn’t appeared in somebody else’s movie as just an actor-for-hire since 1993′s In the Line of Fire. Since then, he’s appeared only in his own films; the directing’s really taken over. And of course, he did not appear in his last two films, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, at all.
Are you bummed if indeed we’ve seen the last of Eastwood in front of the camera? What’s with the spate of old greats calling it a day lately — Paul Newman and Sean Connery both recently announced they were done? And if you want to get a little bit nasty, is there any old actor you’d actually like to see retire?