Clint Eastwood on 'American Sniper's' 'Biggest Antiwar Statement'

Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood

By Gregg Kilday

"The biggest antiwar statement any film" can make is to show "the fact of what [war] does to the family and the people who have to go back into civilian life like Chris Kyle did," Clint Eastwood said at Saturday’s Producers Guild Award Nominees Breakfast, which took place at The Saban Theater in Beverly Hills.

The Warner Bros. film has become a flash point for heated debate since its wide release on Jan. 16, reeling in praise and sharp criticism for its portrayal of the Iraq War and Kyle, the decorated veteran.

"One of my favorite war movies that I’ve been involved with is Letters from Iwo Jima," Eastwood explained, "And that was are about family, about being taken away from life, being sent someplace." He observed, "In World War II, everybody just sort of went home and got over it. Now there is some effort to help people through it. In Chris Kyle’s case no good dead went unpunished."

Eastwood further explained that as soon as he decided to make the film, he and the movie’s star Bradley Cooper first went to Texas to meet Kyle’s widow Tayla, “I thought I’d better meet the rest of the family and see what they looked like and that would probably dictate the casting and to see what Mrs. Kyle was like,” he said. “I went down there and met the mother and father and their grand-kids. It was of great value to [Bradley] because he could get into the history of the family and their feelings about the whole situation. It was a very pleasant experience from beginning to end.”

Read More: The Making of ‘American Sniper’: How an Unlikely Friendship Kickstarted the Clint Eastwood Film

The breakfast, hosted by The Hollywood Reporter, brought together producers from all 10 of the films nominated for The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, which will be awarded later this evening at the 26th annual Producers Guild Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel.

All 10 of the participants at the breakfast have earned the PGA’s Producers Mark, p.g.a., certifying that they have performed the majority of producing duties on their respective films.

In addition to Eastwood, the participants included Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Jeremy Dawson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Jon Kilik (Foxcatcher), Cean Chaffin (Gone Girl), Teddy Schwarzman (The Imitation Game), Jennifer Fox (Nightcrawler), Lisa Bruce (The Theory of Everything) and Helen Estabrook (Whiplash).

In introducing the panelist, PGA executive director Vance Van Petten noted, “With all the press focusing on diversity, I’d like to point out that of our ten nominees, four of them are women, one is international from Mexico and one is from the AARP,” the last reference being a joking acknowledgement of Eastwood. “We’ve honored Clint so much, I feel we need to tease him as well,” he quickly added.

The panel discussion, led by PGA president Gary Lucchesi, ranged from development, casting and production to the luck that the films were often blessed with by what Lucchesi called “the movie Gods.”

Iñárritu traced the beginnings of Birdman to his idea that everyone has “a tortuous voice” inside their head. “All of us have a birdman,” he said. He chose to make his main character an actor because “actors are in a way attached to that kind of ego,” and they are also “in the ultimate vulnerable position.” Linklater described how, having become a parent, he had wanted to make a movie about kids and parents, but he couldn’t crack the story. “My ideas were spread over the years,” he recalled. He was about to abandon it, thinking maybe it would be better as a novel, when the idea for Boyhood of shooting a movie over twelve years came to him. “I just saw a film in my head of my young actors growing up and the parents aging. That was the idea to allow me to express the whole part of growing up and what that feels like.”

Photo: Associated Press