"It's based on material," the 81-year-old star told reporters in Los Angeles recently while promoting "J. Edgar," his latest directorial effort.
"I have been trying to retire to the back of the camera for quite a few years and in 1970 when I first started directing, I said, 'If I could pull this off, I can some day move to the back of the camera and stay there,'" Eastwood said. "But I never was able to pull it off because somebody offered me a role. Every once in a while, they come up with a grumpy old man thing and they say, 'OK, let's get Eastwood for that.' So, we'll see. Every once in a while someone writes a script, but regardless of what age you are... it's all based upon material. The material's got to spark with you. It may be great material for somebody else or it's great material and I'm perfect for it. You just have to make that judgment and, if you feel in the mood, to do it."
Eastwood, who became a Hollywood screen star in the Dirty Harry cop movies and westerns such as "A Fistful of Dollars," "For a Few Dollars More" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," has acted only sporadically in recent years, choosing instead, to focus on his directing and producing projects. His last on-screen role was in 2008's "Gran Torino," which he also directed. He reportedly is in talks to play a veteran baseball scout in an upcoming big-screen drama, although no deal has been officially announced.
For his work behind the camera, Eastwood has won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture for "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby," and earned nominations for his work on the films "Mystic River" and "Letters from Iwo Jima."
He returns to the genre of history-based drama with "J. Edgar," which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the title character. Written by "Milk" scribe Dustin Lance Black, the film is in theaters now.
"I had my own impressions growing up of Hoover's heroic figure in the 1930s, '40s and '50s and beyond. This was all prior to the information age, so we didn't know about [J. Edgar] Hoover except for what was usually in the papers. This [film] was fun because this was a chance to go into that, and Lance had gone and done stuff from autobiographical material and biographies from other people and it was fun to delve into a character you've heard about all your life, but you never really knew and try to sort that out. We never knew too much about [Clyde] Tolson and [Helen] Gandy, these close confidantes [of Hoover's,] but through researching this movie, we did it. That's what was fun about making the movie, you get to learn something about people ... . We're all just kind of learning history or putting our stamp on history, our interpretation of it," Eastwood told reporters at the news conference before the movie's release. "Sure, a lot of things probably didn't happen exactly the way they happen in this film, but they're pretty close and Lance has done a great job of researching what time certain events happened in history, so they could coincide with other events."
Asked about the FBI's reaction to his making a film about its controversial first director, Eastwood replied: "I have great respect for the FBI and I know there have been some rumors lately that the FBI was disenchanted because we were doing the story or doing a certain take. That's not true. Actually, the FBI was tremendously enthusiastic about us doing this film. They didn't read the script, though; they know nothing about it. Their philosophy is, 'Go ahead and make the story you want to make.'"