Psychology Today: One part of your film career - the "Dirty Harry" aspect of it - contains a lot of violence, as well as people who use violence to resolve conflicts. There's an argument that, if enough of these points of view are put in movies or on television, eventually it becomes an educational experience. So do you ever consider the social implications of your films before you make them?Full interview here.
Clint Eastwood: I consider them, yeah. I consider the social implications. But you mention violence as a means of resolving conflict. Well, conflict is the basis of drama. I guess that goes back as long as time has existed as far as mankind is concerned, dating back to the Greek tragedies or the Old Testament. And violence is a form of conflict, so whether that's catharsis or whether that has some socially damaging effect on audiences - I suppose that would just depend. I tend to believe that audiences are relatively well-balanced people. You're making the film for the average person. You are not making it for the one guy out there who is going to take it seriously and go, "Yeah, gee, that's crazy, I might jump off a building or what have you."
PT: Did you think about the social messages of the "Dirty Harry" movies?
CE: I approached it from the uncomplicated point of view, that it was an exciting detective story but it also addressed the issue of the victims of violent crime. In the 1960s and early '70s, it was very fashionable to address the plight of the criminals instead of the victims. Dirty Harry came along and it seemed like it was ahead of its time.
And also, like my character in White Hunter, Black Heart said, you can't let eighty million popcorn-eaters pull you this way or that way. You kind of have to go ahead. But as you get older you try to do things that please you more. You get a little more selfish. You start thinking I want to do things where I enjoy myself. I don't want to go and just jump across buildings. You know, shoot nameless people off the top of stagecoaches or what have you. That's not interesting. That's why Unforgiven became a very important film for me, because it sort of summed up my feelings about certain movies I participated in - movies where killing is romantic. And here was a chance to show that it really wasn't so romantic.
PT: It has been said about artists, that even if consciously they didn't have an idea, subconsciously they had a kind of shadow government there - the subconscious mind working and being creative.
CE: Yeah, yeah. I think there is a shadow government there. It's sort of part of the soul. But it's probably a combination of what you are. The shadow government is something running inside you and you don't tap into it consciously. If you do, you're afraid it might shrink.
PT: That's a fear that a lot of artists have. It's really true.
CE: I think so. I think a lot of people feel and I must say I felt that same way, too - that if I start fooling with it maybe it will go away or maybe I won't look at it properly.
Clint Eastwood interviewed by Stuart Fischoff Ph.D. for Psychology Today, 1993: