For most of us boomers, Clint Eastwood first entered our collective consciousness as Rowdy Yates, the strikingly handsome star of the television show "Rawhide." That Western series ran from 1959 to 1965, and it's what originally made Eastwood a star. Add in the famed Sergio Leone Italian-made "spaghetti Westerns" – "A Fistful of Dollars," "For a Few Dollars More" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" – that took American movie-going audiences by storm in the late 1960s, and Eastwood's cinematic legend had begun, never to wane for a moment.
He was already 34 by the time he made the first of those Italian shoot 'em ups, and 40 by the time he stepped behind the camera way back in 1970 for his directing debut, in the classic thriller "Play Misty for Me." Amazingly, 41 years later, Eastwood the director is still rolling along, as he releases "J. Edgar," the 32nd movie he has helmed.
This one stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and Eastwood stays in the background, leaving the acting to others. It's a position that that the four-time Oscar winner likes to be in, as he told reporters gathered for a press conference that was recently held in Los Angeles in support of the film.
"In 1970, when I first started directing I said, 'If I could pull this off I could someday just move to the back of the camera and stay there,'" the legendary 81-year-old auteur said with a smile. In fact, he hasn't starred in a film since 2008's "Gran Torino," but that's about to change, as the octogenarian has no intention of ever completely retiring, and the acting thing just keeps luring him back in.
"I really have been trying to retire to the back of the camera for quite a few years, but I never was able to pull it off because someone offers me a good role. Regardless of what age you are, it's all based on material. The material has to spark on you," Eastwood admitted. "Once in a while they come up with a sort of grumpy old men thing and they say, 'Okay, let's get Eastwood for that.'" Which explains why he's signed on with Robert Lorenz, his longtime producing partner (and his assistant director on numerous films), to star in "Trouble with the Curve," Lorenz's big-screen directorial debut. They plan to shoot the baseball-centered story in 2012, and are hoping to snag Sandra Bullock to star as Eastwood's daughter in the drama.
Planning a job as he heads into his 82nd year perfectly reflects Eastwood's philosophy for aging gracefully. To him, it is simple.
"I do believe that if one keeps busy it's very good for a person," he mused. "You keep in shape. You keep yourself in mentally good shape. If you keep yourself mentally in shape the chances are that physically it will follow suit. People are always rushing into retirement, but I think that now I'm doing better at certain things than I have in the past. You have certain primes at certain times. I think that aging so far has been okay. I think it's good!"
Jenny Peters' credits include writing on film, celebrities, restaurants and fashion for publications including “USA Today Weekend," the Los Angeles Daily News,” "Buzz" and “Cosmopolitan.” She currently pens the “Variety” "VPage" and "Seen and Heard" columns, and is the West Coast Bureau Chief of “Fashion Wire Daily.”