Calling out a Punk: Eastwood's Non-PC Rejoinder
Spike Lee launched a bitter attack on Clint Eastwood yesterday, condemning his failure to include a single African-American soldier in his films about the Battle of Iwo Jima.Lee stopped short of actually calling Eastwood a racist, but the implication was clear. Astonishingly, Eastwood hasn't done what most Hollywood luminaries would do when accused of being a racist (i.e. to issue a simpering denial/apology and promise to work with his accuser to include more minorities in some future unspecified project). Instead, the 78 year-old director has fired right back at Lee, pointing out that Lee has a history of ridiculous accusations, has no ground to stand on, and doesn't know his history.
The Oscar-nominated African-American director, one of the most influential figures in contemporary cinema, said that black soldiers were conspicuous by their absence from Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Hundreds took part in the battle for the Japanese island in 1945.
Lee said: “There were many African-Americans who survived that war and who were upset at Clint for not having one [in the films]. That was his version: the negro soldier did not exist. I have a different version.”
Eastwood has no time for Lee's gripes. "He was complaining when I did Bird [the 1988 biopic of Charlie Parker]. Why would a white guy be doing that? I was the only guy who made it, that's why. He could have gone ahead and made it. Instead he was making something else." As for Flags of Our Fathers, he says, yes, there was a small detachment of black troops on Iwo Jima as a part of a munitions company, "but they didn't raise the flag. The story is Flags of Our Fathers, the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn't do that. If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people'd go, 'This guy's lost his mind.' I mean, it's not accurate."Wow. Taking a stand for accurate history and not politically-correct smiley-faced "diversity." Very refreshing in Hollywood. Of course, Eastwood is 78 and an icon, so he doesn't have to worry about damaging his career by slapping down a leftist punk like Spike Lee.
Lee shouldn't be demanding African-Americans in Eastwood's next picture, either. Changeling is set in Los Angeles during the Depression, before the city's make-up was changed by the large black influx. "What are you going to do, you gonna tell a fuckin' story about that?" he growls. "Make it look like a commercial for an equal opportunity player? I'm not in that game. I'm playing it the way I read it historically, and that's the way it is. When I do a picture and it's 90% black, like Bird, I use 90% black people."
Eastwood pauses, deliberately - once it would have provided him with the beat in which to spit out his cheroot before flinging back his poncho - and offers a last word of advice to the most influential black director in American movies. "A guy like him should shut his face."