Top Secrets of 'J. Edgar': Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio on New Film About Hoover's Private Life

Leo DiCaprios Life on Screen

Director Clint Eastwood says that "J.Edgar," his new film about the man who founded the FBI and ruled through eight presidents with an unwavering iron fist, is "a love story," not a political profile.

The film explores J. Edgar Hoover's emotional attachments to the tiny inner circle of people he trusted.

"For me it was about trying to capture the man and come as close to him," Eastwood said in an interview with "Nightline's" Terry Moran. "An accurate portrayal of his intentions, his mannerisms, his ambition, what drove him, and what he was like on a day-to-day basis."

Credit: ABC News

Eastwood's biopic, which debuted at the Carmel Film Festival last month and will be in theaters on Nov. 9, paints a portrait of Hoover from the great "Red Summer" of 1919 to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, both as the controversial "bull dog" tyrant who would do anything to protect his country and as someone who shared an "unrequited love" with his right-hand man at the Bureau, Clyde Tolson.

"It's a love story between two men, in a way," Eastwood said. "But I didn't want to make it -- I didn't want to diminish it by making it just some sort of sexual attraction or something like that. It had to be much more substance to it than that."

Although it was never publicly confirmed, Hoover, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, was long rumored to be in a secret relationship with Tolson. Often the two men were seen driving to work together, vacationing together, eating meals together and they were buried close to one another. Hoover even left his estate to Tolson after he died.

"I don't think anyone truly will know the absolute truth about J.Edgar Hoover's personal life," DiCaprio told Moran. "I think that, sort of, passed away with him and Clyde Tolson."

He added, "I think the way Clint handled it in this movie was very tastefully done because what it did reflect was people who had unrequited yearning to have that sort of connection with somebody else."

DiCaprio and Eastwood said the film's screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, drew on the Bush administration's response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks to develop Hoover's character during the Red Scare. Eastwood, 81, grew up during Hoover's reign and says he has real memories of him as a larger-than-life figure.

"Everybody thought he was the 'Top Cop,' he was actually referred to as that," Eastwood said. "America's 'Top Cop' as in the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

But Eastwood said it was DiCaprio's enthusiasm for the role and attention to detail that won the 36-year-old the part of a 77-year-old man.

DiCaprio, who already has Oscar buzz swirling around him for his portrayal of the FBI director, said he took the role because he thought Hoover was a "fascinating character."

"To me, [Hoover] has always been somebody who always had so many salacious rumors around him, a lot of lies too," DiCaprio said. "The whole thing about him dressing up as a woman and going out to parties with a tutu on was just ridiculous. He spent his life investigating other people's secrets but protecting his own. There's no way in the world he would have gone out in public like that, no matter what his sexual preference was."

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