Clint Eastwood Still Riding High

"I think [in] every war, no side is completely immune from atrocity," Eastwood said. "I've talked to many [veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima.] … I said, 'How many prisoners did you take?' And they'd say, 'We didn't take any.' And I went, 'Oh, OK.' It was kind of left unsaid."

Message Film

In a time of war, it is hard not to leave the films with a sense that they reference current events, and Eastwood doesn't deny that the films are critical of American policy.

He said it was clear that the United States should extricate itself from the war in Iraq.

"The big question is how and when," he said. "It seems like the predicament we're in now is it's a bad situation regardless of which side you favor."

Though Eastwood says he doesn't know if President Bush has screened his two films, he suggests the films' message might be relevant -- and might resonate. "They should look at it," he said.

It has been more than 60 years since the Battle of Iwo Jima, and Eastwood said that the passing of that time might have been necessary for American audiences to accept what are often unflattering depictions.

As for the current conflict, he says he's sure there are terrific stories to be told about the United States' opponents, but audiences may not be ready for them.

"Some moviemaker 50 years from now will probably come up with some great stories -- or maybe even sooner," he said. "But I don't know if I'll be that guy."

The Little Film That Could

Eastwood says that not as many people have seen "Flags of Our Fathers" as he had hoped. "My job is just to make the best film I can and whatever life it has, it has," he said.

When "Letters" -- which only took five weeks to make and only cost $19 million -- turned out to be a surprise hit in Japan, Eastwood asked Warner Bros. to change plans and release it in the United States in time for Oscar consideration.

He denies the suggestion in a New York Times article that he "changed sides in the war," in order to have a better shot at an Oscar.

"In reality, I'm not sure that was our motivation," he said. "I think we just wanted to keep the films together, and we were hoping that they would find an audience somewhere."

Awards and Accolades

With "Letters From Iwo Jima," Eastwood has now earned the combined best picture-best director nominations four times, and twice won both awards in the same year -- for "Unforgiven" in 1992, and "Million Dollar Baby" in 2005.

He was nominated for both awards for "Mystic River" in 2003.

The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures says that "Letters From Iwo Jima" is "the best film of 2006," and calls it Eastwood's "masterpiece."

The director won't say whether he agrees, but says the film is "as good as I know how to make it."

"I don't know what I'd do different if I was going back and redoing it now," he said. "It was certainly a humble little project. It went together very fast, but sometimes things that happen quickly have a spontaneity about them that works well."

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