An actor‘s ascent into stardom involves a shift in identity. the loss of the everyday human personality superseded by the purely mythic status oftheir new existence as cultural icons. Marilyn will forever flaunt herselfin white. James Dean will continue to rebel without a cause. Age and mortality does not tarnish the legend.
Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford are very much part of the same process. For us. Clint is the cool cheroot smoking cowboy. or the cop doling out justice with a 4-1 Magnum; Redford‘s looks make him I the essence ofthe male romantic ; lead. They are perhaps the contemporarycinema‘s most consistent star attractions. And so it becomes a peculiar kind of shock for the audience when the star chooses to withdraw from on-screen adoration to a much less visible role behind the camera.
The 42nd Edinburgh International Film Festival will be screening both Bird. a Clint Eastwood film without Clint. and The Milagro Beanfield War. a similarly Bob-less Redford movie. The two men have of course exercised considerable production input over a number ofyears. and it‘s not the first time for them to have helmed a film they didn't appear in. Redford even won the best director Oscar first time out with the well-acted family drama Ordinary People while Eastwood gained considerable acclaim for his first | feature Play Misty for Me and since
has enjoyed an intermittent directing career the high point ofwhich was probably The Outlaw Josey Wales.
It is not either exactly a novelty that a star should turn to exercising control behind the camera. After all. it's a distinguished lineage that goes back to Chaplin and Keaton. through Gene Kelly. Vittorio De Sica. Ida Lupino. and right up to current actor-filmakers like Ron Howard (Cocoon). Richard Benjamin (My Favourite Year) and Leonard Nimoy (Three Men And A Baby). Another entry in the Film Festival programme is Bob Hoskins‘ debut as writer and director with The Raggedy Rawney. an imaginitive thriller about a group of travellers in an unspecified country at war. When first offered the project. Hoskins is reported to have said ‘All right. I'll have a go.‘
But. so far as Eastwood and Redford are concerned. their new releases are very much the product of. in each case. what seems to have amounted to a personal obsession. for the two stars have used their considerable industry clout to bring to the screen two impressive movies that lie outside the usual Hollywood formula. and as such would probably not have been feasible for lesser lights. Yet. it could well be that in so doing they have put much more of themselves up there on screen than ever before.
A life-long passion for jazz has spawned Clint Eastwood‘s Bird. a masterly film biography of Charlie
‘Yardbird' Parker. whose searing virtuosity on the alto sax revolutionised the music scene in the Forties. The film left Cannes with the Best Actor prize for Forest Whitaker in the title role. and a special award for the magnificent soundtrack which transposes Parker‘s original solos into newly recorded backing tracks.
The director's interest in Bird can be traced back to his formative years: ‘When I was a teenager I lived in Oakland where I went to a series ofJazz At The Philharmonic concerts.‘ Eastwood reported at Cannes. ‘where I heard several greats like Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins. and that was when I first saw Charlie Parker. around 1946. [saw him again at Bop City in San Francisco. and the image stayed in my mind. I subsequently bought many of his records and became something of an afficionado. So when this script came along it became an ambition of mine to film it.‘
As a younster Eastwood played tlugclnorn. cornet. and later progressed to a little blues piano in a local club at 15. Although such activities have since gone by the board it is worth remembering that in his directorial debut. the taut thriller Play Mist For Me Clint starred as a jazz DJ. and the Misty of the title came from a tune by bop pianist Erroll Garner. Bird though. must count as the fullest expression yet of his love for music. and he
j Role reversals at the Film Festival. Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford have both made career moves to the W other side of the camera. Trevor Johnston examines their change to direction.
wanted to make the movie ever since he acquired the Joel ()liansky screenplay once intended as a Richard Pryor vehicle: ‘l‘ve wanted to make it ever since I first saw that script. What I didn't want was a typical Hollywood film made by some director out ofthe Eighties who doesn‘t know the period. They never get it quite right. So I decided to direct this one myself.‘
For Redford too. the genesis ofhis latest project also lies in the personal background behind the celluloid deity. Adapted from the novel by John Nicholls. The .lyIi/agro Bean/ie/d War is the richly-peopled saga set in a small New Mexican town. that concentrates the way in which one small farmer‘s defiant stand against the property developers unites the entire local community in defence of their traditional way oflife. A talented cast includes Brazilian salsa singer Ruben Blades as the town sheriff. Christopher Walken as the developers' agent. and Sonia Braga from K is: ()f The .S'piderwoman playing a garage owner.
Growing up in Mexican-American neighbourhoods in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. and. as he revealed recently. Redford has never lost sight ofthat period ofhis life: ‘I grew up in a community in California that was predominantly Mexican. part of my family is from Texas with its Hispanic inﬂuences. and I lived in Spain twice. so I feel a great affinity for the Hispanic culture. I think
8The List 12— 18 August 1988