Eastwood on Hoover film: DiCaprio in, Phoenix out

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Director Clint Eastwood on Monday shot down rumors that Joaquin Phoenix might return to acting by portraying J. Edgar Hoover’s protege and purported lover in a biopic on the controversial, first FBI director.

Director Clint Eastwood is interviewed at the Los Angeles premiere of his film "Invictus" in Beverly Hills, California December 3, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Eastwood told Reuters that Leonardo DiCaprio was definitely lined up to play Hoover. But Phoenix, who recently revealed his charade to quit acting and become a rap singer, was not in talks to play Clyde Tolson.

“No. I don’t know where that came from...didn’t he become a rapper?” Eastwood said, when asked about recent reports Phoenix was being considered for the role. Phoenix had taken on rapping in a hoax that surrounded the making of a mock documentary film called “I’m Still Here” about his supposed transition.

Oscar-winning director Eastwood did say that DiCaprio definitely wants the role of Hoover. “It’s a great role for him,” Eastwood said, adding that the film’s makers were “in the process” of signing contracts with DiCaprio.

The Hollywood legend, who after turning 80 years-old this year, is about to release his latest directorial effort “Hereafter” that tackles mortality and possibilities of an afterlife, said his next project on Hoover would focus on many aspects of the man’s complicated life.

“He was a very complex person. The homosexual aspect is just one of many. I would say that’s the least of his problems. But he was also very clever, whether rightfully or wrongfully, he was very clever about keeping himself in a certain position in life, so it is an interesting study,” Eastwood said.

Hoover, who died in 1972, was the first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and he served nearly four decades at the helm of the U.S. law enforcement agency.

Following his death, Hoover fell under sharp criticism for keeping secret files on prominent citizens, politicians and celebrities, including Martin Luther King, Jr. He also became the subject of conjecture over whether he was gay and if Tolson, Associate Director of the FBI, was his lover.

Eastwood said that by growing up in the 1930s and 40s, he could capture the mythology of Hoover in pop culture at the time, which had “comic books with him on the cover with machine guns and all that.”

“He is a fascinating character, and I think I am the right person to do it , not because I knew him or anything, but I did grow up with him,” Eastwood said. “He was an iconic figure.”

Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Bob Tourtellotte