CARMEL, California (Reuters) - When Clint Eastwood calls, even the biggest celebrities are happy to oblige, giving the actor an especially strong pull in putting together high-profile projects.
On Friday, legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, 86, visited Eastwood in the scenic California coastal town of Carmel and invited the actor and Oscar-winning director to join him on a blues jam as the cameras rolled.
Even the reclusive Neil Armstrong has joined the former “Dirty Harry” star for a round of golf, as Eastwood considered whether to make a movie about the first man on the moon.
After filming an interview with Brubeck for an upcoming film, Eastwood, a good amateur pianist, discussed his passion for directing and promoting jazz. The oldest director to win an Academy Award, Eastwood remains full of energy and has a full plate of projects in the works.
“I’m pretty vigorous, I can go as long as a lot of others,” Eastwood, 77, told Reuters.
“I’m sort of concentrating on (directing) at this point in my life and I love it because I learn something new every time,” he said at his Mission Ranch hotel. “Something new makes your life interesting.”
“I do it because you learn something all the time, you’re a constant student of life, student of what you do, which for me is make films.”
“I would always hope that the last film that I did would be the very best,” he said. “The last film I did was ‘Letters from Iwo Jima.’ I felt I was in the groove on that one, and ‘Million Dollar Baby’ and ‘Mystic River.’”
Next month, Eastwood starts filming “The Changeling” starring Angelina Jolie, about a woman whose child is kidnapped. When the child is returned, she suspects a swap has taken place.
“It’s a great tour de force for a woman ... with John Malkovich and a lot of very good actors,” Eastwood said.
Eastwood has also considered making a movie based on Armstrong’s 2006 biography, “First Man.”
“I don’t know if I’ll do that. That’s a hard one — never conquered the script on that,” he said. “To tell the drama of it is going to be difficult.”
“I’ve met with him, played golf with him. He’s a very nice guy but he likes his privacy and I can’t blame him for that,” said Eastwood, who also prefers to be left alone and often shuns interviews.
When two attractive young women approached, Eastwood was initially reluctant to talk, but then posed for a photo. “I may be an elderly fellow, but not that elderly,” he joked.
On Saturday, the Berklee College of Music awards Eastwood an honorary doctorate of music at the 50th anniversary of the Monterey Jazz Festival. “They figure I know the difference between A-sharp and B-flat,” he joked.
Berklee President Roger Brown said Eastwood deserves recognition for making the 1988 drama “Bird” about saxophonist Charlie Parker and documentaries such as his current Brubeck film. “I’m interested in promoting this great American art form, true American art form, and keep it going,” Eastwood said, adding that in the late 1940s he played piano at an Oakland bar for food, beer and tips.
In the early 1960s, Eastwood recorded an album of cowboy songs, years later had a hit country duet with Merle Haggard, and a decade ago presided over a Carnegie Hall jazz tribute concert. “I played in Carnegie Hall, and I didn’t practice, practice, practice. I’m lucky,” he said.
On Friday, Brubeck launched into blues chords after suggesting that Eastwood might improvise alongside him. But even with just a few people and the cameras watching, the long-time film star was comfortable letting someone else have the spotlight.
Eastwood reached over from an adjacent chair to the high notes and cautiously picked out a few spare notes. After a while he sat back and let the jazz maestro have center stage.