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How intimidating is Clint Eastwood?
Consider that even Mitt Romney, who keeps telling us he's ready to be president, was intimidated by the 82-year-old actor/director, as evidenced by the fact that Eastwood was the only human being allowed onstage at last month's Republican National Convention without having his remarks vetted in advance by Romney's campaign team.
Now try directing your first movie with Eastwood as your star. "He can be intimidating at times," said Robert Lorenz, who directed Eastwood in "Trouble With the Curve," a baseball comedy-drama opening nationwide on Friday, Sept. 21. "It would be his natural inclination to start calling the shots if I wasn't very well-prepared."
The movie stars Eastwood as Gus, a veteran scout for the Atlanta Braves, who knows baseball talent by eye and instinct. Alas, his eyes are giving out, so his boss and best friend, Pete (John Goodman), asks Gus' semi-estranged daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), to help. Mickey, a hotshot Atlanta lawyer working to impress her bosses on a big case, puts off her work to join Gus in the Carolinas to check out a high-school phenom who the Braves' computer-reliant scout Phil (Matthew Lillard) is convinced is the real deal.
Lorenz read screenwriter Randy Brown's script before Bennett Miller's "Moneyball" hit theaters last year, but acknowledges that the two movies serve as bookends to an ongoing debate in baseball "between technology and old-school instincts."
It's that debate that Lorenz thought would appeal to Eastwood as an actor.
"It had some classic themes of old vs. new, like the young scouts who are using technology and dismissing the wisdom that [Gus] represents," Lorenz said in a recent phone interview. "There's also the really strong relationship that is dramatized between him and his daughter," two headstrong characters who define themselves by their careers.
Lorenz knows Eastwood well. Of the 11 movies Lorenz has produced or executive-produced before this, 10 were directed by Eastwood: "Blood Work," "Mystic River," "Million Dollar Baby," "Flags of Our Fathers," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Changeling," "Gran Torino," "Invictus," "Hereafter" and "J. Edgar." (The 11th, "Rails & Ties," was directed by Alison Eastwood, Clint's daughter.)
But for his first time directing, Lorenz worked to establish his own voice. "A few of the shots and so forth aren't typically Clint Eastwood style," he said.
He said he was determined to get Adams to play the spunky and stubborn Mickey, and thrilled that she accepted.
"She disappears into every role," Lorenz said of Adams. "She could balance the tough and endearing side. She's also athletic, and you can believe she actually knows about baseball."
And if Lorenz felt intimidated directing Eastwood, imagine what it was like for Adams, standing toe-to-toe with him.
"She had a tougher job, and she was a little bit intimidated," Lorenz said. "She plays it close to the vest, but she was a little daunted."
The first scene they shot together was the toughest a confrontation between Mickey and Gus in a diner. "When she got through that, it made it so much easier for her."
As Lorenz has been promoting "Trouble With the Curve" around the nation, he's had to deal a bit with his leading man's other big performance this summer: that infamous impromptu monologue with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention.
Lorenz's take on Eastwood's RNC performance? "When he has a good script and a little rehearsal time, he kills. In the movie, all the jokes work."