You almost begin to feel like cattle as a journalist covering red carpet events at Santa Barbara International Film Festival. You’re sent through the chute with your fellow journalists and paparazzi and then made to stand at your marked spot while everyone leans over the railing and looks to see if that’s Clint Eastwood. Thankfully, however, they spare you from being shot in the forehead with an air gun, getting hung upside down and then being cut into steaks.
It’s certainly an interesting crowd: I was sandwiched between a high school reporter, at least 10 kids from a middle school and a tall woman with a thick Italian accent who claimed to be from Rolling Stone (and who proceeded to be hit on by a tall mustachioed man filming a spot for a meaningless Santa Barbara-based Web site). What he said was true, if everyone checking their watches and getting increasingly pissed wondering why the hell is film critic Leonard Maltin the only “celebrity” here passes as “palpable excitement.”
At some point, Sean Penn showed up (with a mustache so thick and fantastic you’d swear he was preparing for a career in porn), walked past the cameramen, appeared to hide behind a column for a few minutes, regroup and then basically run past the rest of the reporters, failing to respond to my shouted query about whether or not he regretted going full retard for “I Am Sam.” Now we’ll never know.
Clint Eastwood followed, looking what can only be described as a youthful 78.
“I still got it, baby!” he exclaimed, before telling the group of middle school kids to do everything their parents tell them before walking into the theater.
Interspersed throughout the interview were several clips from Eastwood’s filmography that can only be described as oddly selected. For every scene from “Per qualche dollaro in più” (“For a Few Dollars More”) when Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef have a tense gun battle, there is one more in the vein of the “Million Dollar Baby” scene where Eastwood said – I swear to God – one line during the entire clip while (spoiler alert!) Hillary Swank was dying in the hospital bed and delivering a monologue that was dramatic in context but weird during the middle of an awards show.