Shortly before becoming the biggest box office draw of 2014, a rare feat for a war movie made for adults in a day and age when movies about superheroes, robots, wizards, and vampires dominate, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper was also the most talked about and heavily debated movie of the 2014 winter season. It polarized audiences along political lines, taking a pulse of the nation for those who felt the film was the most noble way to support our troops vs. those who found the depiction of foreign Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq sorely underdeveloped.
The argument boiled down to, is American Sniper pro-war or anti-war? It’s an important distinction to be made, and one that is hard to pin down due to certain ambiguous elements of the film. Eastwood refrains from discussing the politics of the war or the culture that defines the locals in Afghanistan and Iraq, and focuses with laser sight crosshairs on a soldier at the center.
The only voice silent on the whole matter was the director himself. Now Eastwood has spoken up and declared that his film is anti-war, and that on the whole he was against the campaigns in the Middle East.
Speaking with THR’s Stephen Galloway at an event for students at Loyola Marymount University, Eastwood said, “I think it’s nice for veterans because it shows what they go through, you know, and that life. And the wives and families of veterans. It has a great indication of the stresses they are under. And I think that all becomes… adds up to kind of an anti-war.”
When asked if he was anti-war himself, Eastwood replied:
“Yes. I’ve done war movies but that doesn’t… Because they’re always loaded with drama and conflict and all the things that make drama great. But you know as far as the actual participation I think it’s something that… It’s historically relevant because history has never been without it but it’s one of those things that should be done with a lot of thought if it needs to be done. But self-protection is a very important thing for nations and… But I just don’t like to see it… I was not a big fan of going to war and in Iraq or Afghanistan for several reasons, several practical reasons. One, the Afghanistan had been… The British had never been successful there, the Russians had 10 years there and hadn’t been successful and so we think we’re going to go over there and we can’t even fly in directly and we’re going to… I think you’d have to… You know, it has to have some thought process added into it.”
All of this doesn’t change American Sniper or give added weight to what does or doesn’t show up in the film, but it provides a valuable sense of the director’s intentions, especially coming from a notably conservative public figure.
The whole transcript of the interview, available at THR, allows Eastwood to open up about his past, particularly his own service time and a moment when he was flying home and was on a plane that crash landed into the ocean.
“Everything went wrong. Radios went out, oxygen ran out and they finally… The pilot flew it around for quite a while and we ran out of fuel up around Point Reyes, California. And went in the ocean. So we went swimming, ” Eastwood said. “It was a tough time of year in November and… I think it was November. Late October, November something. Very cold water. Found out many years later that it was a white shark breeding ground but I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have just died, just had apoplexy or something.”
Sadly, Clint did not clear up the even bigger controversy surrounding the film, why he used that doll to sub in for a baby.