After our interview is concluded, Scott Eastwood is off to buy a pick-up truck.
“I need a pickup truck,” he tells me with the assurance of a man for whom life will not be complete until a pick-up truck is parked in his front drive. “The amount of work and activities I do where I’m sweaty or salty and shit. Stuff. Gear. I’ve gotta have a pickup truck.”
A pick-up truck isn’t very Hollywood…
“Well, I don’t think I’m very Hollywood.”
And you know what? He isn’t. An unlikely revelation for a number of reasons but undeniably true. Scott Eastwood is many things: smart, charming, loyal, frequently sweaty and salty – but Hollywood is not one of them.
For starters, he lives in Texas. Naturally, owing to the whole global pandemic thing, jetting over to the States is no longer an option (damn you, global pandemic! Never been to Texas…) so our interview takes place over Zoom, my afternoon, his morning. The time isn’t the only difference: naturally, being June, London is grey and wet, covered by one of those pallid drizzles that can’t be arsed to turn into actual rain but wants to hang around anyway, purely out of spite.
Eastwood chuckles when he hears this. “It’s not raining here – you wanna see what it looks like?” Grinning, he shows me an elegant backyard: a square of grass, rectangular decking, trees crowding over the wooden fence, and above the trees, a broad, blue Texan sky as big as the State. “It’s sunny and beautiful here.”
One nil to Uncle Sam.
Now, while it is possible to conduct an interview over Zoom, photoshoots are another matter – and much as it hurts this writer to admit, the pictures are a fairly substantial part of the feature. (Albeit worth a thousand words? Don’t be silly. Five hundred, tops.) For obvious reasons, a typical studio setup – stylist, groomer, assistants, mountain lions, etc – would be a little tricky to arrange. Fortunately, Eastwood has movie star looks but none of a movie star’s ego. Going a bit guerrilla is not a problem.
Eastwood and photographer Jesse Natale decamped to a mutual friend’s ranch in California and basically spent a few hours playing around. “He’s a normal dude,” Natale tells me over the phone. “He’s an adventurer, he surfs and hunts. He’s not unfamiliar with the big production, but if he has the option, he’d rather do it guerrilla style, and get a more natural and a more organic experience.”
Natale has known Eastwood for many years. The two men frequently collaborate for Eastwood’s clothing line Made Here – described on its website as ‘a company and brand rooted 100% in America’ – and the YouTube series In A Day, which Eastwood explains, “highlights things that America does, in a day, really well, across every sector. From energy to agriculture to our military – we cover a vast variety of categories.” The first episode was filmed on an aircraft carrier.
No, Scott Eastwood isn’t very Hollywood. A couple of years ago, I wrote of our two-time cover star Henry Cavill: “He might well represent the English gentleman as we’d like to envisage him: impeccably mannered, sharp of wit and suit, possessing a vigorous dash of derring-do. The type of chap who carves out an eloquent 50* on a pristine village green, then leaps into a Spitfire still wearing his cricket whites.”
Eastwood may be the transatlantic equivalent. Part surfer, part cowboy, his rugged uber-handsomeness is the physical embodiment of a land where the beer is cold, the cars are classic, and the open highway beckons. (As well as the soon-to-be-purchased pickup truck, Eastwood owns a 1972 Chevy Cheyenne. He covets a 1961 Ferrari California GT Spider. Who doesn’t?)
And yes, as you will either know or have likely guessed, Scott’s father is Clint Eastwood, the icon of American cinema who – oh, you know who Clint Eastwood is. Tall guy, crow’s feet. Scott is his son – but he’s also a lot more than that.
“His dad is one of the greatest movie stars of all time. And he became, later in life, a great actor. But I believe that Scott is a better actor than his dad was at that age – because Scott brings a real empathy to his roles.”
Rod Lurie tells me that on yet another rainy London afternoon – this one’s in July (summer, eh?). At least we’re on the phone, sparing me the inevitable LA sunshine on the other end of the line.
Lurie sounds like a satisfied man. He should be: his film The Outpost is receiving the type of reviews that directors must pray for before they go to bed at night. A hefty 92% on Rotten Tomatoes; “ranks with the best interpretations of combat on film” according to Rolling Stone.
The combat in question is the 2009 Battle of Kamdesh, one of the bloodiest engagements of the ongoing Afghan War. Combat Outpost Keating is an American military base in Nuristan province in eastern Afghanistan, manned by 53 soldiers who just want to get out of there. You can’t blame them: situated at the base of three mountains, Keating is virtually indefensible, and attacks on the garrison come almost daily.
Those people were put under extraordinary circumstances. There were a lot of heroes
The film’s final hour depicts the inevitable Taliban assault and should be watched on the biggest screen available (if you didn’t upgrade your TV during lockdown, now’s the moment).
Bullets fly, comrades fall, and the viewer’s teeth sink ever further into their knuckles. However it’s the quieter open half – the daily routines under the shadow of sudden and violent death, the slightly fraught banter, the rarely voiced but all pervading sense of ‘what the hell are we doing here?’ – that more poignantly highlights the heroism of these extraordinary young men, some of them already doomed.
“It’s about what all these people did under these extraordinary circumstances,” says Eastwood of the film. “How they acted. It’s like that old sentiment: ‘uncommon value was a common virtue.’ It’s so true in this case. Those people were put under extraordinary circumstances. There were a lot of heroes. A lot of people who stuck their neck out and laid it all on the line to help people survive.”
The cast is led by an almost unrecognisable Orlando Bloom as 1st Lieutenant Benjamin D Keating – desperately trying to keep the peace between the soldiers and the local community – and features a scene-stealing turn from Caleb Landry Jones as the unpopular Specialist Ty Carter.
Eastwood’s Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha anchors the film – and the garrison – with a performance that is both tough and unexpectedly tender.
“He’s extremely low maintenance but he’s also a leader on the set,” says Lurie. “A lot of the young actors really looked up to him and looked at the preparation that he did.”
Every morning, Eastwood and Lurie would meet in the former’s trailer to discuss the day’s shoot. Says Lurie: “We were looking for nuances of anxiety and how panic is masked.”
Everybody was watching him tough this out. Nobody dared pussy out on the set
Eastwood didn’t meet the real-life Romesha, although the pair spoke on the phone. There was a real desire to do these men justice: “You’ve got a lot riding on it. You want to make sure you honour the people who lost their lives and paid the ultimate sacrifice. There’s also a tremendous heightened pressure to make sure everything is right: every detail, every performance, everything is correct. You leave nothing on the field.”
Eastwood certainly didn’t. Six weeks before the shoot, the actor broke his ankle – “a clusterfuck of the highest order”, as Lurie succinctly puts it. Shooting was delayed and the whole schedule was redone. Eastwood filmed his scenes in order of reverse physicality – chairs are your friend in such circumstances – took a fortnight break and then tackled the action scenes. At lunchtime, he worked out using a makeshift gym.
“Everybody was watching him tough this out,” recalls Lurie. “Nobody dared pussy out on the set at all.”
I hear about the broken ankle from Lurie; over the course of our conversation, Eastwood never mentions it.
Scott Eastwood was born in 1986 to a flight attendant and a film star. After his parents split, his mother Jacelyn moved to Hawaii and young Scott spent his formative years “kinda bouncing back and forth” between the island and his father’s California home. There are worse places to bounce between, to be fair.
“It’s definitely had a lasting impact on who I am and what I appreciate,” says Eastwood of this upbringing. “I’m very much an outdoors person. I’m very much a person who appreciates nature. Any outdoor activities that involve the ocean. That’s had a massive impact on my life.”
He smiles wryly. “Also, growing up in Hawaii, spending some of my formative years there, was definitely a different experience than being in California. You move to an island, being what they call a haole – a white boy – is not super popular. It’s a warrior mentality there.”
He nearly became a literal warrior, toying with joining the army out of high school – firefighting was also considered – but he decided to give acting a shot because, well, wouldn’t you?
I was a nobody. It was all great times, I had fun
Give himself until 30 and if it wasn’t working out, go and do something else with his life. There was only one problem: Eastwood hated LA. Now, being an aspiring West Coast actor who hates LA isn’t quite the same as being a cowardly lion tamer or a skydiver with vertigo, but still. It’s not ideal. But after spending a few years in Hollywood around the corner of 20, Eastwood knew he had to get out of town.
“I wouldn’t advise that!” he chuckles at the mention of this somewhat unorthodox career route (exit the Sunset Strip, and head south). “Then again, I would never advise moving to LA, personally.” The big city scene wasn’t for him. “This kind of life wasn’t the life I wanted. And if it meant that I had to live there then I wasn’t going to be an actor. I was going to do one of those other things. So I split and I never looked back.”
He ended up in San Diego. “I bartended, I valet parked cars, I worked construction. I did a lot of odd jobs to make money, any money I could make. Any cash jobs I could go in, work for several months at a time, and say, hey, I have to take off a month if I land a role in a movie. That was kind of how I supported myself in the beginning years.”
It sounds like he was enjoying himself?
“Those were the greatest years. They were the best years because there was less pressure. I was a nobody. It was all great times, I had fun. I was broke but I was having a great time in my twenties. Yeah, I miss those times. Those were good times.”
My dad wanted to make sure that reputation was earned
Of course it sounds a little strange, to bask in the life of a “nobody” when your father is one of the biggest Somebodys in the industry, but nothing about Clint Eastwood suggests he is a man prone to nepotism. If his son wanted to be an actor, he was going to have to earn it.
“Yeah, my dad’s pretty old school,” confirms Scott. “I think more than anything he never wanted anyone to be looking at me or him saying, ‘Oh, you just gave him a handout.’ He probably wanted to make sure that reputation was earned, that people had to win that kind of stuff. That’s just kind of the way it is in our family.
“Look, I’m blessed to be where I am. I don’t think for a second that I haven’t had opportunities because of how I was raised. There are certain inherent advantages of having had a good family growing up, having had a good education. I definitely had advantages.
“At the end of the day though, I’ve seen a lot of people with a lot, shit a lot away. It all comes down to work ethic and how you walk through that door. If you have an opportunity in life, it’s all about what you do with it.”
Did he ever risk squandering that opportunity?
“It was more, ‘will I get that opportunity?’. I think the opportunity I had was more based in my upbringing, and in my parents supporting me, and putting me into a good school, and kicking my arse, and raising me in a way that valued hard work and all those things. The opportunity as far as making it in the film industry…” He exhales. “There are a lot of factors that go into it.”
He begins to expand on those factors only to be interrupted by his dog. She’s called Josie, or possibly Josey – “like the Outlaw Josey Wales,” smiles Eastwood, although he might be joking. (I don’t ask for a clarification of the spelling.)
With Josie / Josey ushered away, Eastwood returns to his dissection of the actor’s life. The classes, the scene studying, the auditions when it’s you and five hundred other hopefuls trying to impress a producer who hasn’t even decided what gender the role is. And if you win the role, the shoot turns out to be a disaster. Or maybe it’s amazing, and you help create a modern masterpiece which the studio decides to release on the weekend of Avengers vs Avatar.
I don’t know if I’ll do movies forever. I really don’t know
“And then Hollywood,” says Eastwood in a voice palpably devoid of reverence. “Hollywood’s all about the flavour of the month. You could have success and then it doesn’t matter because they’re hiring someone who’s more popular that month or that year. There are so many factors that are totally out of your control. That’s why the business is so crazy and wild. There’s no stability. In another business, you work really hard, you show up, you do your thing, you’re gonna climb. You’re gonna start to climb and there are more things in your control. This business is crazy, man. It’s like a circus.”
So why keep doing it? The question might read a little like Mrs Merton’s famous inquiry of Debbie McGee “What first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” – “So, Scott: why subject yourself to the life of a film star?” – but then Eastwood doesn’t seem to want to be a film star. He loves and respects the process of acting, but has no time for the fripperies. So how long until he turns his attention to something else?
“I mean, man, I ask myself that all the time!” He laughs. “What am I doing? What am I doing, right? I don’t know if I’ll do it forever. I really don’t know. It’s a crazy business. It’s been a fun time. I’m super blessed and honoured to be able to do what I’ve done.
“When you go into it, you go into it with horse blinders on: I’m in my twenties, I don’t know anything, I’m just trying to work, just trying to build something – and that’s all you know. And then you crack the door and you start to understand. You start to see behind the curtain. It’s not all glamour.”
Live Life Better
Scott Eastwood is ready to get back to work. The past few months have offered a rare timeout – “taking a beat, taking a breather”, as he describes it – but life is short and there are movies to be made. It might be overly simplistic to say the world can be divided between Lockdown Until Vaccine and Let’s Just Get On With It, but then nuance is so last decade. Anyway, Eastwood is in the latter camp.
“We have to keep going, right? Life is dangerous. Everything in life is dangerous. And I think making decisions based on fear is never a wise place to make decisions from.”
He sighs when asked whether lockdown should have been imposed in the first place. In fairness, it’s not like world leaders can agree on this one. “Look, I think everyone was doing their best. Nobody knows the answer. And anyone who tells you different is full of shit.”
Three sentences that provide a fairly pinpoint epigraph for 2020 to date.
Scott followed his father into acting – but would he ever wish to emulate Clint’s political career? Eastwood Senior served two years as mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea and addressed the Republican Convention in 2012. Eastwood Junior is a little more ambivalent. Well, I say ambivalent…
“No!” he exclaims when asked the politics question. “Never. Never! Not a chance. Look at it; it’s crazy. I would never want to be involved in that nonsense. Everybody thinks they know better than you. It’s a job that I don’t understand why anybody would want to do. No thanks.”
We fuck up as humans. We’re not perfect. We say stupid things, we make mistakes
It’s been a bizarre year, and he doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. (Putting him in a minority with most of those on Twitter.) What matters is being able to ask the right questions. Eastwood’s podcast Live Life Better might be on hold but the sentiment still holds true. Keep evolving.
“It’s time for us all to reflect and learn and listen. Take a look at ourselves, take a look inside ourselves. And if we do that as humans on almost every issue – if we go, ‘how can I evolve? How can I be better? How can I be a better version of myself?’ – then that’s the most important thing.
“And have some compassion for people, right? We fuck up as humans. We’re not perfect. We say stupid things, we make mistakes. If we’re going to change and we’re going to be better and we’re going to evolve, we need more compassion. But it seems like people don’t want that.”
As always with Scott Eastwood, it comes down to work. The work you are willing to put into yourself. The work you are willing to give. To quote one of the true living legends of American culture: “He who isn’t busy being born is busy dying.” And dying’s a long way off yet.
“At 30, I looked back and I was like, OK, I’m making a pretty decent living at this, and I’m enjoying it and I like it. Then I kinda said, well, I’ll give myself ten more years. See how I feel at 40! I don’t think there was ever a moment when I felt like I made it. Trust me, I feel like that’s the beginning of the end.
“Who knows what’s going to happen? I’ve gotta keep fighting.”
As it looks in the magazine...
The Outpost is available now On Demand