Scott Eastwood is facing the defining year of his life. With big roles in big films alongside big names such as Will Smith, Ben Affleck and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, can he seize his opportunity to step out of his very famous father’s shadow?
There’s no hiding it. Scott Eastwood is Clint Eastwood’s son. This much becomes clear right from the moment we do handshakes and hellos – the similarities between him and his father, circa A Fistful of Dollars, are uncanny. But while the 85-year-old cinema legend’s shadow will never leave us during our time together, Clint’s not why we’re here. Eastwood Jnr is about to have the biggest year of his career, with big roles in big movies running back-to-back through the spring and into the summer and beyond.
First there’ll be his turn as Trevor, Edward Snowden’s boss in Oliver Stone’s eagerly awaited biopic Snowden, which charts the controversial story of the infamous CIA secret-slipper. Then he’ll return to our screens in the summer blockbuster Suicide Squad, the latest DC Comics-inspired anti-hero mash-up, alongside Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie. At the time of writing, the film’s promoters were still whipping teenagers past and present into a frenzy by not revealing the name of Eastwood’s character in the film. Can we go there? ‘It’s a little bit of a secret still,’ comes the reply.
And then towards the end of the year, he’ll team up with Ben Affleck in Live by Night, a Prohibition-era thriller based on Dennis Lehane’s crime novel in which he plays Danny Coughlin to Affleck’s older brother Joe. All are already in the can. The reason we’re here in Antibes, hiding from the crowds in the French Riviera’s dank off-season, is because he’s already working on Overdrive, a high-octane car heist dash due out next year that he describes as ‘like The Italian Job meets Gone in 60 Seconds’. He’s been busy.
But until recently, it wasn’t like that. Despite being the son of Hollywood royalty, Eastwood appears not to have been given a leg-up in the family business. He’s keen to make it clear he’s had to make his own way through the pack.
‘It’s a long road, man. It’s a long road,’ he says of the 13 years he’s spent pursuing acting. ‘Not a lot of opportunities, a lot of nos, a lotta, you know, just doing acting class…’
As if to illustrate the acting life was never going to fall into his lap, he tells me that he went to Loyola Marymount University in California to get a degree in communications. ‘I always thought I need a back-up if this shit doesn’t work out,’ he says, laughing. ‘Acting’s great, it’s fun, but I always wanted to be in control of my own destiny.’
He remembers giving himself until 30 to make a go of it, working the treadmill during his twenties, hoping the roles would come. He started out under his mother’s name, Reeves, winning minor roles in two films directed by his father (which looks suspiciously like a leg-up): the Second World War epic Flags of our Fathers and the 2008 hit Gran Torino, Eastwood Snr’s penultimate – for now – appearance as an actor. Turns followed in Invictus (2009), The Forger (2012) and Fury (2014) as one of Brad Pitt’s troupe of hardened Second World War soldiers.
‘Then I started getting some roles, but until three or four years ago, I was still bartending,’ he says. ‘I would bartend all night, study lines, pass out at 3am and then get up the next morning and drive to Los Angeles to go and knock out an audition. Afterwards, I would then drive back and have a shift like that again the next night.’
That all seems like ancient history now, surely? ‘No. It still feels real. I still have a shirt from a restaurant I used to work at, and I make sure I pack it everywhere I go, and I wear it. Just to remind myself how lucky I am. I could be bartending again tomorrow. This could be over in a second. Couple of bad movies, not hot, and then it goes away.’
In his Californian drawl – he moved away from Los Angeles six years ago for the more relaxed climes of San Diego – he talks through all this as if he were a high-school graduate recalling the last game of the football season. He’s laid-back, easy-going, uncomplicated, what some might call a ‘bro’. As we talk he puts away breakfast. A plate of bacon and eggs. It’s 11.45am – he was out late last night, with his ‘buddies’, and back at 3am.
But behind the lazy, strung-out vowels, the late nights and the skater-boy jeans and tee look he’s proudly sporting this morning, there’s steeliness. ‘He’s a hustler,’ says Adam, his high-school friend who has joined him on the Overdrive trip as a confidant, script consultant, drinking buddy and general go-to guy. ‘He works real hard.’
That ethic, insists Eastwood, came from his father. ‘My dad was a hard-ass,’ he says unequivocally. A few months ago, he posted a picture on social media of himself and his father poolside, both flexing their biceps in a familiar rites of passage act of bravado that he captioned: ‘Throwback to when I was a punk. My dad whipped me into shape. Made me into a man. Love you pops. Thanks for kicking my ass.’
‘I remember this time, I was 18 and I didn’t have a car,’ Eastwood says. ‘I was putting myself through college. And I asked my dad if he would give me a loan, for like eight grand. I had a job at the time, a way to pay him back. I remember being so nervous to ask him. He was like: “No. Uh-uh.’” He laughs at the memory, and I suspect at the greener version of himself.
‘He was like, “You figure it out.” And that was the end of that. It’s a story, but it’s a summation of how he was as a father. I had to go out there and dig swimming pools. At the time I thought he was dick. Now, I’m like, “Thank God”. He instilled a work ethic in me. Show up on time, don’t complain. You see the biggest movie stars in the world – the Chris Pratts, the Tom Cruises – get up and hustle every day. Still now. Talent is one thing, but hard work is far more valuable in my eyes.’
Perhaps that’s why initially he took his mother’s name? ‘Yeah, but I realised pretty quick that it really didn’t matter. If you weren’t good in an audition, it didn’t matter. It was my last name, and I wanted to carry on my family’s legacy. The decision wasn’t made for me. I thought:
“I’m an adult now, I’ve been doing this long enough, this is stupid – I’m going to take my own name.”’
He got that name, although not many knew it at the time, on March 21, 1986. Eastwood Snr had divorced his first wife Maggie Johnson in 1984, quietly beginning a relationship with Jacelyn Reeves, a flight attendant, and it was with her that he had Scott and his younger sister Kathryn. At the same time, his volatile relationship with Every Which Way But Loose co-star Sondra Locke was fizzling out, ending in 1989. Eastwood Snr described his family as ‘dysfunctional’ – Scott is one of the veteran actor and director’s seven children born by five different women.
He was born in Monterrey, California, only a few weeks before his father began a two-year stint as mayor of Carmel. He grew up there and in Hawaii, split between his parents. Despite the unconventional background, he appears to have found his way to adulthood with a pretty level head on him.
In fact, there’s an all-American, prom-king simplicity to Eastwood. A homegrown, homespun honesty that won’t win him headlines in a battle with the more maniacally media-hungry stars of his generation, but he’s fine with that. On our set he’s so relaxed that he’s happy to strip down to his boxer shorts without so much as an assistant holding up a makeshift modesty curtain, changing from one look to the next, no hint of diva-ishness – or embarrassment – to speak of.
He admits he likes getting into gear to walk the red carpet in his new role as an ambassador for IWC (he’s wearing some of the Swiss watch brand’s new Pilot’s Watch models on set), or taking on the model mantle as the face of Davidoff, but essential Scott is the ordinary guy that likes hanging out with his friends on a beach in Cali, surfboard in tow.
His speech is peppered with ‘like’,‘sorta’ and ‘right?’, fillers he drapes loosely around observations infused with sun-baked California sentiment: ‘You gotta figure it out, right?’; ‘I was like, screw this place’; ‘Athletes are always playing hurt. But they suck it up.’ He says of David Ayer, who directed Suicide Squad, ‘He’s the man – I just felt lucky to be in his greatness’. And then of the fact he does most of his own stunts, he says: ‘Last week, I was jumping from a BMW to a bus, going, like 40mph. I love it – who gets to do that, ever, right?’
There’s a thinly veiled wonder to this. Eastwood may have grown up with a father who turned car chases and fist fights into a personal fortune worth an estimated $375m, but that only makes the childlike enthusiasm he has for ‘jumpin’ off stuff’ all the more infectious. Who does get to do that, ever, right?
Not that he’s not savvy. At 29, he’s grown into fame as part of the social media generation and he’s active on all the major platforms, posting pics of himself cliff-jumping or travelling in the front end of the plane for all the world to see. Last August, he tapped into the mainstream by appearing as Taylor Swift’s love interest in the sappy but hugely successful music video for her chart-fodder hit Wildest Dreams. It’s racked up more than 375 million views so far.
So can he be the movie star for the Instagram generation? He sighs. ‘Please don’t make me answer that – I have no idea how to answer that at all. Agh…’ Certainly, he has the looks and the lifestyle, a chiselled jaw and a helicopter license, and a legion of adoring (mostly female) fans. He’s single at the moment, for the record.
‘Look, it’s not a chore for me [social media]. I think it’s cool and a fun way to tap into the world, but I also like to keep a bit of anonymity, and so I struggle with that. Keeping anonymity, but touching your fans. Being able to show them this cool thing, but then also being able to have my private life.
‘I’m not a big phone guy,’ he adds. ‘I don’t even know where my phone is right now.’ Adam, faithful as ever, interjects to tell him it’s upstairs. Somewhere. ‘I’m a little more old school. If you’re having a conversation with someone, it’s nice to just be present, in the moment, and not be attached to this frigging leash that people have become so accustomed to.’
Vanity Fair labelled him a rising star in 2013, since when he’s landed a few leading roles, albeit in films that haven’t quite been the catapult to superstardom in the way The Notebook was for Ryan Gosling. There was The Longest Ride, an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ 17th romance novel, in which he played a bull-wrangling cowboy. Then came Diablo, a Western that saw him channelling his father, hunting down some bad guys who razed his house to the ground and stole his wife.
The feeling is that now’s the time to live up to the billing. He doesn’t lack for ambition. He says he wants to work with the big guns, reeling off the names like a chattering machine gun – Ridley Scott, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron. As he approaches his 30th birthday (‘thanks for that, man’), the movie world is starting to wonder what kind of star Scott Eastwood will become. The question has clearly been playing on his mind.
‘You know, I ask myself that a lot actually. I look at how Brad Pitt did it, and I’m sure he got offered every big disaster movie and this that and the other, and he chose a much darker, more interesting path. I love guys’ careers like Mark Wahlberg’s. He’s done interesting films, but he’s also done fun comedies and big action films and great dramas.
‘I would say that’s the key to not getting typecast – you know, throw a bunch of different paint at the wall so people see you in different lights. I don’t know if I’ll continue to do that, or if I’ll get typecast, who knows? I got offered a million World War II movies, and I’m like, “I’ve done two of those already – why would I want to do another one?” Maybe in 10 years I’ll be inspired by it again. Maybe I’ll be back at the bar, bartending…’
A lot hangs on this year, then. So far, Snowden trailers have been obfuscatory. Back when it was due for a December release there was talk of it challenging for gongs in awards season. Citizenfour, a documentary covering the same story, picked up an Oscar for best documentary at last year’s ceremony, suggesting the Academy is sympathetic to the story. But the distributors behind Stone’s piece pushed it back to May. Beyond the core narrative, we still don’t know much about it.
‘It’s a very politically driven drama, with a lot of controversy around privacy and what’s going on in big government,’ says Eastwood. Does it take sides? ‘I don’t know. I haven’t seen it yet, but maybe it’s left up to interpretation. It’s sorta the big controversy of him. Is he a hero, or is he a traitor?’ Did it help him make up his mind? Eastwood looks uncomfortable and tension creeps into our interview for the first time. ‘I don’t know. I mean, I don’t get involved in political stuff. I’m not taking a stance either way. I just made a film that I thought was interesting on a controversial subject.’
And then it’s time to wrap it up. Handshakes and goodbyes. He’s unstintingly polite, thanking the photographer, his assistant, the make-up artist, the stylist, his agent, me. ‘That was great, thank you. You guys were really professional.’ The Scott Eastwood seal of approval. It’s reciprocated, sir. And then some.
Scott was shot exclusively for our March/April issue by Philipp Mueller, styled by Holly Macnaghten, grooming by Gia Mills, photographer’s assistant Marie-Amelie Martin, stylist’s assistant Zeni Ndebele. Don’t miss our next issue, out May 12, by subscribing here.
Scott Eastwood is an IWC Schaffhausen ambassador.