‘Dirty Harry’ earns lots of bad reviewsAgence France-Presse
LOS ANGELES—Clint Eastwood earned plenty of bad reviews for his latest performance: A bizarre, rambling endorsement of Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa, Florida, that had the actor-director pretending to have an off-color conversation with an imaginary President Barack Obama sitting by his side in an empty chair.
“Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic,” tweeted film critic Roger Ebert. “He didn’t need to do this to himself. It’s unworthy of him.”
Eastwood carried on a kooky, long-winded conversation with an imaginary President Obama, telling him that he failed to deliver on his promises, and that it’s time for Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, to take over.
“Mr. President, how do you handle promises that you have made when you were running for election? I mean, what do you say to people?” he said at one point to the empty chair.
The star of Westerns like “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” looked down several times at the empty chair, as if he were listening to Obama criticize Republican presidential nominee Romney, whom Eastwood has endorsed.
“What do you want me to tell Romney? I can’t tell him to do that. He can’t do that to himself. You’re absolutely crazy!” Eastwood said, apparently referring to a sexual act.
“I think it may be time for, what do you think, maybe a businessman,” said Eastwood, referring to Romney, who became fabulously wealthy as a successful private equity investor.
“When somebody does not do the job, you’ve gotta let them go,” he said of Obama, as he then drew a finger sharply across his throat.
Twitter was instantly ablaze with comments mocking the Oscar-winning director of “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby.”
Minutes after Eastwood began his speech, someone created an @InvisibleObama account on Twitter. It has already amassed 30,000 followers and counting.
“Clint has now eclipsed the total word count of his last three films,” tweeted film critic Richard Roeper during the speech, which was intended to last five minutes but went on for nearly 12.
Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” said “Clint’s empty chair act” was the “weirdest convention moment I have ever seen.”
When the Politico news website asked Obama campaign spokesperson Ben LaBolt to comment on Eastwood’s speech, he replied: “Referring all questions on this to Salvador Dali.”
The social media commentary grew so fast, with tweets from celebrities and unknowns alike, that several websites compiled best-of lists of Eastwood remarks.
“I didn’t realize that, when Clint Eastwood was announced as a surprise speaker, that it would also be a surprise to him,” tweeted David Roth (@david—i—roth).
“I still like Clint Eastwood,” tweeted writer and comedian Frank Conniff (@FrankConniff). “A crazy Republican talking to a chair is the least harm a crazy Republican has done in ages.”
“I heard that Clint Eastwood was channeling me at the RNC,” tweeted comic actor Bob Newhart, known for his one-sided conversation bits. “My lawyers and I are drafting our lawsuit.”
The 82-year-old actor and director also talked about Oprah Winfrey, Obama’s unfulfilled promise to close the US prison at Guantanamo, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and lawyers.
The Obama campaign shot back afterward by tweeting a photo of the back of the president’s chair, with Obama’s head peeking over it, along with the line: “This seat’s taken.”
Among Romney supporters, Eastwood’s head-scratching endorsement set off immediate questions and finger-pointing: Who booked Eastwood? Did anyone have an idea of what he was going to say? Did anyone read his remarks before they were broadcast?
One Romney aide said that the actor-director, a fiscal conservative who takes left-leaning stands on social issues such as gay marriage and environmental protection, had been booked months ago and that the expectation was that he would deliver a more standard endorsement, as he did earlier this year.
Another aide tried gamely to find an upside, saying that the Eastwood appearance offered a moment of unpredictability in a convention that was otherwise surprise-free.
‘Go ahead, make my day’
Inside the convention, the crowd cheered Eastwood’s entrance and shouted his famed catchphrase, “Go ahead, make my day.” But backstage, stern-faced Romney aides winced at times as the actor’s remarks stretched on. After his speech, Romney’s camp defended Eastwood.
“He’s an American icon,” Romney spokesperson Gail Gitcho told CNN’s Piers Morgan. “You can’t look at him through the same political lens that you would other politicians. He’s Clint Eastwood.”
There was seemingly more discussion Thursday night on Twitter about Eastwood’s awkward performance than Romney’s actual acceptance speech.
Several celebrities and comedians lightheartedly hypothesized on the microblogging site how Democrats could top the over-the-top routine at their own convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, next week.
Talking to a steak
“To restore balance to the universe, Obama must have Tommy Chong onstage at the DNC (Democratic National Convention), talking to a steak,” joked Patton Oswalt.
Original “Star Trek” actor George Takei said he was “drafting a DNC speech to (an) imaginary Romney in an empty factory.”
“Saturday Night Live” cast member Seth Myers had an entirely different idea: “(Vice President Joe) Biden has to go shirtless for DNC to top it.”
For Hollywood veteran Eastwood, his chance to rebound likely comes Sept. 21 in more familiar territory. That’s when his next film, the baseball drama “Trouble with the Curve,” opens. With a report from Michael D. Shear and Michael Barbaro, New York Times News Service