Clint Eastwood Connects the Sunset Boulevard Dots

A gas station, a Billy Wilder classic and Leonardo DiCaprio.

EsquireSeptember2016CoverSome remarks made by Clint Eastwood about Donald Trump in the September issue of Esquire are getting a lot of media attention. But truth be told, anyone who takes the time to read the full transcript of a conversation conducted by Michael Hainey with Eastwood and the actor’s son, Scott, will find those comments, in context, pretty harmless.

More intriguing to us is the specter of Sunset Boulevard. When Eastwood as a child came to L.A. from Redding, Calif., it was so his dad could work as an attendant at a gas station at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Pacific Coast Highway. And when Eastwood in the Esquire interview jokes about a movie in which he could play an actor-turned-Uber-driver, it leads Hainey to suggest that would fit well into a remake of Sunset Blvd., to which the 86-year-old legend responded:

“My favorite film … Two different styles: the style of the silent-movie actress, and then with William Holden’s character, someone more contemporary. The two styles working so well together. And I always liked Billy Wilder.”

Just a few years after Sunset Blvd. was released, Eastwood started hanging out on movie sets in 1954 as a Universal Pictures contract player. Not just when he had a throwaway line, but also on his days off. That habit and one particular part of the M.O. is something he passed on to Scott, who explains:

“I remember something he told me early on. I don’t remember how old I was when you told me this, Dad. But you said, “As an actor, I never went back to my trailer. I always hung out on set and learned.” That stuck with me. I’m on this Fast and the Furious movie right now, and everyone goes back to their trailer. I stick around and say, “Why you are setting up the shot like this?” I want to learn.”

The 1950 Billy Wilder classic, still the best movie ever made about Hollywood, is one that Eastwood has mentioned previously here and there. One of the more interesting other echos came in 2011 from Eastwood leading man Leonardo DiCaprio, during a New York Times interview with Brooks Barnes:

DiCaprio lit up when talking about movies and people that have influenced him, particularly Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd., which he said he discussed with Mr. Eastwood during the making of J. Edgar. They wanted to emulate how that 1950 film handled voice-over narration.

Previously on FishbowlNY:
Posthumously, Billy Wilder Authors a Much More Joyous Sunset Blvd. Tale