Clint Eastwood is a star as Leonardo DiCaprio's 'J. Edgar' debuts
It seems every actor dreams of working with director Clint Eastwood. So when that opportunity presents itself, most wouldn't dare pass it up.
At the premiere of "J. Edgar" in Hollywood on Thursday, many of the stars of Eastwood's latest movie revealed numerous sacrifices, big and small, that were made to be a part of the biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Naomi Watts told the Ministry she rearranged her schedule to take a part in the film about the infamous FBI director. Newcomer Armie Hammer overcame an intense case of nerves. And Josh Lucas even groveled -- writing Eastwood a fan letter.
"Years ago, I sent him a fan letter and said I am a massive, massive fan of your movies, and if I could come be an extra, I would do anything," admitted Lucas, who plays Charles Lindbergh. "I think a lot of people [imagine] that these sort of legends are untouchable, and the world forgets that they love the feedback, in particular, from fellow actors and people they maybe admire as well."
Watts, meanwhile, was looking to take a break from work when she was approached about playing Hoover's loyal secretary. She'd just completed six months on another project shooting in Thailand and Spain, and was eager to get back to her "normal place with the kids back in nursery school," she said.
"In fact, when my agent said 'You’re gonna get an offer,' I was like, 'Oh no!'" she recalled with a smile. "And then it was like, 'Clint Eastwood wants to talk to you about this role,' and, of course, immediate interest."
Hammer, who got his big break last year playing the Winkelvoss twins in "The Social Network," was even more eager to jump on board -- so much that he hired a professional researcher to help him learn more about Clyde Tolson, Hoover's confidant and rumored lover. Still, he was racked with anxiety about showing up to set the first day.
"Especially as a newbie to this game –- as the newcomer in it -– I was like, terrified. Because I knew, 'Oh, Leo is going to come in and have great choices. He's gonna do awesome. And Naomi? What am I gonna do?' I really had to make sure that I brought my A-game as much as possible," he said.
"You don’t really have much of a choice. You just gotta sarge on."
So what makes Eastwood so desirable to work with? Many in the cast mentioned to us the freedom he allows actors on set.
"I like to see what the actors bring to the table before I start making comments," Eastwood explained. "In other words, I feel that directors who start making comments before they've even seen what goes down are usually just trying to convince themselves about what the next shot is going to be."
Eastwood allowed DiCaprio, for one, the creative freedom to make his own choice about Hoover's true sexuality. Even so, the actor says he's still unsure if Hoover and Tolson were more than just close friends.
"To tell you the truth, I don’t have the answer to that and I don't think anyone alive really does," DiCaprio told E’s Marc Malkin. "If you talk to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, they're staunch believers of the fact that these two men carried out a very professional relationship and they were inseparable pals.
"And then you talk to a whole other community of people and they say, 'Are you ridiculous? These men went on every vacation together. They ate breakfast, lunch and dinner to dinner. They went to work together. They were together for 50 years. They lived together. They were buried together. They never had a family and never had a girlfriend.' Put it together in your mind."
"J. Edgar" opens wide on Wednesday.
-- Amy Kaufman
Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio, left, Armie Hammer and Clint Eastwood at the premiere of "J. Edgar," which opened the AFI Fest in Hollywood on Thursday. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press