Clint Eastwood was surrounded by old friends Sunday evening as he accepted the Tolerance Award at the first Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival.
"I'm 80," Eastwood said. "I wouldn't normally admit that, except that Eli [Wallach]'s here, and it's all relative."
As Wallach, 94, told the crowd at the museum, their friendship goes back almost 45 years to "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," the 1966 spaghetti Western that made Eastwood a star. Since then, Eastwood has been "a delicious, good, wonderful friend," Wallach said.
"I don't know how to word it, but I'll tell you, I spent a night once in bed with Clint Eastwood." Well, Eastwood did win the Tolerance Award.
That memorable night took place when they were making the film and traveling from Italy to a town in Spain. The hotels were filled, so they had to stay in a small apartment. "Clint said to me, 'What side do you want to sleep on?' I, being an old radical, said, 'I'll take the left side.'"
Though this was a junior event for Hollywood's burgeoning awards season, security at the museum dedicated to battling anti-Semitism was as strict as it is for the Oscars, with car trunks inspected and metal detectors used to screen guests. On the other side of the gantlet was a spread of corned beef, pastrami, pickles and sushi.
Snacking and milling about were Mary Hart, soon to retire from "Entertainment Tonight"; Olivia Williams ("The Ghostwriter"), Tia Carrere, Taylor Hicks, who later sang the theme song Eastwood wrote for his 2008 film, "Gran Torino"; and Bryce Dallas Howard, a star of "The Hereafter," the latest film Eastwood has directed.
Skipping the red carpet and arriving later were emcee George Lopez and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who presented the award.
"I love this guy," said Schwarzenegger, clearly in high spirits. "Ever since I was in Austria as a kid, watching his movies ... he was an inspiration for me to come over here to America and to also become an actor and to become a leading man. I don't think I would have done 'The Terminator' if he hadn't paved the way for great action movies, if he wouldn't have said 'Make my day' and all those kinds of lines, that made me follow with 'I'll be back' and those kinds of lines."
OK, so action stars are simpatico, we get that. But when Rabbi Marvin Hier said to Eastwood, "As a filmmaker, you have quite a fan club among the clergy," who knew?
In line with the museum's mission, its founding rabbi said, Eastwood's later films such as "Gran Torino" and "Letters From Iwo Jima" promote tolerance and inclusion -- both of which seemed pretty distant for the honoree a little earlier in the evening.
"On my way down here, somebody cut us off and he aimed a finger at us," Eastwood said. "So I rolled down the window and I started to yell, and my wife said, 'You're getting a tolerance award. I mean, his cat might have died in the morning.' I said, 'I don't give a damn about his cat.' Then I started realizing that's true. The next time you're arguing in traffic, you don't know all the facts."
Are you listening, Santa Monica Freeway?
-- Irene Lacher
Upper photo: Clint Eastwood, with wife Dina Ruiz Eastwood, enjoys the Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival gala hosted by George Lopez in Los Angeles on Sunday. Credit: Bart Bartholomew / Museum of Tolerance
Middle photo: Bryce Dallas Howard, who stars in Eastwood's latest film "The Hereafter." Credit: Bart Bartholomew / Museum of Tolerance
Lower photo: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger presents the inaugural Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival Tolerance Award to Eastwood. Credit: Bart Bartholomew / Museum of Tolerance