by Michael Moore
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January 29, 2015
A lot of people are asking me if this is true as this "rumor" about Clint Eastwood confronting me in 2005 has now re-surfaced and floated around the internet in the past few days. So I thought I should say a few words...
Ten years ago this past week, Clint Eastwood stood in front of the National Board of Review awards dinner and announced to me and to the crowd that he would "kill" me if I ever came to his house with my camera for an interview.
"I'll kill you," he declared.
The crowd laughed nervously. As for me, having just experienced a half-dozen assaults in the previous year from crazies upset at 'Fahrenheit 9/11' and my anti-war Oscar speech, plus the attempt by a right wing extremist to blow up my house (he was caught in time and went to prison), I was a bit stunned to hear Eastwood, out of the blue, make such a violent statement. But I instantly decided he was just trying to be funny, so I laughed the same nervous laugh everyone else did. Clint, though, didn't seem to like all that laughter.
"I mean it," he barked, and the audience grew more quiet. "I'll shoot you."
There was a smattering of approving applause, but most just turned around to see what my reaction was. I tried to keep that fake smile on my face so as to appear as if he hadn't "gotten" to me. But he had. I then mumbled to those sitting at my table. "I think Dirty Harry just said, "Make my day, punk."
This story has received wider attention this week due to a piece in Salon by Penn State professor Sophia McClennen about 'American Sniper.' It reads in part:
"In order to have the bigger picture (of Clint Eastwood's thinking) we need to remember (some) key moments in recent Eastwood public appearances. The first took place in 2005 when Eastwood confronted filmmaker Michael Moore at the National Board of Review dinner, where both men were being honored. Moore was there for his documentary on the Iraq War, 'Fahrenheit 911.' Eastwood had 'Million Dollar Baby.' After Eastwood accepted his award, he directed comments at Moore. 'Michael Moore and I actually have a lot in common – we both appreciate living in a country where there’s free expression.' Eastwood then added: 'But, Michael, if you ever show up at my front door with a camera – I’ll kill you. I mean it.' The tone was I’m sort of joking, but maybe not really joking, provoking nervous laughter from both the audience and Moore himself.
"Eastwood said he would kill Moore if he showed up at his door. This was his response to a film that raised much-needed conversation about U.S. gun culture. Eastwood’s reaction tells us a lot about the way that some members of the GOP treat those with whom they disagree. If you don’t agree with me on guns, I’ll just kill you." http://www.salon.com/…/american_snipers_biggest_lie_clint…/…
The fact-checking site, Snopes, weighed in also this week and declared the Eastwood "I'll kill you" statement to me to be TRUE: http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/eastwoodmoore.asp…
I should probably stop here and say that I like Clint Eastwood and I think he was a great filmmaker. 'Unforgiven' is my favorite Western of all time. He also made a powerful film about the Japanese in World War II and portrayed them as human beings ('Letters from Iwo Jima'). Despite his own politics, he employs left-wing actors (Sean Penn and Tim Robbins both won Oscars in his "Mystic River"). He has made films about the jazz great Charlie Parker ("Bird") and Nelson Mandela ("Invictus").
But something started to go haywire with Clint in the last decade. Sophia McClennen in the Salon article wrote that she believes the first sign of his loopiness began that night at the awards dinner at Tavern on the Green in Central Park where he randomly went after me. Then came the (IMHO) awful (and weirdly racist) "Gran Torino" where he got to cast himself as a bigoted retired autoworker in Detroit. Two years later he was on the stage at the Republican National Convention carrying on a berating and confused conversation with an invisible Obama in an empty chair.
And now 'American Sniper' - a mess of a film that rewrites history (we invade Iraq as revenge for 9/11), perpetuates a racist sentiment to Arabs (Iraqis are "savages"), has a simplistic Hollywood storyline of the good sniper in white vs. the bad sniper in black), and (in a rare moment of honesty) shows the main characters in the film, the American soldiers, either returning home all messed-up by the war (and with some of them turning anti-war) or in a box. The lead character becomes a victim of both the PTSD epidemic AND the violent American/Texan gun culture that eventually takes his life.
In the days to come I will post some thoughtful pieces here by others about 'American Sniper', and later this weekend one of my own. After all, I probably should share my real thoughts about this film now that Fox News and everyone on the Right has made up my review for me and told their Kool-Aid drinking audience what "Michael Moore" thinks of the movie.
Finally, what was bothersome ten years ago when Clint issued is half-kidding/not-kidding threat to me was that he was joining in on a theme others in the media were perpetuating -- the wishful idea of my untimely death. Glenn Beck summed it up best when he said this on his show:
BECK: "Hang on, let me just tell you what I'm thinking. I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out -- is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus Do band, and I've lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, "Yeah, I'd kill Michael Moore," and then I'd see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I'd realize, "Oh, you wouldn't kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn't choke him to death." And you know, well, I'm not sure." http://mediamatters.org/research/200505180008
And then there was Bill O'Reilly talking to Rudy Giuliani on his show:
"Well, I want to kill Michael Moore, is that right? All right? And I don't believe in capital punishment. That's a joke on Moore." (Source: Entertainment Weekly)
Needless to say, this kind of thing wreaked all kinds of havoc in my life because of what this hate-speech does to inspire the more deranged among us.
This past week or so of hysterical attacks on me only proves that the American lovers of violence and the issuers of fatwas in OUR society haven't gone away. They are our American Isis - "Criticize or mock those whom we deify, like our sainted sniper, and we will harm you most assuredly."