We have a bit of a rule that whenever a Hollywood legend like Clint Eastwood or John Wayne has dished out advice on cinema, we listen to it. So what happens when the two great icons of the Western genre disagree on filmmaking? Well, that gives us a bit of a conundrum.
In this case, Clint Eastwood and John Wayne don’t see eye to eye when it comes to… eyes. They’ve both made some of the best Westerns in the history of cinema, but Wayne fundamentally believes you always need to be able to see an actor’s eyes for a scene to work. Eastwood, who is still churning out impressive new movies into his 90s, is not so sure.
“In a lot of those old movies, there’s light all over the place and there’s no contrast. But you really don’t have to see everything,” Eastwood told the DGA Quarterly Magazine. “John Wayne had this theory that you had to see the eyes all the time, the eyes tell the story. I never believed that.”
Eastwood referenced Jack Green and Tom Stern’s lighting for his 1992 Oscar-winner Unforgiven as a great example of an exception to Wayne’s rule. We adore Unforgiven, which is one of the best movies in the history of big-screen Westerns, and so we find it hard to disagree with the man behind making the masterpiece.
He continued: “You see the eyes when you need to see the eyes. And sometimes, what you don’t see is very appealing to the audience. You can dramatize a picture with shades of light.”
Eastwood singled out Westerns of the past for being particularly guilty of over-lighting scenes. He said: “I like getting on a realistic plane with the light. If you go back and look at some Westerns that were made by some of the most beloved directors of the 1930s and ’40s, you see people walk from the outdoors into a brightly lit room and you wonder: ‘Where’d they get all that electricity back in 1850?'”
The best Clint Eastwood movies, especially those of the last few decades, have certainly taken a more realistic approach to Western stories than the classics of the past. In Unforgiven, especially, it pays off.
We can’t wait to see what Eastwood brings us with Juror #2, which will be his next film. If the man himself is to be believed, it’s also very likely to be his last movie. He’ll definitely want to go out with a bang, and we have the utmost faith in him.
For more on one of Hollywood’s best actors ever, find out why Clint Eastwood is Morgan Freeman’s favorite director and learn why Clint Eastwood regrets this Western. Finally, read our piece exploring how the Western has always been a genre for women too.