Clint Eastwood stole the show at the Republican National Convention last week with a baffling, nearly incoherent speech that featured the 82-year-old actor conversing with an empty chair that was meant to represent President Obama. According to polls, the bizarro performance was deemed to be the highlight of the convention by viewers, overshadowing Mitt Romney's speech. It also will live forever on the internet as a meme called "Eastwooding," in which people post pictures of empty chairs. Now, Eastwood is breaking his silence on the affair, giving an interview to his hometown newspaper, The Carmel Pine Cone in California. Here, five revelations:
1. Eastwood's speech wasn't vetted
While most speakers at the Tampa, Fla., convention went through a rigorous vetting process, Eastwood was exempted. "They vet most of the people, but I told them, 'You can't do that with me, because I don't know what I'm going to say,'" Eastwood said. "You know how every news story about conventions includes the phrase tightly scripted?" says Jonathan Chait at New York. "It doesn't seem to apply here."
2. He didn't prepare much
On the morning of the convention, Eastwood still didn't know what he was going to say. All he could do was reassure Romney officials "that everything I would say would be nice about Mitt Romney." After he took a nap in his hotel room, he began to formulate a three-point speech in which he would inform viewers that not everyone in Hollywood is a liberal; challenge Obama about his economic policies; and assure the public that it was okay to ditch Obama for doing a bad job. "They don't have to worship politicians, like they were royalty or something," Eastwood said. He arrived at the convention center about "15 or 20 minutes before" he was scheduled to go on.
3. The chair was a last-minute addition
Eastwood said the idea to use the chair came to him mere minutes before he went onstage. "There was a stool there, and some fella kept asking me if I wanted to sit down," he said. "When I saw the stool sitting there, it gave me the idea. I'll just put the stool out there and I'll talk to Mr. Obama and ask him why he didn't keep all of the promises he made to everybody."
4. He knows he's a mediocre public speaker
Eastwood was supposed to speak for five minutes, but his speech dragged on for about 15. "When people are applauding so much, it takes you 10 minutes to say five minutes' worth," he said. He is also aware that he stumbled over his words, saying, "That's what happens when you don't have a written-out speech." Eastwood, who used to be the mayor of Carmel, also admitted that he had never been much of a speech-giver. "They've got this crazy actor who's 82 years old up there in a suit," he said. "I was a mayor, and they're probably thinking I know how to give a speech, but even when I was mayor I never gave speeches. I gave talks."
5. At the time, he didn't realize anything was wrong
After the speeches were over, he shook hands with Romney and Paul Ryan, who "were very enthusiastic," and went back the hotel. In the morning he read the local Tampa paper, "and every article said something negative about the convention, but there wasn't much about me." He flew back to California, unaware that his speech was the top talking point of the convention. But Eastwood is fine with the criticism. "I may have irritated a lot of the lefties," he said, "but I was aiming for the people in the middle."