Just prior to the release of his latest documentary on Clint Eastwood, I had the privilege of doing a telephone interview with Richard Schickel, one of the few interviews that Warner Bros. and Mr. Schickel are allowing. I have to admit that I was excited about it. Schickel is a very colorful, slightly controversial, and intelligent man. You never really know what he's going to say, but you can bet that he'll tell you exactly what's on his mind.
His most recent work is the documentary The Eastwood Factor included in the Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years at Warner Bros. box set, but he has been a critic for many publications, including Time, for more than 40 years. He has also written biographies and documentary films on many of Hollywood's greatest talents.
He has a wicked, mischievous sense of humor, evidenced by his ongoing vendetta against Robert Altman. God may have forgiven Altman his sins, but Schickel is not about to let a little thing like death excuse the man for making bad movies. You gotta love this guy. He's easily as fascinating as any of his subjects. I didn't want the interview to end. I could have listened to him for hours.
During our interview he talked about making The Eastwood Factor, his upcoming books, one of which is a memoir of sorts, about his long friendship with Eastwood, and the other a book of conversations with Martin Scorsese to be released sometime next year. He talked about John Travolta's new action movie, Martin Scorsese's late night loquaciousness and he took another humorous swipe at Robert Altman. But most of our conversation was about Clint Eastwood, offering us a personal look at their unique friendship and the impact that Eastwood has made on the movie industry.
I know you've done films on other people. Why did you choose to do this documentary on Clint Eastwood?
Actually Warner Brothers came to me with that. I'd done two previous films on Clint and a sort of formal biography of him about ten years ago and we're known to be friends, so it was kind of a natural thing for them to do. They were preparing this box set and they wanted a documentary to go with it and then this book publisher came along, also an old friend of mine, and said well, maybe we could do a book on it so it all just formed together in a fairly casual way. It was a natural sort of thing I think.