There's no question that Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention recently had the nation split on the film icon's positions on public policy. But no matter what side of the aisle movie audiences are on, they can be assured that Eastwood delivers his latest role in baseball-themed drama, "Trouble with the Curve," straight down the middle.
One person who isn't troubled by Eastwood's politics is his longtime collaborator Robert Lorenz, who makes his directorial debut on "Trouble with the Curve." Lorenz said Eastwood, like everyone else, is entitled to his opinion.
"Clint's and my politics don't exactly line up, but we're good examples of people who can put that aside and still work together as successfully as we have for years and find a common ground," Lorenz told me in a recent interview.
While Lorenz didn't comment specifically about Eastwood's speech, he did have fun alluding to his colleague's improvisational skills.
"I don't know what to think of it, but I know when Clint has a really good script and a little time to rehearse, he does a really great job," Lorenz said.
"Trouble with the Curve" is a poignant, yet often humorous tale of Gus Lobel (Eastwood), a legendary baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves whose old-fashioned methods are quickly becoming obsolete in the informational age. Although Gus has his backers, like the director of scouting, Pete Klein (John Goodman), there's a young hotshot in the organization, Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard), who wants to put Gus out to pasture.
Worse yet, Gus is suffering from diminishing eyesight, yet is reluctant to get it treated or tell anyone about it. Sensing something is wrong, Pete coaxes Gus' daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams) to accompany her father on a do-or-die scouting trip to check out a hot prospect -- despite her own pressing commitments as an associate at law firm that's on the verge of making her a partner.
Every bit as smart and stubborn as cantankerous father, Mickey hopes on the trip that she'll be able to reconcile her tattered past with Gus, who failed miserably at raising his daughter who was only 6 when his wife died.
Opening in theaters Friday, "Trouble with the Curve" also stars Justin Timberlake and Robert Patrick.
Although Eastwood has never made a proclamation that's he's retired from acting, it's become evident in recent years that he's clearly more comfortable behind the camera -- he's directed 11 films in the last 10 years -- than being in front of it. "Trouble with the Curve," in fact, is only his fourth role in the past decade, and first since 2008's "Gran Torino."
Lorenz said getting Eastwood to act again wasn't difficult. It was just a matter of finding the story to tell.
"There are very roles that come into our production office that feel right to him and are appropriate for a man of his age," Lorenz said of the 82-year-old Eastwood. "When one comes along and it's a good project, it appeals to him. Obviously, he did it somewhat as a favor to me as well, since he's known for quite a while that I've want to direct and we were looking for a project to do. This one worked out so well."
While Lorenz is the manager, effectively of "Trouble with the Curve," and Eastwood is his marquee player, the director was quite well aware that he needed a solid team all around to find a winning combination with the film. And just as important to film is Adams, who stands toe-to-toe with Eastwood in the latest of a string of great performances.
"Obviously she and the rest of the cast were excited to work with Clint. His name is what drew them to the film, not working with me, but it was alright. I took advantage of that," Lorenz said, laughing. "I was thrilled to have her in the film. She loses herself in every role, and I knew she would have the ability to balance the soft and tender side of this character with the really tough side that has to stand up to Clint's character on screen."
Lorenz, who first worked with Eastwood on "The Bridges of Madison County" in 1995 as a second assistant director, has steadily risen up the ranks at Eastwood's Malpaso production company, and in the last 10 years has served as executive producer or producer on all of Eastwood's films, including "Trouble with the Curve."
The filmmaker said he's learned as much as can from his mentor, but at the same time has been working developing a technique he can call his own.
"I've been observing Clint and taken note of his various processes, and there's a great many of them that make a lot of sense -- so I've absorbed those and worked them into my own process," Lorenz explained. "At the same time, I want to make my own film with my own style, and have different ideas on how to achieve that."
"So in some ways, yes, I did things exactly the way he does with this movie, and I did some things different," Lorenz added. "I hope that the movie still works, but at the same time doesn't look exactly like a Clint Eastwood-directed movie."