Well-known as one of the best directors of modern cinema and one of Hollywood’s most prized assets, Clint Eastwood is an undisputed icon of American culture. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of John Wayne, James Stewart and Gary Cooper in the western genre, Eastwood created some of the best movies of the 20th century, including Dirty Harry and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
Despite being such an icon, however, Eastwood has his fair share of cynics, with the likes of Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio and Michael Moore having spoken out against the actor and director in the past. Even John Wayne, who worked in the same genre as Eastwood, had a dislike for the actor, calling out the gratuitous violence of one of his films in a series of angry letters.
One filmmaker who perhaps dislikes Eastwood more than anyone else, however, is the acclaimed Spike Lee, the director behind such celebrated movies as Do the Right Thing, Bamboozled and BlacKkKlansman. The problem Lee had was specifically to do with the casting of Eastwood’s mid-2010s war movies Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, criticising the film while promoting his own 2008 production Miracle at St Anna.
“Clint Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total, and there was not one Negro actor on the screen,” Lee stated regarding Eastwood’s movies, “If you reporters had any balls, you’d ask him why. There’s no way I know why he did that. But I know it was pointed out to him and that he could have changed it. It’s not like he didn’t know”.
In response, Eastwood barked back, “The story is Flags of Our Fathers, the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn’t do that. If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people’d go: ‘This guy’s lost his mind.’ I mean, it’s not accurate. A guy like him should shut his face”.
Lee’s complaints about the movies weren’t in isolation either, with Thomas McPhatter, an African-American veteran of WWII who happened to serve at Iwo Jima, criticising Eastwood’s decision to cast no black actors.
“Well, just speaking offhand, if we had been given the opportunity to have participated as I feel we should have,” McPhatter stated, “I can see nothing more than a greater illustrious performance of black troopers. Wherever that happened and wherever they were allowed, the tide came out in all of their involvement in battles during World War II. They didn’t get in the Marine Corps to get on a plantation. They got into fight for rights that they did not have back home, and hoped that it would make a different world for them once they came back home”.
Take a look at the trailer for Flags Of Our Fathers below.