Film : CLINT EASTWOOD INTERVIEW National Film Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture
Before Clint Eastwood arrived in person on Tuesday night, the audience was treated to three clips from his films: the scene in The Outlaw Josey Wales where Wales treats with the Indian chief ("Dyin' ain't so hard for men like you 'n' me. It's living that's hard"); the big shoot- out from Unforgiven ("You shot an unarmed man." "Well he shoulda' armed himself"); and the scene from In the Line of Fire where Eastwood's old secret service hand is chaffing his woman colleague about the tiny number of women agents ("Pure window-dressing").

It was a reminder (necessary for an audience that has just sat through the 140-odd minutes of his latest film, the stately weepie The Bridges of Madison County) of what Eastwood is: not simply an icon, but an icon who thoroughly understands his status and is happy to mess around with it. In Unforgiven he showed something of what the Man With No Name might be like in real life; in In the Line of Fire he showed how age and social change could leave a typical Eastwood macho character not just out of step with the world, but also looking slightly ridiculous.

The problem of being an ageing icon is clearly something that preoccupies Eastwood. On stage at the National Film Theatre, being interviewed by Derek Malcolm and fielding questions from the audience, the fact that he's now able to claim a bus-pass came up a number of times, not always directly. Characterising The Bridges of Madison County as a "middle-aged love story", he added parenthetically "I am rapidly approaching middle age". Later, discussing In the Line of Fire, he said that the hero wasn't heroic in any way "except he was a little older than the rest of the guys - a little bit like me in real life".

It's hard to say what else Clint Eastwood thinks about. Some of the audience's questions prompted entertaining anecdotes about working with directors like Don Siegel and Sergio Leone; but Eastwood avoided answering anything too personal or too generalised - did he have any great dreams left? "I'm a day-to-day-type person." Any regrets? "I'm not a regrets-type person."

You didn't learn a lot from the evening, except that Eastwood is an extremely polite and good-humoured man. Still, that wasn't the point. I have watched and admired Clint Eastwood's films for all my adult life, and now I've been in the same room with him. Questions? Answers? Facts? These are details. Don't bother me with details.