Legendary Clint Eastwood makes students' day in Oxford Union debate

While that other Republican cinema hero was getting to grips with running the world's fifth-largest economy, Clint Eastwood went for what appeared to be the easy option last night - an inquisition at the hands of Barry Norman and 470 Oxford students.

But the 73-year-old actor and director faced a rigorous examination of his thoughts on issues from Californian politics to Hamlet and Newcastle Brown Ale in the packed debating chamber of the Oxford Union.

Eastwood was asked by Norman why he had not been tempted to enter California's recall election and run for governor. Eastwood said that the limit of his political ambitions had been his two-year stint as Mayor of Carmel, the Californian seaside town where he lives. He said: "People started thinking that I was going to use Carmel as a springboard for some sort of senatorial post or maybe governor. But I had no ambitions to go further.''

Eastwood gave a luke-warm endorsement to his fellow Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger, saying: "Arnie makes a fine Governor. If he progresses forward I wish him the greatest of luck. God knows, California needs it.''

The impresario had been ushered in to the debating hall under the close supervision of a large coterie of burly minders from Warner Bros, the Hollywood giant for whom Eastwood has made $1.5bn (£900m). But there was little that his minders could do to protect him from a range of random, but testing, questions. Asked why he had not yet given his Hamlet, Eastwood said: "You have got to know your limitations. I don't see myself doing Hamlet. It isn't native to me. It might be a great challenge. But it might involve a great disaster.''

And then came the strangest question; was it true that he had a soft spot for Newcastle Brown Ale?

Eastwood replied: "My experience of Newcastle Brown is when I went to Newcastle and everybody told me the beer might make me go blind. It sounded a bit drastic but I tried a few and they were good. I didn't have a hangover. I didn't try that much.''

While most were delighted, others were unmoved. The Rev David Johnson, the Union's chaplain, said: "Clint Eastwood is a ludicrous man. I have better things to do. If it was Olivier, though, I would have listened.''

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