Why Eastwood Matters: Old School Star Reflects American Grit, Greatness

A scene from this year's blockbuster "The Avengers:"

Loki, the film's villain: I have an army

Tony Stark AKA Iron Man: We have a Hulk.

The Democratic Party may have virtually every celebrity in its hip pocket, including arguably the biggest star around, George Clooney.

The GOP has Clint Eastwood.

No contest.

Eastwood is the so-called "mystery speaker" slated to address the GOP faithful tonight during the final moments of the party's national convention. His speech represents more than just a slight uptick in the star power featured at the GOP convention.

It's a nod to the grit and greatness of America from an actor who has epitomized both for more than 50 years.

Today's stars may be younger, prettier and more commercially viable than Eastwood. The acting legend is 82 and rarely appears on screen these days - the upcoming "Trouble with the Curve" marks his first role since 2008's "Gran Torino."

Eastwood remains a legend for all the right reasons. His body of work reflects the actor's hard work, sound instincts and ability to tap into the national zeitgeist in a way few artists can.

He embraced law and order to its extremes with the Dirty Harry film series at a time when the country was roiled in the Vietnam War - and its aftermath. After cementing his name with violent movies he examined the nature of such actions with "Unforgiven," carefully reshaping his screen persona without abandoning its essential decency.

Even as his advancing years prevented him from playing the lead, his prosperous directorial career ("Mystic River," "Million Dollar Baby") kept his star white hot.

And, most of all, Eastwood never talked down to his audience. The longtime Republican didn't insult those who preferred a Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. He never felt compelled to lecture his massive fan base or use divisive language in interviews.

He just kept on working. He still is.

Tonight, Eastwood will use every ounce of his considerable gravitas to make the case for Mitt Romney. It's hard to imagine a Clooney or even Tom Hanks mustering a fraction of Eastwood's good will to make a similar case for President Obama.


Follow Christian Toto on Twitter @TotoMovies


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