Five Minutes With: Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks

By Michele Manelis

Image: Warner Bros.
Image: Warner Bros.
Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks on their latest collaboration and how it felt to portray the iconic story of Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger.

Director Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks come together to collaborate in the upcoming biographical drama, Sully, based on the book, Highest Duty, written by Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, the pilot who landed the US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River in 2009. Against the odds, he saved all 155 lives on board.

Today in Los Angeles, the two icons are taking a break from a photo shoot at a studio in West Hollywood. MiNDFOOD chats to them about their latest project as director and star of this highly anticipated movie.

How did this movie come to you?

Clint Eastwood: It was submitted to the office. I hadn’t read it but my assistant kept asking me if I’d read it. I was procrastinating a little bit and she kept saying ‘What about the guy who landed the plane in the Hudson?’ So finally I got the hint that she must have seen something in it. I started reading it. I liked it immediately and just started in the next day.

Why did you like it?

Clint Eastwood: Well, I wasn’t sure about it because everybody had read all the stuff on Sullenberger and the landing on the Hudson River and that iconic shot of people standing on the wings and all and the spirit that it gave New York at the time but it was the conflict that made it interesting. I didn’t know that there was doubt cast by the Transportation Board that Sully and the co-pilot had possibly done a wrong thing.

Tom, did you talk to the real Sully?

Yes. I contacted him immediately and said ‘Sorry. I apologise, you made your deal with the devil, but I’ll be playing you.’ He knows the stakes and he had written the book and he had been through the entire process of all the attention. He realises what happens when you become a public figure and 280 seconds of your life, of your entire life, is then examined. He can now walk into any airport in America and say ‘Anybody have a plane I can borrow?’. (laughs) They would throw the keys at him ‘Take mine, take mine!’ He will never have to worry about getting anywhere again. He can just go to any airfield and they all know him.

Has doing this movie made you more fearful or more confident about flying? Were either of you nervous flyers to begin with? Has it changed anything?

Clint Eastwood: I don’t think that it makes anybody fearful. I think this movie will probably show that there are real capable people in command of the ship and that there are other options if things go really bad. If it goes really really bad then of course there is no option but I think flying is safer than just about any transportation around. You can consider it safer than driving a car in traffic in LA.

So you don’t get nervous in turbulence?

Tom Hanks: I kind of dig it as a matter of fact. I kind of go, ‘Oh, that was fun!’ I think there’s a bigger danger of getting into a fistfight with the asshole in seat 7A (laughs) than there is suffering physical harm from the plane itself.

What about the casting? Why was Tom perfect for it?

Tom Hanks: Yeah, what happened? Who turned this role down that I got it? (laughs)

Clint Eastwood: (laughing) Well everybody had turned it down.

Tom Hanks: (laughs). Glad it all worked out.

What keeps you going? What keeps you making movies?

Clint Eastwood: I think in every movie you find and learn something new about yourself, about the people you hired to be in the movie, this is an exciting business for that reason. It’s not like going every day to 9 to 5 job that you’re dying to retire from. I remember growing up my father couldn’t wait to retire and he was in his 30s but he didn’t retire then but he kept saying ‘oh God…’. But I never want to retire. I think I’m enjoying this process as much now as I ever have because you’re doing different projects and having to accomplish different things. It’s fun, there’s like a family, a lot of the crew members have worked for me for long time and it’s always great to see them and it’s like family. It’s like seeing aunt Jane or something, ‘Oh yeah haven’t seen you for two years’. I wouldn’t want to do this if it was the same story, the same line or the same deal but different stories is exciting. I’ve been directing films for 44 years now and I’ve been acting in them for over 60 in television. Met some great people on the way and had a good time.

Are you planning to act again?

Clint Eastwood: Am I going to act again? Yes, if there was a great role. The last great role I had was Gran Torino and I enjoyed immensely making that film because I’ve known that guy and I think that everybody knows that guy and dealing with prejudice is something that you’re never too old to learn. If there were parts like that that would come along, (there aren’t that many parts left), so someday I’ll probably act again but I’m not openly soliciting it. If I had my choice between the two I would stay directing.


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