On April 19 2011, a capacity crowd in the Los Angeles DGA Theater witnessed the meeting of two iconic names in film history: one a living legend, the other an immortal giant. The 75th Anniversary Committee’s ‘Clint Eastwood on the Impact of John Ford’s Stagecoach’ was an informative and engaging evening that analyzed the careers of DGA Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Ford and Eastwood — two filmmakers serving as cornerstones of a definitively American film genre, the western.
75th Anniversary Chair Michael Apted welcomed the evening’s moderator, director Paul Schrader (‘American Gigolo’), who introduced ‘Stagecoach’ explaining aspects that make the film a real game-changer: its revitalization of the Western genre, its elevation of the genre to serious adult drama, and the creation of the Western’s prototypical hero in the form of John Wayne. “Anyone would be flattered to be spoken of in the same breath as John Ford,” said a visibly touched Eastwood. “I remember seeing ‘Stagecoach’ as a kid when it first came out. Ford had an influence on me subconsciously and I watched his films in a dark theater with my knees up on the chair in front of me, sometimes twice in a row.” Schrader and Eastwood engaged in a contemplative discussion of key moments ‘Stagecoach’ and the Ford canon. “You can’t be an American director without owing a debt to John Ford,” said Schrader. Eastwood agreed completely, adding that Ford’s work seeps into one’s DNA. “His influence is like osmosis.”
Eastwood noted his own 1992 DGA Award-winning film ‘Unforgiven’ was described upon its release as a eulogy to the Western genre. “When I read that script I thought ‘this would make a perfect last Western.” He also disclosed he felt the real secret of the Western was something that Ford captured completely with ‘Stagecoach’—story. “If you have a shot of the lone man standing there, the question is: where did he come from? There is a story in just that one shot of a lone figure out in the vast land and the audience sees it. As a director, your job is to find that story and tell it— that’s what makes the picture work.” Before the conversation came to a close, Apted stepped in to ask Eastwood “Why was Ford such a game-changer what did he bring to the Western that was so unique?” “There’s something about the way he approached his subject that broke down clichés of the era,” said Eastwood. “I think he was always trying to make social statements in his movies and with ‘Stagecoach’ he used the Western to do it effectively.” —Clint Eastwood on the Impact of John Ford’s Stagecoach, A DGA 75th Anniversary Event
Click on image below for full video coverage of the event (49:35).
I know what I’ll be reading today: Dudley Nichols & Ben Hecht’s screenplay for ‘Stagecoach.’ (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
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