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Capone talks with TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE director and Clint Eastwood production partner Robert Lorenz!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

Robert Lorenz decided it was time to focus on his dream of being a filmmaker in the late 1980s, when he left the Chicago area to go to Los Angeles, where he worked as a some form of assistant director or another on such movies as SHAKES THE CLOWN, COOL AS ICE, EXIT TO EDEN, THE LAST SHIFT, CROSSROADS, and in 1995 as second assistant director on Clint Eastwood's THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, his first time working with the legendary director. Lorenz continuing working with Eastwood (as first assistant director) on such works as ABSOLUTE POWER, MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, TRUE CRIME, SPACE COWBOYS, BLOOD WORK, MYSTIC RIVER, and MILLION DOLLAR BABY.

It was for BLOOD WORK that Lorenz took on the additional title of producer on every Eastwood film since then, including MYSTIC RIVER, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, LETTERS FROM IOW JIMA, CHANGELING, GRAN TORINO, INVICTUS, HEREAFTER and last year's J. EDGAR. But strangely enough it wasn't until this year that Lorenz officially began his career as a feature director, with TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE, starring Eastwood, Amy Adams, and Justin Timberlake. Eastwood plays an aging major league baseball scout who is going blind and requires (whether he wants it or not) the help of his lawyer daughter (Adams) to help him scout a new hitter for his team, which is slowly going the way of Sabermetrics and threatening to push him out if he doesn't come through for them on this pick. The film's backdrop is baseball, but really this is the story of an estranged father and daughter who find a common love bringing them together.

Weirdly enough, I got a chance to sit down with Lorenz just days after his friend and co-worker made something of a spectacle of himself at the Republican National Convention. (I actually saw the film the night of the speech, if I'm not mistaken.) Lorenz may have different political views than his boss, but he still loves working with the prolific filmmaker, and the two continue to plot out what their next film together will be. Please enjoy one of the nicer gentlemen I've talked to recently, who also has a great deal of insight into the way Eastwood works and selects projects, Robert Lorenz…

Capone: Hi Robert, I’m Steve. It’s good to meet you.

Robert Lorenz: It’s nice to meet you.

Capone: So you moved from Chicago to Los Angeles to get your movie career going. I feel like I’m missing a piece here. Was there something going on in Chicago that made you go, “I am now prepared to go to Los Angeles to pursue my film career,” which took off pretty quickly it seemed like.

RL: Yeah, well I don’t know. I guess when you look at it on a computer it looks like it went by fast, but living it took a little while longer. I don’t know what it was about Chicago. I love Chicago and love the city. I loved growing up here and I loved movies and really wanted to make a go at movies. I always figured I would come back and live here, but the business was out there, so that’s where I went and fell in love with the weather, unfortunately to my mother’s dismay.

Capone: Is she still here?

RL: Oh yeah, my mom and dad, who are both remarried, they live here, and my sisters are all back here. My wife’s family is here too, so we come back regularly.

Capone: On paper, it doesn’t seem like it took you that long to somehow get to be a part of the Eastwood camp. How did that happen?

RL: Some lucky breaks. It’s not a particularly interesting story, but I worked with a guy up in Canada who had just worked with him on UNFORGIVEN, and when that person was called to work on Clint’s next film, he wasn’t available, but he recommended me. So I went in and met with them and started working--I was just a second assistant director at the time--and I met Clint and was very honored and excited to be working on his film, but I don’t think he was even conscious of the fact that I was there until the next film, where the guy I was working for left abruptly, so I got promoted, and Clint got to know me.

I always had an eye at directing, so I was trying to think like a director and was aware of what it was that he was trying to accomplish, and so I was always trying to help in that sense and I think he noticed, so he just continued to give me more and more responsibility over the years. He has a history of promoting from within, so I ended up producing.

Capone: Before we get too deep into the stuff you’ve done with Clint and the new film, one of the second assistant director jobs that I noticed you had is COOL AS ICE.

RL: Oh yeah. [laughs]

Capone: Give me your best story about being a part of that wonderful film.

RL: It’s been so long since anybody has asked me about that movie.

Capone: I find that so hard to believe.

RL: Yeah, well I have a nice little history where I did Vanilla Ice’s film and then I did Britney Spears’ film.

Capone: That’s right, you did CROSSROADS too.

RL: Yeah, and both of their careers tanked after that, so I’m like the kiss of death. That was an interesting experience. Ice was at the top of his game at that point and was just spending money like crazy. Every day, he came in with a new toy, a new car, a new motorcycle. It was a wild experience just observing all of that going on.

Capone: Did you have a particular scene that you shot that you remember fondly?

RL: I do have one story. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen the finished…no, I saw it once. But the director wanted a sort of a LAWRENCE OF ARABIA shot of Vanilla Ice on the motorcycle coming out of the desert. So we went out to the El Mirage Dry Lake bed, and the other assistant director said, “Okay, get on the bike with him and drive out there, and we'll tell you when you’ve got far enough, and that will be the starting point.” So I had a radio and I got on. He said, “Hold on.” I said, “What do you mean?” “Hold on,” and he took off. I was looking over his shoulder as the speedometer was over 120, 130… We got 150 miles an hour, and finally he stopped and let me off, and that was where we did the shot from and he said, “I’ll come back and get you.” I said, “No, I’ll walk back.” [laughs] That was a wild experience.

Capone: I’ve heard a lot about Clint as a director just being a man of very few takes, two or three tops, done. Do you have to follow that lead or do you have a little more freedom than that?

RL: That's true. Clint’s a little sensitive to that characterization. He does do more takes if necessary. He gets what he needs, but the idea behind it, which is one that I agree with and have adopted, is that if you belabor things too much you exhaust the actors and the crew, and it becomes very boring and routine. So to keep the momentum and energy going, you have to move quickly and do few takes, and once you’ve got it, you can move on. You just don’t dwell on it, and having sat with him in the editing room for years, I had a confidence about whether or not I had it or not, so I didn’t need to go 10 or 12 takes, I can get it in a couple.

Capone: I’m wondering, after all the years and all of the different movies that you’ve worked on, do you ever wish you’d been a part of his camp when he was still doing Westerns?

RL: Yeah, but I like so many of his movies from the past.

Capone: Not that there’s anything wrong with the movies he’s done in the time you’ve been with him. But maybe just a Dirty Harry movie?

RL: Yeah, no kidding. There are a lot of people that I think would love for him to do that again, but that’s part of why this role appealed to him, because he was playing something that was believable within his realm of believability, and for him to go back and play Dirty Harry right now, he just doesn’t feel…

Capone: Oh no, I wasn’t suggesting he go back to doing it. I just meant do you wish you’d been around when he was doing them years ago?

RL: I would have loved to have been around for all sorts of movies that were being made back then, BULLITT or anything by Francis For Coppola, Spielberg's early stuff, everything that was going on. Or even before than when David Lean was making movies. I just like the movie business and like movies.

Capone: Especially during your time as a producer with him, were there any choices that he made in terms of the films that he did next that you were surprised about?

RL: HEREAFTER I thought was a little bit of an unusual choice. That was the one that I thought, “He must see something in here that I don’t,” and I thought it turned out to be a decent film, and there were certainly other ones that I was much more passionate about. MYSTIC RIVER, I read that and saw it immediately. I saw how he would make it and I saw how I would make it. I think we were completely in sync on that one, and that continues to be probably my favorite experience with him. I think that film turned out so well, and it was so close to how I would have made it if I had directed it myself.

Capone: What changed in terms of your responsibilities day to day as a producer?

RL: Well there are a lot of producers, and the tricky thing there and why it’s so hard to define is because in every instance, it’s different. Every producer is different and every director works with their producers differently. For Clint and I, it’s a great collaboration, and he’s doing some producing and I’m doing some directing, so there’s overlap in those roles. It’s really just everything from reading scripts that come in and deciding what appeals to us next to following all the way through to the marketing phase with trailers and posters and release. So it’s just sort of the whole ball of wax. He’s given me an experience, a schooling in the whole thing.

Capone: When he decided to make FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, which seem like such a massive undertaking, was there a time where you thought, “Wait, we're doing what?” I seem to remember they moved the release date forward to qualify for Oscar consideration, and suddenly we as critics were like, “We’re seeing what, when? In a couple of days?”

RL: It was a huge undertaking. FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, when I first read the book, I said, “This is big.” Actually he said that to me, “This is really big.” I was like “That’s all right, we can make big,” but then I saw that it really was, and it was just daunting taking on that project and we shot all over the world. And then he started talking about making LETTERS, and I thought, “Well that’s great. We'll do that later,” but he was like, “No, we’ll get shots for that while we are making this.” I just started to think “How are we going to do that?” It was extremely exhausting, and I think I was not at my healthiest during those couple of years, just long hours and not eating well.

Capone: And then GRAN TORINO, which I didn’t even realize was the largest-grossing Malpaso [Eastwood's production company] film ever. Is that true?

RL: For Clint Eastwood, it’s the highest-grossing film that he’s ever starred in, and I think actually is the highest-grossing film he’s ever made.

Capone: Could you ever have predicted that?

RL: No, I know. And that came in when we were doing CHANGLING, and I read that script and I just gave it to him just because I enjoyed it. I didn’t actually think it’d necessarily appeal to him. I just said, “It’s just kind of a fun read, Clint. You should just take a look at it.” “Yeah, okay.” He called me back right after he read it and he said, “I love that movie,” and I was kind of surprised he loved it as much he did. I never could have predicted it would go on to be that successful, but I think people just love to see Clint on the screen, especially when he’s doing something that they are familiar with and that they like. That was certainly a role that had echoes of what he had done in the past.

Capone: There was a little bit of baggage there, but that was useful. So who's the bigger baseball fan of the two you? Who is the one pushing TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE?

RL: Me. I mean Randy Brown, who wrote the script, is by far the biggest baseball fan. He’s great. I think he came up with a terrific script. It didn’t even actually occur to me to make a baseball movie before this, but when I read it, I just saw it and I got it right away. I think the role appealed to Clint. It didn’t take much convincing. He’s a sports fan. He’s not a huge boxing fan or rugby fan, and yet he made those movies, and so it wasn’t a stretch for him to be in a baseball movie.

Capone: Did he see a little bit of himself in this role in that there might be some people out there that think it’s time for him to kind of hang it up as an actor?

RL: Maybe the acting thing, because he always talks about how he’s done with that, and then another role comes along that fits. But yeah, the age part of it was something that he felt like he could do. He said, “Kicking tables around? I know how to do that. I do that all of the time,” and so that part just came naturally.

Capone: Was it strange directing him? This is the first time you’ve directed him, right?

RL: Definitely. Yeah, it was a little daunting just because of who he is, even though we're friends. But he was very good about it. He took a day or two just to make sure that I knew what I was doing, and then he just became very accommodating and asking me how I wanted to do things and how I saw it. I came well prepared. I knew that him having directed so much that if I showed any hesitation, he was going to jump right in there, and I didn’t want that to happen. I really was prepared with shot lists and blockings in my head and everything, so that I could just stay in command of the set and keep everybody moving without it slowing down enough that anybody else would try and jump in and run the show.

Capone: So it was important that things kept moving the way he keeps things moving and doesn’t let them get stale. So you kind of adopted that.

RL: Yeah, because I also know that’s what appeals to him as an actor, and if things start to get slow and boring, he gets antsy, so I didn’t want that to happen for him.

Capone: When the film comes out, it will be almost to the day of the release of MONEYBALL. Did you see this as a counterpoint to the Sabermetrics story?

RL: I read the script before MONEYBALL came out, and we were talking about doing it just as MONEYBALL came out. So it occurred to me that people were going to draw that comparison, but it didn’t bother me, because it’s kind of a popular topic of conversation within the baseball world--the old versus the new and technology versus experience and instinct. I wasn’t afraid of it, and that’s really what the story is about, Gus' character finding the balance. For everybody, understanding that in baseball as in life you need to balance those things, and it’s wonderful to explore new ideas and new technology, but you have to balance it with the wisdom that comes with experience.

Capone: It’s really more of a middle ground. And Justin Timberlake being in it who has just come off a Fincher film where you can do like a 100 takes for one scene. Was he kind of easy to work with and accommodating in terms of a much faster pace?

RL: I think very much, and it’s a little uncomfortable for actors some times when things move that fast, because the norm is the opposite. But almost always people adapt to it very quickly and enjoy it, and I think he did to. He was great to work with. He brought a lot of energy and charm that the role needed.

Capone: And then Amy Adams is on this wonderful roll right now. I’ve already seen THE MASTER, and there’s nothing she can’t do. I’ve got to assume she’s pretty easy to work with.

RL: Oh, yeah. She's great. She just throws herself into it. She comes so well prepared and needs so little direction and yet she is entirely accommodating when you ask her to adjust something. She’s just there to serve, and it’s wonderful.

Capone: Do you know what you’re doing next, either with Clint or on your own?

RL: Not exactly. I have some projects that I’m developing that I would like to go direct, and then I’m also working with Clint on a project back there at his company for him to direct.

Capone: So he’s not done, he's still going?

RL: No, he’s not done. It’s just a matter of what happens next.

Capone: Well, we know what happened next. I think I saw this movie the same night he was in Tampa.

RL: I hope you saw it before. [laughs]

Capone: It was right before, just hours before. Did you have any thoughts on that or response to that? I’m sure I’m not the first person to ask.

RL: No, you’re not the first person to ask, but I haven’t talked to him since, and I don’t really know what was going on. [laughs] I guess he was trying to be funny, and sometimes it works. Comedy is hard.

Capone: Alright, well thank you so much. It was great to meet you.

RL: Yeah, pleasure meeting you. Thank you very much.

-- Steve Prokopy
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Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 17, 2012, 1:24 p.m. CST

    Really wanted to see this movie when the trailer started...

    by jim loder

    Eastwood? Check. Amy Adams? Check. Baseball movie that doesn't look like it was written by apes who've never seen a baseball game? Check. Justin Timberlake (even worse, trying to play an athlete)? Not a chance in hell will I see this movie. All the half-way decent actors out there that could have filled this role - who didn't have to even add to the movie, just not subtract - and they give the part to this guy? Damn it. First Eastwood movie ever I won't see.

  • The way people spat vitriol about Clint after his speech was disgusting. Even though I'm not a conservative, Clint's politics have never bothered me because he's a remarkable director, actor and composer. The speech wasn't his finest hour but the way some on the left called him senile etc was shameful. The man has acted and directed some of the greatest pieces of cinematic art in history. If idiots are going to use one misstep to attack someone, then why stop there? Why not Jane Fonda's stupid behaviour back in the day? Or Madonna saying kabbalah water can cure cancer. These are the real morons. Unless one of these pathetic haters can make something that's even a millionth as great as Unforgiven or Mystic River, they need to shut the fuck up.

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 2:21 p.m. CST

    Clint is a joke and one speech undoes a lifetime of work

    by NathanGrey

    Watch the SNL sketch, Empty Chair 2012!

  • Just turned a lot of people off I'm afraid.

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 2:34 p.m. CST

    great interview, but I'm leaving AICN...

    by ChatWithANinja

    Until you get rid of those voice ads... Way too annoying to stick around. I'll check back later on next week to see if they are still here.

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 2:34 p.m. CST

    wwbd - I think you might be right

    by Mennen

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 3:19 p.m. CST

    Dad, let's bury a fossil head, fuck 'em.

    by Ray_Tango

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 3:39 p.m. CST


    by chainsaw autotune

    go ahead- make my den.

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 3:57 p.m. CST


    by WWBD

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 5:37 p.m. CST

    Clint Eastwood in I CAN'T DO THAT TO MYSELF

    by Shannon Nutt

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 6:13 p.m. CST

    I think anyone who has been here for any length of time...

    by Red Ned Lynch aware of my politics. Clint Eastwood is not a good husband or boyfriend. He is not a good business partner. I don't agree with his politics. He is, however, a fine director and one of the greatest movie stars to ever grace the screen. And he could argue with a chair every weekend on Pay Per View and it would not change that one bit. To try to turn the star of Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, High Plains Drifter, The Unforgiven, Dirty Harry, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Kelly's Heroes, The Beguiled, Play Misty for Me, The Eiger Sanction and (for me anyway) The Gauntlet into nothing more than a political punchline is an absolute indication that you have no business on a site devoted to movies. We're lucky to get this movie and we'll be lucky to get any more he graces us in his remaining years. And yeah, I left a lot off that list above, because I only included movies I absolutely love. And I still left off Hang 'em High and probably some more that slipped my mind. They'll still be my favorites, and a handful will still be considered all-time classics, long after every bit of minutiae about this year's elections have long been forgotten.

  • Eat shit you stupid bastard

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 9:04 p.m. CST

    red ned lynch

    by pr0g2west

    I agree. It's Clint Eastwood, one of the most popular film icons of all time. We should all be so lucky to live in the age that he is alive, for his legacy will transcend many many years to come. I will watch every movie he directs and/or stars in, whether it's good, or bad, or even ugly.

  • Sept. 17, 2012, 11:23 p.m. CST

    I agree. Clint's speech at the convention and him being a Republican...

    by Orbots Commander

    ...shouldn't effect the way one looks at his body of work. That's stupid. He's still one of the greatest directors and movie stars of all time.

  • As the last two decades of Eastwood's career have been some of the most interesting years I've ever seen from a single director. It is though Eastwood is exploreing himself, his ideals and his values, his interests, his conundrums through each and every film project. I don't think I've ever seen a director challange themselves the way I've seen Eastwood challangeing himself. And while "Hereafter" is still a project that baffles many (his producer included), it is still one of those highly individual films that you watch and you can tell that there is a real interaction with the material on the part of the director and his main actor and that while takeing chances with a very unconvential story structure they see value and meaning in the tale they are weaveing. Bryce Danner Howard's small segment in "Hereafter" is one of the best composed and acted sequences of any Eastwood film, something I would put up there with the buried emotional power of "Unforgiven," its unrelenting drive towards an honest epitaph for its characters, a nail of truth that pierces them and makes them bleed beautifully human and true. Then you've got "J. Edgar" and it still amazes me that Eastwood had the guts to team with Dustin Lance Black and film what is truly a strange and beguileing picture about the lies we all tell ourselves about who we are. Sad, emotive, and, in my most sincere opinion, empathetic, wise, and courageous. As an artist, Clint has hollowed out a niche no other man could possibly call their own. Really enjoyed this interview, Capone. Thank you.

  • Sept. 18, 2012, 4:51 a.m. CST

    Hi goatherdingclownhunter

    by Joe

    Which comment offended you, retard? The one where I said I don't care about Eastwood's politics and I condemned those on the left who have attacked him? Or the one where I called your buttbuddy Chuck Norris a prick? You really are fucking stupid. You'd need a lobotomy to increase your IQ. Go suck Cheney's dick. (Get it? No, of course you don't, you're a redneck shortbus riding assmaster).

  • Sept. 18, 2012, 6:11 a.m. CST


    by Mysterious_Volvo

    had to be done.

  • Sept. 18, 2012, 7:36 a.m. CST

    Liberal Talkbackers have no problem with liberal stars spewing hate

    by the_rising

    But Clint speaks his mind, gets some laughs and you hate his guts and cannot stop yourself from having temper tantrums.

  • Sept. 18, 2012, 2:24 p.m. CST

    Like the interview right up until the end

    by MoistMuskyCamelToe

    Just threw a sour note on things asking about the chair speech. Didn't see the need to bring that up whatsoever. I come to AICN to learn more about movies and get a reprieve from political nonsense.