Clint Eastwood and the Empty Chair: How He Conceived His Speech

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Clint Eastwood addresses an empty chair in a speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, August 30th.

There’s one thing even the politically-averse remember about Mitt Romney‘s coronation night at the Republican National Convention: when Clint Eastwood carried on an argument with an empty chair he pretended was President Obama. Pundits and politicians alike were baffled by the speech, with reactions offering up terms ranging from “unorthodox” to “weird.”

Fast-forward a week, and Eastwood is ready to reflect himself. He says he understands that the speech he gave (to put it delicately) was “very unorthodox,” but he appears to think it was just fine.

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In an interview with his local newspaper, The Carmel Pine Cone, the 82-year-old acting legend chatted about why he chose to veer off-script at the highly-orchestrated gathering that prides talking points over creative license. “I had three points I wanted to make,” Eastwood told the newspaper. “But I didn’t make up my mind exactly what I was going to say until I said it.”

So when he began gesturing to the stool, asking it sardonically, “What do you mean, shut up?”, even he had no clue what was coming next. He did confirm, though, that the empty chair bit was part of the plan.

“There was a stool there, and some fella kept asking me if I wanted to sit down,” Eastwood said. “When I saw the stool sitting there, it gave me the idea. I’ll just put the stool out there and I’ll talk to Mr. Obama and ask him why he didn’t keep all of the promises he made to everybody.”

He asked a stagehand to take it out to the lectern while he was being announced.

“The guy said, ‘You mean you want it at the podium?’ and I said, ‘No, just put it right there next to it.’”

And what happened next will forever be immortalized by the countless participants who started #Eastwooding in real-time during and directly after the remarks. But maybe that was the angle that the acclaimed Hollywood personality was going for, that he could take a risk, because a canned political speech wouldn’t be interesting anyway. “It was supposed to be a contrast with all the scripted speeches, because I’m Joe Citizen,” Eastwood told the newspaper. “I’m a movie maker, but I have the same feelings as the average guy out there.”

Which mirrors the reason Eastwood embarked on a fleeting political career back in the 80s. He launched a bid for mayor of Carmel, Calif. to rail against zoning laws he didn’t like — and won. He served a two-year term as Carmel’s mayor, from 1986-1988, and was even considered as George Bush’s running mate in 1988. He said he took a similar approach to speech-giving during those years. “I was a mayor, and they’re probably thinking I know how to give a speech, but even when I was mayor I never gave speeches. I gave talks,” he told the Pine Cone.

Note to Mitt Romney aides (the ones reportedly wincing as the actor’s remarks wore on): next time you might want to get that distinction between “speech” and “talk” correct.

MORE: Hurry Up and Start #Eastwooding Before It’s Over