Inside D.C. entertainment

That time I almost talked to Clint Eastwood on the red carpet

November 9, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Clint Eastwood, director of J. Edgar and man I did not meet. Photo: Joshua Yospyn.

I’m at D.C. premiere of the movie J. Edgar, and I’ve just been exiled from the red carpet.

Fifteen minutes earlier, I had squeezed into a spot on the rug—toward the end, for sure, but still squarely on red. But the few dozen photographers, cameramen, and reporters all jockeying for a spot on the carpet has created a media beast, and the PR girls dashing all over the Newseum entrance in their heels tell us we’ll just have to scoot.

My toes cling to the red carpet for a moment longer before I am forced to shuffle two feet to the right. I’m now standing on black synthetic flooring and, more important, far from the path that Clint Eastwood, the film’s director, will be taking in twenty minutes.

I’m not the only one who’s displeased. “But I’m a photographer,” says a man who has just been booted from the front-of-the-carpet photo section to the end of the carpet with me.

“You are print,” says one of the PR girls. “You’re online. That’s what you were registered as.” He sulks while she flutters away.

The famous people are set to arrive in 10 minutes, and some members of the press are still not situated. “The TV people are angry,” one PR girl says to another.

“Guys, you gotta scoot,” comes the final command. I’m now four feet off the carpet and might as well have stepped off a cliff. I am, however, no longer the last reporter in line—a gentleman identifying himself as an “independent” journalist has shown up late and been given that happy honor.

People are starting to arrive (D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier!), but we can’t see a damn thing. Cast as the losers of the red carpet, Mr. Independent and I chat about traveling to Asia and the weather. It becomes clear that he and I are well suited for our roles.

“Who is that?” he asks of the young man creating a frenzy as he moves down the carpet.

I squat and crane my neck around a reporter from WTOP. I spy Dustin Lance Black in a pinstriped suit and tell my new friend that he’s the screenwriter for the film.

“Oh, he’s the writer?” he says. “Pretty important guy.”

Non-famous guests file in behind us. “That fellow looks sort of like Leonardo DiCaprio,” he points out. I tell him that Leo, the star of J. Edgar, isn’t scheduled to appear tonight.

“This guy sort of looked like him,” he says again, “but I’m not a star gazer.”

The closest action we see is Senator Chris Dodd bumping into a 10-foot-tall cardboard poster after posing for a photo. It almost falls down.

Resigned to our red-carpet exile, the independent reporter and I continue chatting. He tells me he recently ate foie gras, but it was the vegetarian kind. He abhors real foie gras, he explains. “Just the cruelty,” he says. “I wouldn’t eat anything like that.”

Something is afoot on the carpet. The clicking of cameras fills the air. Reporters strain against the red velvet rope separating us from the stars. One member of the press has to be asked repeatedly to step back. It must be Eastwood, not that I can confirm that visually given my vantage point in Siberia. I don’t bother trying to elbow past Glittarazzi to get a look.

And then—a momentary break in the pack. I see Clint Eastwood standing on the carpet in a tweedy suit, his shock of white hair reminiscent of a very toned-down Doc Brown. He’s just a few feet away, almost close enough for me to shout the question I’d carefully planned for this moment.

He moves closer, and—a PR girl steps in front of me and informs me the red carpet is over. I have a second to let this sink in before she turns to the whole press corps and announces, “Thanks guys! That’s it!”

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