Yes, Clint Eastwood did realize the chair he quizzed at the Republican National Convention was empty. And no, contrary to popular Twitter opinion, he wasn't drunk. So what's the story behind the speech? Eastwood tells us in his own words.
“I had three points I wanted to make,” said Eastwood in an interview with The Carmel Pine Cone Tuesday from his home in Pebble Beach published on Friday (September 7). “That not everybody in Hollywood is on the left, that Obama has broken a lot of the promises he made when he took office, and that the people should feel free to get rid of any politician who’s not doing a good job."
If you think that behind these three points stood a more structured speech, you would be wrong because "I didn’t make up my mind exactly what I was going to say until I said it,” Eastwood said.
And he means that, literally.
Eastwood told his hometown newspaper that it wasn't until he was walking on stage to speak to the 10,000 people in Tampa's convention hall, and the millions more watching on television that "inspiration struck" him.
"There was a stool there, and some fella kept asking me if I wanted to sit down,” Eastwood told the paper. He decided to tell the guy to take it out to the podium while he was being announced.
The Pine Cone continued:
“The guy said, ‘You mean you want it at the podium?’ and I said, ‘No, just put it right there next to it.’”
Then, with the theme song from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” as a musical introduction, and a huge picture of him as Josey Wales as the backdrop, Eastwood walked out to tremendous applause.
What followed on that memorable Thursday night has been called one of the most "unscripted and bizarre" moments in convention history, Yahoo! News reports.
“When I saw the stool sitting there," Eastwood said, he suddenly got the idea to conduct an interview in which, he explained to delegates, sat an invisible Barack Obama.
"I’ll talk to Mr. Obama and ask him why he didn't’ keep all of the promises he made to everybody,” he explained to the Pine Cone.
You can't vet me
Eastwood told the paper that he wouldn't let Romney campaign aides vet his speech.
“They vet most of the people, but I told them, ‘You can’t do that with me, because I don’t know what I’m going to say,’” said Eastwood, the former Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.
But the Oscar-winning actor and director didn't leave them high and dry. He promised Romney’s campaign manager, Matt Rhoades "that everything I would say would be nice about Mitt Romney."
But Eastwood appeared to do to Romney what he alleged that Obama did to the nation in his speech: "he didn't’ keep all of the promises he made" to Romney's campaign manager. In one example, Eastwood says:
"See, I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be president anyway," the Gran Torino star said at one point in the talk, aiming the shot for Obama, yet hitting Romney. (Romney is a lawyer. He obtained his law degree from Harvard Law)
As you now know, Eastwood's empty chair monologue/dialogue was an immediate internet sensation.
screenshot via Twitter
Yahoo! News said the actor's appearance sparked a meme across the Internet known as "Eastwooding." The empty chair spurred its own Twitter account. In California, an artist decided to take Eastwooding to the streets. He placed a life-size cardboard cutout of Eastwood, alongside an empty chair, overlooking a freeway in Glendale, Calif.
Politicians weren't excluded from poking fun at Eastwood's speech. “We’ve got our work cut out for us this week, folks, following the Republican convention,” Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin told delegates at the Iowa delegation’s breakfast last Tuesday morning in Charlotte, N.C., according to the Des Moines register here. “I mean, how are we ever going to match Clint Eastwood? I got to thinking he is the perfect icon for today’s Republican tea party: an old angry white man spewing incoherent nonsense.”
What did Eastwood think of the reaction to his speech?
He's not surprised. That's because Eastwood's critics "are obviously on the left" and would be critical of him no matter what he said, he told the Pine Cone.
When it came to his own party, he thought his remarks were well-received. "They really seemed to be enjoying themselves," he said. “The audience was super enthusiastic, and it’s always great when they’re with you instead of against you."
And Romney and Ryan? After the speeches were over, Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, came backstage to thank him. “They were very enthusiastic, and we were all laughing,” Eastwood told the paper.
Mitt Romney's campaign even issued a statement that seemed to back his words: "Judging an American icon like Clint Eastwood through a typical political lens doesn't work. His ad-libbing was a break from all the political speeches, and the crowd enjoyed it. He rightly pointed out that 23 million Americans out of work or underemployed is a national disgrace and it's time for a change." (But political fact checkers immediately pounced on the 23 million unemployment figure, CNN said.The U.S. Labor Department, says there are 12.8 million unemployed people—not 23 million.)
And during an appearance on CBS This Morning on Friday, Ann Romney pulled for the Hollywood legend, saying, "We appreciated Clint's support and he's a unique guy and he did a unique thing last night."
But the Associated Press and shots from TV cameras (shown below) inside the convention hall appear to tell a different story.
The AP reported that "backstage, stern-faced Romney aides winced at times as Eastwood's remarks stretched on," Yahoo said.
The wincing didn't only take place backstage. Those seen cheering in the audience before Eastwood began speaking, appeared pained or perplexed at what they were seeing and hearing. You be the judge.
Screenshot via Video
Ann Romney shown in the audience reacting to Clint Eastwood RNC speech.On CBS This Morning she said "he's a unique guy and he did a unique thing last night."
Screenshot via Video
GOP VP pick Paul Ryan and his wife shown in the audience reacting to Clint Eastwood RNC speech. Both were seen on camera cheering when the actor was first introduced.
Screenshot via Video
One of Mitt Romney's sons shown in the audience reacting to Clint Eastwood RNC speech.
You can read Eastwood's full account at The Carmel Pine Cone.
What did you think of the speech? Many thought the speech was important as a reminder to why Obama should remain a one term president. Let us know in the comment section below!