What inspired you to direct and star in this film?
I read an article in the Times about the guy I was interested in. It was based on the real guy who went to prison for cavorting around with drugs in a truck. And I thought it was interesting and that all the little vignettes on the road could be interesting. So I thought it would be fun to do that.
I've driven across the country a few times, never in an old pickup truck, never carting anything in particular. But it was fun. It was adventurous and I thought it might be interesting if we could tell a few stories and meet some interesting people along the way, see what the drama brings out.
The real story is what fascinated me the most. What it was and what it must have been like out there.
The film is about drugs, family, aging. What message did you want to convey?
It just encompasses all those things. It addresses the fact that he's been negligent in the way he handled his family because he got so sidetracked by doing good for other people, helping out people with this newfound money that he makes now because he's started working for the cartel.
It's against the law, carting stuff that is very dangerous for our population and the country. But by the same token, somebody is doing it so it might as well be me getting the money. Which is just rationale, and when you start rationalizing things like that, it is such a human emotion. People do it all the time and they can make wrong into right.
What movie are you the proudest of as an actor and director?
I tell you one that really was a long shot and it was in making a film "Flags of Our Fathers" some years ago. I got the idea to do "The Letters from Iwo Jima," and I thought, "That's so hard to do because it's hard to find out much information on it." So I went to Japan and talked to the governor of the prefecture in charge of Iwo Jima and I told him that this is a story that has to be told from a Japanese point of view. And I think there's an awful lot of relatives and people left over from that era who would love to imagine what it must be like to be in that situation.
He said, "All you have to do is go to the Iwo Jima Association, which is a group of people, relatives of people who died there." And I said, "I think this is very important for the next generation to know."
I was fortunate to find a writer here in America. She was of Japanese descent but didn't really speak the language. She was born in America. But she researched it really well and went into it and came up with a really good script. So that had a great satisfaction because I still think it's one of the better films I've done.
What would 88-year-old Clint Eastwood tell a younger Clint Eastwood, 20 or 30 years old?
It would be, "Just believe in yourself. Believe in your ideas if you happen to be lucky enough to have some of them transmitted to an audience that wants to see them."
Is there a role out there you really want?
No. I mean I don't know what it is. I'm sure there are but I don't know offhand. I have no idea what it is. And it's more fun that way. For "The Mule", I read the article thinking it was a good thing, and the writer wrote this thing. And I thought, "OK let's try that."
Would it be fair to say "The Mule" will not be your last movie?
Oh yeah, definitely not. Definitely not my last.
This interview was conducted on 2018 December 9th in Hollywood, California. It has been edited for brevity and clarity.