Eastwood calls Republican speech "unorthodox," dismisses critics

Sat Sep 8, 2012 3:09am IST

Actor Clint Eastwood addresses the final session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Actor Clint Eastwood addresses the final session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Skipper

(Reuters) - Actor Clint Eastwood said he came up with idea for his "very unorthodox" speech at the Republican convention just hours ahead of time, and made a last-minute decision to cast an empty chair as an invisible President Barack Obama.

In his first public comments about the unscripted speech last week, the Oscar-winning actor and director said he had little public speaking experience but felt his improvized chat with the president -- which puzzled viewers and has become the brunt of jokes -- had accomplished his goals.

"I may have irritated a lot of the lefties, but I was aiming for people in the middle," Eastwood told the Carmel Pine Cone local newspaper for the coastal California town where he was mayor in the 1980s.

"They've got this crazy actor who's 82 years old up there in a suit," said the "Dirty Harry" star. "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."

"I don't know how to," he added.

Eastwood's conversation with an empty chair largely upstaged Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney's keynote speech at the convention, and triggered a satirical Twitter account for the chair that went viral.

Eastwood said he had been invited to appear at the convention by Romney after he endorsed the Republican at an August fundraiser in Idaho.

"It was supposed to be a contrast with all the scripted speeches because I am Joe Citizen. I am a movie maker, but I have the same feelings as the average guy out there," he said.

Eastwood said he got the idea to use the chair while waiting backstage at the Tampa, Florida, convention arena on Thursday last week.

"There was a stool there (backstage), 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."

Eastwood said Romney came backstage to thank him and that he flew home the next day unaware of the headlines he was making.

Eastwood told the Carmel newspaper that people who were shocked by his remarks "are obviously on the left," and he maintained that, while many Americans didn't like the way he handled his convention appearance, millions more have something else on their minds.

"A lot of people are realizing they had the wool pulled over their eyes by Obama," Eastwood said.

(Reporting By Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles; Editing by Richard Chang)

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