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Eastwood urges Lee to "shut his face" over Negro comments

Clint Eastwood, director of Letters From Iwo Jima

Story by Jack Foley

OSCAR-winning director Clint Eastwood has told fellow filmmaker Spike Lee to “shut his face” over claims that he used too few black actors in his films.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Eastwood refuted claims that his 2006 film Flags Of Our Fathers was inacurrate because it “failed” to show the contribution made by black soldiers in the offensive.

Lee – who has criticised Eastwood in the past – made the inflammatory comments during the Cannes Film Festival, where he announced his intention to make his own war film based on James McBride’s novel Miracle at St Anna.

The novel is based on the true story of an all-black US army division fighting the Nazi occupation of Tuscany, and a friendship that develops between one of the men and a six-year-old Italian orphan.

Speaking to an Italian newspaper, he said: “I recently met a black veteran who fought at Iwo Jima and he told me how hurt he was that he could not find a single African-American in Clint Eastwood’s two films.”

He reiterated those comments at a Cannes press conference and invited journalists to put Eastwood on the spot when they next interviewed him.

But when approached on the subject by Jeff Dawson, of The Guardian, Eastwood was in bullish mood, insisting that black troops were not involved in raising the flag at Iwo Jima.

“If I go ahead and put an African American actor in there, they’d say ‘this guy’s lost his mind,’” he said. “The story is Flags of Our Fathers, the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn’t do that. It’s not accurate.”

Eastwood confirmed that there was a small detachment of black troops in the World War II battle, but they were part of a munitions company, and not part of the flag-raising ceremony his film chronicled.

And he added that he would not compromise the facts with future projects.

“I’m not in that game. I’m playing it the way I read it historically, and that’s the way it is,” he said. “When I do a picture and it’s 90% black, like Bird, I use 90% black people.”

Ironically, Eastwood’s next film will tackle black issues head-on. The Human Factor, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, will examine the life of Nelson Mandela after the fall of apartheid in South Africa during his first term as president when he campaigned to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup event as an opportunity to unite his countrymen.

Read the full Guardian interview