A cardboard cutout of Eastwood and an empty chair along a highway in Glendale, CA (Reed Saxon/AP)In a lengthy interview with his hometown paper, Clint Eastwood defended his speech at the Republican National Convention, saying his unconventional performance was a spontaneous decision.
The former mayor of Carmel, Calif., gave an interview to The Pine Cone; the story was published Friday.
"President [Barack] Obama is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," Eastwood told the paper. "[Mitt] Romney and [Paul] Ryan would do a much better job running the country, and that's what everybody needs to know. I may have irritated a lot of the lefties, but I was aiming for people in the middle."
Eastwood sounded far from defensive over criticism of his self-described "very unorthodox" speaking style, freely admitting, "I really don't know how to" give a traditional public address. He added: "That's what happens when you don't have a written-out speech."
In his opinion, Eastwood said his critics in the media "are obviously on the left" and would be critical of him no matter what he said. As for Eastwood's fans? Well, not all of them loved the speech, but it doesn't seem to have changed their affection for the Academy Award winner.
The actor's appearance sparked a meme across the Internet known as "Eastwooding," and a California artist even placed a life-size cardboard cutout of Eastwood, alongside an empty chair, overlooking a freeway in Glendale, Calif.
"They've got this crazy actor who's 82 years old up there in a suit," Eastwood said. "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."
Eastwood arrived at the convention site in Tampa just 20 minutes before he was scheduled to speak, he said. And he showed up without a planned address, equipped only with three talking points and a promise to Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades that "everything I would say would be nice about Mitt Romney."
"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,'" he explained. "I didn't make up my mind exactly what I was going to say until I said it."
As for his now infamous conversation with an empty chair, Eastwood says he came up with the idea just moments before taking the stage.
"There was a stool there, 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."
You can watch video of Eastwood's RNC address below:
The actor also defended the length of his remarks, which went on for about 12 minutes, more than double the five minutes organizers had allotted him before taking the stage.
"When people are applauding so much, it takes you 10 minutes to say five minutes' worth," he said.
Nonetheless, Eastwood sounded confident that his remarks were well-received by RNC attendees. "They really seemed to be enjoying themselves," he said. As for Romney and Ryan in particular? "They were very enthusiastic, and we were all laughing," said Eastwood.