By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 24, 2011 at 9:40AM
Clint Eastwood, the wily old coot, has long been adept at winning friends in influential places, and knows how to work the press better than anyone. His usual early-screening suspects include such critics as Scott Foundas and Todd McCarthy. Perhaps betraying his lack of awareness of how behind-the-pay-wall Variety is, Peter Bart was one of the hand-picked folks tipped to an advance Carmel Film Festival showing of J. Edgar, which opens the AFI Fest November 3 before hitting theaters November 9:
At a moment when Hollywood is flailing about with tired remakes, Clint Eastwood, one of its more senior filmmakers, seems more determined than ever to stake new ground. His gripping new film "J. Edgar" is the polar opposite of contemporary studio product -- a searing biopic about a megalomaniacal right-wing ideologue. Under his four-decade reign, J. Edgar Hoover used the FBI to blackmail presidents and manipulate the media to mold his image as the nation's lone protector against gangsters and "Bolsheviks." Top politicians and reporters were scared to reveal that J. Edgar (superbly played by Leonardo DiCaprio) was a mama's boy with a gay lover. Eastwood's picture opens Nov. 9, so I am not going to review it here other than to say that it's consistent with Clint's legacy. His protagonists are a study in surprise -- who else would roam from Dirty Harry to Walt Kowalski (of "Gran Torino"), from Josie Wales to Nelson Mandela, from the troopers of Iwo Jima to a "Million Dollar Baby."