I visited Los Angeles with my family several times when I was a kid, but my first real exposure to the city came in 1992 when I came out here to look into a job that never happened. But I spent several weeks checking out the place, becoming more and more certain that I wanted to move here. Late one afternoon I was driving through Westwood Village, when I spotted that a movie premiere was happening. I parked and walked over to the Bruin where I discovered that it was the premiere of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. I stood with the crowd across the street for several minutes when some sort of security guard came over and asked if anyone wanted to go in and see the movie. They must have needed to fill some seats or something. Quickly I raised my hand and was sent over to a line on the side of the theater, alongside where Hamburger Hamlet used to be. Within minutes the line started to move. I followed the line as it curved around into the theater’s foyer and suddenly just a few feet away from me was Clint Eastwood being interviewed by a tv news crew.
Once inside the crowded theater I found a seat way down near the front in the second row. I remember Joe Dante sitting right behind me. Very cool. And then the movie started.
Let me back up here. This was the premiere of Unforgiven. Which, before it opened, was simply the new Clint Eastwood Western. The first one he’d made in years. I remember seeing the trailer that summer before Batman Returns, but it was only just the new Clint Eastwood western. His previous film had been The Rookie, a buddy-cop romp with Charlie Sheen which isn’t exactly one of the best things he’d ever done. And there was next to no hype about Unforgiven. What I’m saying is, I had no idea what I was about to see.
It first truly hit me when I was watching the scene between Eastwood and the underrated Anna Thomson, the cut-up girl who offers him a “free one”. He turns her down, then explains why, saying it’s because of his wife back home, the one she doesn’t know is dead, adding, “I reckon if I was to want a free one, it would be with you.” I vividly remember sitting there in the Bruin, thinking, “Oh my God. I’m watching a Great Movie.” That never happens anymore. We know too much about everything we’re going to see beforehand. We don’t really get surprises like that very much anymore. I new it then and I knew it through the rest of the movie. And to this day, I watch the last stretch of Unforgiven, from the scene under the tree as Eastwood and Jaimz Woolvet wait under that tree for the girl to bring their money all the way through the final title card at the end and I just find myself welling up with a kind of emotion. Part of it is the movie, but part of it is also me being brought back to the perfection of that night. Of being reminded what power movies really do have and why I want to write in the first place. LA has a way of doing that to you.
The script was written by David Webb Peoples and it can be considered his masterpiece. I met him briefly once, but I didn’t tell him. We all make mistakes.