Clint Eastwood has earned plenty of bad reviews for his latest performance: a bizarre, rambling endorsement of Mitt Romney.
“Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic,” tweeted film critic Roger Ebert as Eastwood adlibbed on Thursday night to an audience of millions - and one empty chair - on stage at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.
“He didn’t need to do this to himself. It’s unworthy of him.”
Eastwood carried on a kooky, long-winded conversation with an imaginary President Barack Obama, telling him that he failed to deliver on his promises, and it’s time for Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, to take over.
“Mr President, how do you handle promises that you have made when you were running for election, and how do you handle them? I mean, what do you say to people?” he said at one point to the empty chair.
Twitter was instantly ablaze with comments mocking the Oscar-winning director of Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.
“Clint has now eclipsed the total word count of his last three films,” tweeted film critic Richard Roeper during the speech, which was intended to last five minutes but went on for nearly 12.
Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, said “Clint’s empty chair act” was the “weirdest convention moment I have ever seen”.
Joe Scarborough, the conservative host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, declared that “a great night for Mitt Romney just got sidetracked by Clint Eastwood”.
Minutes after Eastwood began his speech, someone created an (at)InvisibleObama account on Twitter. It has already amassed 30,000 followers and counting.
“I heard that Clint Eastwood was channelling me at the RNC,” tweeted comic actor Bob Newhart, known for his one-sided conversation bits. “My lawyers and I are drafting our lawsuit.”
The 82-year-old actor and director also talked about Oprah Winfrey, Obama’s unfulfilled promise to close the US prison at Guantanamo, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and lawyers. At one point, he referenced dismissing Obama and making a change.
“When somebody doesn’t do the job, you gotta let ’em go,” Eastwood said. The tough-guy actor of Dirty Harry fame then drew a finger across his throat.
The Obama campaign shot back afterwards by tweeting a photo of the back of the president’s chair, with Obama’s head peeking over it, along with the line: “This seat’s taken.”
Eastwood, a fiscal conservative who takes left-leaning stands on social issues such as gay marriage and environmental protections, made waves with conservatives earlier this year when he starred in a Super Bowl spot for Chrysler, a company that benefited from government support. Eastwood, who endorsed Romney earlier this month at a campaign event in Sun Valley, Idaho, and once served as mayor of Carmel, California, defended his appearance in the commercial, noting it had nothing to do with his politics.
Inside the convention, the crowd cheered Eastwood’s entrance and shouted his famed catchphrase, “Go ahead, make my day.” But backstage, stern-faced Romney aides winced at times as Eastwood’s remarks stretched on. After his speech, Romney’s camp defended Eastwood.
“He’s an American icon,” Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho told CNN’s Piers Morgan. “You can’t look at him through the same political lens that you would other politicians. He’s Clint Eastwood.”
There was seemingly more discussion on Thursday night on Twitter about Eastwood’s awkward performance than Romney’s actual acceptance speech.
CELEBRITY TWEETS IN RESPONSE TO CLINT EASTWOOD’S SPEECH
- “This seat’s taken.” - (visible) President Barack Obama.
- “20 years ago I wanted Clint Eastwood to make my day. Now I just want him to take his pills and b grateful he doesnt need medicare.” - Nancy Lee Grahn, General Hospital actress.
- “I demand to see Invisible Obama’s invisible birth certificate.” - Michael Schaffer, The New Republic.
- “And so on this day, August 30, 2012, (at) MittRomney became a better actor than Clint Eastwood.” - Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s The Last Word.
- “I can’t believe I just watched #ClintEastwood turn into somebody’s DRUNK UNCLE HARRY on the stage of the #GOP #RNC. He humiliated himself.” - Star Jones, Today contributor.
- “I heard that Clint Eastwood was channeling me at the RNC. My lawyers and I are drafting our lawsuit.” - comic actor Bob Newhart, referring to his signature one-way-conversation routines.
- “’If Clint Eastwood ever talks to a chair on national TV, people will need a way to reassure each other’ - inventor of Twitter, March 2006.” - Patton Oswalt, comedian and actor on The King of Queens.
- “Clint Eastwood’s RNC speech was to imaginary Obama in an empty chair. I’m drafting a DNC speech to imaginary Romney in an empty factory.” - actor George Takei, Mr Sulu of Star Trek.
- “I still like Clint Eastwood. A crazy Republican talking to a chair is the least harm a crazy Republican has done in ages.” - writer and comedian Frank Conniff