'We're going to test the theory that there's no such thing as bad publicity," joked Robert Lorenz. After 17 years as Clint Eastwood's assistant director, Lorenz's directorial debut, "Trouble With the Curve" -- starring Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake -- opens Sept. 21, about three weeks after Eastwood's seemingly ad-libbed, impromptu and imaginary conversation with Barack Obama at the Republican National Convention.
"I don't know really what to say about it except that when he has a good script and a little time to rehearse, Clint can kill," Lorenz said. "Which is what he does in our movie."
That Lorenz's baseball movie is opening so soon after Eastwood's political episode might suggest to more cynical observers that the man is crazy like a fox: The GOP performance may have been loopy, but it has generated a team busload of publicity. "Hopefully, we've motivated the base," joked actor Matthew Lillard, who plays the chief antagonist of Eastwood's character in the film. "But, you know, he's a legend and, given the attention span of the American moviegoer public, I can't see it making much difference. But we're definitely going to see."
What viewers will see is something of a dream match: A true Hollywood icon -- Eastwood, as cranky baseball scout Gus Lobel -- facing off against one of its more established younger stars -- Adams, as Gus' strong-willed and beautiful daughter, Mickey, lawyer and bona fide baseball savant. Adams pretty much steals the movie. And, given Eastwood's status, isn't that blasphemy?
"Don't be embarrassed," Lorenz said. "I felt the same way, and I think Clint even mentioned it at one point. Her character goes through a lot and changes the most, and she's struggling the most. Whoever was in that role had to be great, and Amy, she's got the charm and all the qualities anyone needed."
A daughter's journey
As Gus is losing his eyesight -- and the Atlanta Braves' front office is losing its faith in him -- Mickey, a socially deprived, workaholic attorney, is about to be made a partner in her firm. Then she gets a call from her father's longtime colleague Pete Klein (John Goodman): Will she please go with Gus on his next scouting trip? His job depends on it. Phillip Snyder (Lillard), the Braves associate director of scouting, is convinced that Gus is about to blow the team's upcoming draft pick and is lobbying against him with the Atlanta brass. Gus' health isn't what it was. Things look grim. Putting her career in jeopardy, Mickey agrees to go. And a familial war of wills is under way. (So is romance: Mickey and Red Sox scout Johnny Flanagan (Timberlake) make a comfortable couple, even if they just circle each other for much of the first two acts.)
Lillard, whose low-budget "Fat Kid Rules the World" is fast becoming an underground hit (and opens in New York Oct. 5), played a similarly rotten character in "The Descendants" last year, and he said he liked playing the rat. "There's more to do, it's more devilish and it's fun. But I'm a really nice guy. I'm a kind, gentle man." Also, he joked, "I like having a job again. I was out there in Siberia for a while, and here I am working with Clint Eastwood."
Adams hasn't been in cold storage at all: In recent years, she's been in films with Meryl Streep ("Doubt," "Julie & Julia"), Mark Wahlberg ("The Fighter") and the Muppets ("The Muppets"), and she played down her importance to "Trouble With the Curve."
"The characters, they all sort of revolve around each other; everyone's story relies on everyone else's story," she said. "I really liked the fact that it was a father-daughter story set in the world of baseball, and a chance to work with Clint."
A challenge for Adams
And while the 38-year-old actress often has played likable characters -- albeit ones with pluck, spunk and spine -- she denied there's an Amy Adams pigeonhole.
"I definitely want to challenge myself and try new things," she said, pointing to "The Fighter," and the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film, "The Master" (which also opens Friday). "But I also like doing films like 'Trouble' that, you know, maybe speak to a larger audience. Things my grandma can go see. Really, that's important -- I had to warn her about 'The Fighter' and 'The Master,' about the language I used. I want to make movies my young teenage nieces and nephews, the whole family, can go to. But at the same time, I appreciate complicated and darker fare."
One of the darker movies she's made is "The Master," in which she plays the wife of Lancaster Dodd, the character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. "I can tell you," Adams said, "I think 'The Master' was the first time I saw myself on screen and said, 'I don't like that girl.' She terrifies me."
She'd be friends with Mickey, though. "We look alike," Adams joked. "Maybe we could share clothes!"
Will Eastwood's film be greeted by empty chairs?
BY DERRIK J. LANG, The Associated Press
Will Clint Eastwood's controversial appearance before the Republican National Convention affect the box office of "Trouble With the Curve?"
"If you're a Clint Eastwood fan, my guess is you'll probably still go to see the movie," said S. Mark Young, co-author of "The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America" and professor at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. "If you're not, you might be very disappointed with what's become of Clint."
Leonard Hirshan, Eastwood's longtime manager, said the 82-year-old actor-director would likely appear on one talk show to promote the film. He wasn't sure which one. Hirshan didn't originally know Eastwood was planning to appear at the convention in Tampa, Fla. He noted Eastwood doesn't employ a personal representative and usually "chooses to do what he wants to do."
Although he's been a Hollywood staple, Eastwood has never conformed to Hollywood standards. He's a flag-waving Republican, a fiscal conservative who takes left-leaning stands on social issues like gay marriage.
Despite the continued roasting of Eastwood's RNC appearance online, Young said moviegoers often are extremely forgiving of such bizarre, broadcast-for-the-masses moments.
He cited Tom Cruise as an example. The actor still draws crowds to theaters, even after he wildly jumped on Oprah Winfrey's couch and called Matt Lauer "glib" on the "Today" show.
"Unless someone has done something truly egregious, people are still going to go to the movies," said Young. "If people go to see 'Trouble With the Curve,' it's probably not because they side or don't side with Clint's political beliefs. They're going to go to be entertained, whether they like movies about baseball or just the stuff that Eastwood has done in the past."
Moviegoers aren't the only audience Eastwood might have to worry about following his divisive speech supporting Mitt Romney. There's also left-leaning Hollywood. Eastwood's "Trouble With the Curve" performance already has been bandied about as an awards contender. Could his empty-chair act have undermined Eastwood's chances at capturing more Oscars?
"What he did is not going to help him, but it's certainly not going to harm him, either," said Scott Feinberg, awards analyst and blogger for The Hollywood Reporter. "The fallout and embarrassment from what he did is probably punishment enough for Clint. Ultimately, I don't think his 11-minute speech can undo his 50-plus-year legacy in Hollywood."
"This may actually have the reverse effect and cause sympathy for him," said Tom O'Neil, editor of the awards site GoldDerby.com. "The Oscars are all about hugs -- who we love and who we don't in Hollywood. There was something endearing about him taking a chance up there and embracing his politics. It took guts. That's kinda what you expect from Dirty Harry."