LOS ANGELES -- After winning two Academy Awards for producing and directing the western "Unforgiven," Clint Eastwood admitted that there were certain ties between his career as an action filmmaker and his movie character, William Munny, a retired gunslinger who tries to turn his back on a life of violence.
"Any actor who has been in action films has dealt with violence, and often it can be glib," Mr. Eastwood said. "Gene Hackman, when I first approached him for this film, didn't want to be involved in films with violence. And I agreed with him, telling him that based upon that fact, this was a chance to make a statement on the effects of violence, something that means something. That it isn't glamorous to take a gun, that it isn't glamorous to kill people. Killing isn't beautiful.
"Movies can be gratuitously violent," Mr. Eastwood continued, "but life can be gratuitously violent. Reporting violence in the media can have a numbing effect. If you have a conflict in a film, you could be heading toward violence. The important thing is to state something valuable about it in the process."
He admitted that it was satisfying to receive recognition after all his years in the film business but conceded, "It's easy to look down on my early work -- some of it deserved to be looked down on.
"Then, other parts of the world started appreciating things I've done, and then folks over here did, too. But I think I've changed over the years; I'm thinking in broader terms. I'm looking to next year in even broader terms and hope to continue growing."
When the Los Angeles Film Critics Association awarded "Unforgiven" five prizes, Mr. Eastwood said it was the point at which he considered the film's Oscar possibilities. "It was the first time an American film critics organization had embraced a film of mine with such enthusiasm.
"But in the past few months, I've gotten so caught up in [Oscar hoopla], I had to tell myself to stop thinking about it and get my mind back on work."
He said that a few of his earlier films might have been deserving of Oscar consideration, including another western, "The Outlaw Josie Wales."
"I think the time wasn't ready for the Academy to embrace an American art form like the western," Mr. Eastwood commented. Other films he expressed pride in were "The Beguiled" and "Bronco Billy."
Still, the fact that his Oscars come so late in his career makes them mean more, Mr. Eastwood said. "Had I won earlier in my career, I might've wondered, 'Where do I go from here?' I might not have been mature enough to have dealt with it.
"Some people would've taken to wearing a monocle and leggings," he added with a smile. "It's OK to take the work seriously, but you shouldn't take yourself seriously."
Mr. Eastwood acknowledged the influence of the late directors Sergio Leone and Don Siegel -- to whom "Unforgiven" was dedicated -- and added that he didn't think that the film would "bring the western in vogue any more than 'The Crying Game' would bring cross-dressing into vogue."