Clint Eastwood's daughter earns her spurs in “Outlaws and Angels.”
Like father, like daughter? Maybe. Francesca Eastwood certainly appears to be riding in the hoofprints of her superstar father — actor and Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood — as she impressively plays her first starring movie role in Outlaws and Angels, the edgy western drama currently on view in limited theatrical release and on major streaming platforms.
Written and directed by JT Mollner, the film might best be described as equal parts spaghetti western homage and home-invasion thriller, with Eastwood — the daughter, not the father — cast as Florence, the younger daughter of a frontier family that gets an unwelcome visit from murderous outlaws fleeing the scene of a violent crime. Henry (Chad Michael Murray), leader of the bandit gang, takes a shine to Florence, even while he and his cohorts terrorize her father, mother and sister. And since this isn’t exactly a happy family — as the unsettling early scenes establish — it’s not entirely surprising when Florence shifts her loyalties.
Strictly speaking, Outlaws and Angels isn’t Francesca Eastwood’s big-screen debut. When she was just 2 years old, she appeared in The Stars Fell on Henrietta (1995) as the daughter of a character played by her real-life mom, actress Frances Fisher (Titanic), who starred with Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven (1990). Later, when she was 6, she had a cameo as her dad’s on-screen daughter in the 1999 thriller True Crime.
But Outlaws and Angels marks the breakthrough she has been working toward after paying her dues with smattering of film and TV supporting roles.
We recently had an opportunity to briefly chat with Francesca Eastwood — and Frances Fisher, who has a small but memorable role in Outlaws and Angels. Here is a sampling of what they had to say.
Cowboys & Indians: What was your reaction when you were called in to audition for a western? Did you feel like, well, you were carrying on a family tradition?
Francesca Eastwood: [Laughs.] Well, I was excited when I auditioned, and when they wanted me to come back and read again. But JT, the director, told me he really wanted to cast the best person for the role. He didn’t want to cast me because of anything besides my being able to do a good job telling the story. And after talking to him, I got his vision for the film. I didn’t really look at it as shooting a western. I looked it as just, “All right. This is the character, and this is her background. I'm going to go shoot this, and this is what happens in it. It could be any time or place.”
It wasn't until the last week of shooting when I was on a horse, riding, galloping off, riding around, shooting guns, slinging guns around between takes, that I was like, “All right, I feel like I'm shooting a western.” That stuff is so fun. It was so amazing, it was so cool. I have to do more in the future.”
C&I: What was your father’s reaction when you told him you were going to star in a western?
Eastwood: I don't remember what either of my parents said. But I know that afterwards, he kind of laughed when we talked about the trials and tribulations of shooting a western. The horse was galloping off in the wrong direction, and the guns wouldn't fire. We got to laugh about that.
C&I: You strike a delicate balance in your performance as Florence. She comes across as someone who’s at home on a horse, and knows how to shoot a gun — but is in many ways, despite her home situation, an innocent.
Eastwood: Exactly. That was my goal. She’s a good shot, but she’s not a gunfighter. She doesn’t have experience. There’s an awkwardness to the gunplay at the end, which I think is very real. I just prepared backstory for the character, and stuff like that. Then when I got to the set, I got to just play [Florence], and experience the meeting of the outlaws as it happened on camera, which was cool.
C&I: You don’t have any scenes with your mother, Frances Fisher. But did you get to spend any time together during the production of Outlaws and Angels?
Eastwood: Yes we did, and it was really cool. My mom was really supportive. But she just let me do my thing. And it was great going to the set on my first day off, and seeing her work on a scene with characters, and in the style of clothes and stuff that I had been working with all week. It was awesome.
C&I: Frances, you really do make every moment count in a small role.
Frances Fisher: Yeah, really small. [Laughs] I mean, I was literally there for three days. But I got a chance to see Francesca work, which made me very, very proud, of course. I just had a great time. JT Mollner is a terrific up-and-coming director, and he just created a really great atmosphere on the set. It was really fun just being back in that milieu.
C&I: This is your first western since you costarred in Unforgiven with Francesca’s father, right?
Fisher: Yes. And it's an interesting thing, the hand of fate putting her into a western like this, because of all the comparisons, of course, to her father, who started out in that genre, back when he got famous with Rawhide. It’s just kind of nice that it’s something that she's familiar with. She took riding lessons when she was really young. And she's obviously comfortable on a set now. I thought she did a really, really terrific job playing the scenes the way she did.
C&I: Did you ever try to talk her out of pursuing an acting career? Or try to persuade her to seek a different sort of employment?
Frances: No. I heard all that from my father when I started acting — when I was 21 years old, actually, the same age as she was when she started. I know that discouragement doesn’t work — it actually pushes you further into what you want to do. I always said to her, “Just do what you feel passionate about, because that’ll get you through anything. If you have a true love for what you do, whatever it is, just do that because that’s what you were put on this Earth for.” That's the advice I give everyone who asks me about what they should do. I just say, “Go with where your passion is.”