A Fistful Of Eastwoos: Inside The Battle For Clint Twitter
2:13 PM EDT on April 20, 2023
There are certain stars so rarefied, with iconography so clear-cut and die-cast, that the very idea of them doing anything normal is hilarious. Think of Bob Dylan running errands. Or Keanu Reeves on the park bench. The defining role of Ben Affleck’s late-career renaissance is not Batman, but Ben Affleck, smoker of cigarettes and drinker of (abnormal quantities of) normal coffee. And then there’s Clint Eastwood—an exemplar of Hollywood masculinity whose stardom stretches all the way back to the "talking mule" era of studio filmmaking. Who wouldn’t want to see him pump gas?
So imagine the giddy delight felt on social media when a small corner of it began filling with with oddly sourced, lo-res images of the legendary actor, director, and jazz aficionado doing nothing much in particular. There he is! Hero to several generations of film buffs, Olympian figure whose very visage constitutes an ideal of hardened American machismo … outside a Bel Air pizzeria. It’s like seeing General Patton buying cat food. Or Paul Bunyan "picking up Soapstones for his Kitchen Worktop."
This wave of online Eastwood ephemera rolled in around April 2020, when the account @sue_filmMalpaso appeared on Twitter. Tweeting from behind a locked account (to protect Clint Eastwood’s privacy, of course) it claimed to be the OFFICIAL Clint Eastwood Twitter account. It was operated by “Sue,” sometimes identified as Suzanne Dolman, who professed to be Mr. Eastwood’s P.A. at Malpaso, his production company. Rebranding as @CLINTOFFICIAL_, the page held “Q&As” with Eastwood, in which the superstar (allegedly) responded to fan questions with clipped, colorless responses.
In time, the @CLINTOFFICIAL_ account was suspended, and replaced by a new super-official account, @THECLINT, which boasts that it is the “ONLY Official Twitter Account for Clint Eastwood.” Day in and day out, @THECLINT_ posts a mix of easily procured Getty Images and photos of Eastwood with other celebrities (including Kirk Douglas, Ray Romano, and, improbably, P.J. Harvey), along with candid, paparazzi-style snaps capturing Eastwood, 92, adrift in the total humdrum banality of everyday life.
There’s Clint, sitting at a stool at Chops Lobster Bar. Inspecting doll heads at a factory producing Dirty Harry figurines. Shopping at a store called “Shoegasm." They’re like the deep-cut Krusty the Clown trading cards from The Simpsons. Imagine “Clint Visits Relatives In Annapolis, Maryland” or “Clint Poses For Trading Card Photo.” The photos are disseminated with garish, super-obvious watermarks, intended to denote them as “official” Eastwood photos, released from the personal archives as (apparently?) part of some newfangled way for the nonagenarian filmmaker to connect with his broad base of online admirers.
The account was confusing. And a bit of a mess. But the charm made it easy to overlook the shagginess of the operation. Finally, Clint Eastwood had entered the Social Media Age! Alas, the excitement quickly curdled, as the account was beset by defensive posturing, booting followers (myself included) who dared question its legitimacy, and engaging in increasingly pitchy, internecine squabbles with other Eastwood-adjacent social media accounts.
In recent months, the campaign against “fake accounts” has ramped up. Lately, @THECLINT_, still insisting upon its own authenticity, has been calling out a number of ostensibly fraudulent accounts. Among them: @ClintEastwoo, @Clint_Eastwo, @ClintEastwo_1 and @Web_ClintEastwo. These accounts boast anywhere from three to 100,000-plus followers. They are said to be operated by a 27-year-old Chinese man named Geoffrey Nugyent [sic], who is almost always referred to as “Geoffrey Nugyent 27 of China.”
The war against Nugyent and his hydra-headed empire of Eastwood impersonation is supported by a “verified fan account,” CLINT EASTWOOD MOVIE LEGEND, which uses the handle @Clint_Archives. “This Account has full Authorisation and is a Verified TRIBUTE Account,” it announces. These “official” and “verified” accounts readily reply to fans, attesting to the veracity of their pictures and their direct line to Eastwood and his vast photographic archives. They never miss an opportunity to impugn the “fake and fraudulent accounts,” or to discredit the chicaneries of the dreaded Nugyent.
The plot is surely familiar to any Eastwood admirer. A desperado rolls into a town suffering under the thumb of a notorious outlaw, where anyone can buy a badge and call themselves verified. They survey the chaos, as the wind whips against their weather-beaten face. Posting fingers twitch over phone holsters. Somewhere in the distance, an Ennio Morricone score whistles.
My own attempts to weed out the pretenders from the genuine article bred more perplexity. The owner/operator of @Clint_Archives—who says he’s someone named Andrew, who works for Warner Brothers, the estimable film studio that has distributed Eastwood’s films for the better part of half a century—immediately disabled open DMs after I asked about it, only to reply to a timeline message a day later, explaining, “I’m not allowed to use DM.” Inquiries to Warner Bros., to Malpaso Productions, and to the private golf course Eastwood owns in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, also went unreturned. Meanwhile, certain Clint accounts continue to promote each other, while lambasting the fraudulence of others. At one point, someone in the Eastwoodsphere e-mailed me from an anonymous, encrypted account to offer a lengthy index of misreporting in a recent podcast about Eastwood and his former lover/co-star, Sondra Locke, implying, I guess, that I should look into it. (This individual clearly didn't realize that I own a hardcover first edition of Locke’s 1997 tell-all, The Good, The Bad & The Very Ugly, and was already intimately familiar with the late actress's accusations against Eastwood.)
The whole situation is weird. And funny, in an insanely stupid sort of way. It has occasionally sent me into hypnotic reveries, as phrases like “fake and fraudulent accounts” and “Geoffrey Nugyent 27 of China,” loop round and round inside my head, collapsing into total nonsense. “Shopping at Shoegasm,” I mutter to myself, as I shuffle to the kitchen to make coffee. “Having Pizza at Coachella," I almost respond, when a friend asks me what I’m up to this weekend. “This is the Only Official way to protect Clint's Logo from the Eastwoo Fake!” I howl, as motorists cut me off on the Delaware Expressway. I can feel my brain sizzling and melting in my skull. And yet? I love it.
There’s something almost nostalgic about this mix of genuine befuddlement—the whole thing does actually feel like a 92-year-old man trying to run a social media account—and active fan participation. The accounts’ followers seem like an even split between folks who believe they are genuinely engaging with Eastwood (or someone representing him, at some level), and “Film Twitter” freaks engaged in a form of ironized, in-on-the-joke kayfabe. To anyone watching half-attentively (or, in my case, obsessively) the online microdrama is a welcome throwback to Twitter’s mid-2000s heyday, when the social media giant was its own sort of Wild West, populated by freaks, weirdos, and, yes, the occasional genuine superannuated movie star.
Now, as Twitter enters its fin-de-siècle under Elon Musk’s erratic ownership, growing increasingly annoying and useless, these Eastwood-aping accounts proliferate at an exponential rate, like some idiotic virus. The vast ecosystem of “Fraudulent Accounts” and “Eastwoo Fakes” can seem like a microcosm of the whole site’s increasing brokenness, dramatizing in miniature larger concerns about moderation and verification. (That @Clint_Archives has a verified badge is meaningless, given the recent, deliberate attempts to blur the lines between “legacy verified” accounts–that is, people who proved that they are who they say they are–and anyone dopey enough to shell out $8/month for the dubious privilege of continuing to use a free website that is actively getting worse.) Under the turbulent, unprofitable watch of Musk, weirdness, lunacy, and a spirit of braindead anarchy are once again free to ride the high country.
After some prodding, I finally received a satisfactory reply, clarifying the matter of the multiplicity of Eastwood accounts, their respective officialdom, and which, if any, are actually connected to Eastwood himself. The word came from Morgan Eastwood, 27, the director’s youngest daughter. “I can 100% confirm,” she tells me, "that my dad and his company Malpaso Productions have zero official social media accounts on any platform!” (Ms. Eastwood was also kind enough to assure me that my inquiries about such an inane matter were “not annoying at all.”)
It’s no real shocker. But it still stings. In the spirit of the Weird Twitter kayfabe, I think I’ll still choose to believe that there’s something verifiably real in this kerfuffle, and that Eastwood and his inner circle actually do spend an oddly large portion of their day scrambling to reign in the imposters, and reassert control over the actor-director’s strange social media presence. To paraphrase The Clint himself, when pressed by one of the co-stars of 2006’s Flags Of Our Fathers for more direction to help play the scene: “Let’s not ruin it by thinking too much.”