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Nursery rhymes stir macho man’s Mystic music

New York, Nov. 6 (Reuters): The Hollywood macho man’s love of music was stirred anew as he improvised tunes to nursery rhymes on the piano to amuse himself while entertaining his children.

That dabbling moved Clint Eastwood to extend his musical gifts to the films he was making, a marriage of interests that has led to the haunting score for his latest creation, the critically acclaimed movie Mystic River.

“I stopped playing piano for quite a few years,” said the 73-year-old Eastwood about neglecting the instrument he taught himself as a youngster during the years he was busy building his tough guy image on screen.

“Then when my kids were born I started playing nursery rhymes and I started putting offbeat chords to the nursery rhymes, It’s A Small World After All, and all that sort of thing. And so I got back into it.”

Music has enriched and inspired the jazz-loving Eastwood’s life and work in the 30-plus years since. His oldest son, 35-year-old Kyle Eastwood, is a jazz bassist who contributed two songs to Mystic River. Children’s tunes still play in the Eastwood’s home where daughter Morgan turns seven next month.

Eastwood used music as a central element in the first film he directed,Play Misty for Me, in 1971. His five Dirty Harry movies all featured jazzy soundtracks. He directed Bird, a 1988 biopic of saxophonist Charlie Parker and composed themes that run through The Bridges of Madison County, and Unforgiven, the film that won the 1993 Oscar as best picture and earned him an Oscar as best director. Eastwood, who has starred in 45 films, directed 24 and produced 19, produced, directed and wrote the score for Mystic River.

Critics have hailed Eastwood’s richly textured treatment of Dennis Lehane’s troubling novel. The New Yorker praised it as an “historical achievement,” and The New York Times noted its “extraordinary intensity” with scenes “that swell with almost unbearable feeling.”

“The reviews were certainly excellent both domestically and foreign,” Eastwood said.

For Mystic River, a story of vengeance, violence and a scarred childhood involving three boyhood friends, Eastwood composed a minimalist musical theme built on a triad, three notes that echo the triangle formed by characters played by Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon.

At turns serene and disturbing, lilting and foreboding, the music enhances the edginess that permeates the gripping, character-driven drama set in a working class Boston neighbourhood.

“I kind of had an idea where I wanted to go,” Eastwood said when asked if any of the music came to him during the shooting of the film. “In the evenings I would go through various ideas in my mind. But I didn’t come up with a really good solution until I started editing the film.

“I just took a triad and started working things around. The triad represented the three boys, and the three men who were haunted by events that happened. Then I just tried building it, to fill the voices, to have a male anguish kind of thing.”

He said keeping the score simple and using it selectively was important to present the best performances from his trio of stars and supporting cast including Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney and Laurence Fishburne.

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