He's also refreshingly low-tech. "You see a couple in a restaurant, and both of them will be texting at the table," Eastwood says. "Don't people talk anymore?" As he sees it, "the main thing is not how long you're on the planet, but the quality you have while you're here. That was always the only thing that really mattered."
A statement like that could be read as an epilogue, but Eastwood clearly wants to keep working. "My dad was always talking about retiring and sitting next to a stream with a couple of beers in his hand," he says. "Sounds like a commercial, but [retirement] is not for me." Eastwood exercises vigorously every day and stays up till midnight many nights reading scripts and fine-tuning his material. He's already working on his next movie, the supernatural thriller Hereafter. And Invictus is an early front-runner for an Oscar nod this year.
Of course, if he were in it only for the awards, he could have quit ages ago. "The reason I don't retire is that I learn something new every day," Eastwood says. There is humility in his voice, and perhaps a bit of wonder. "It's about expanding, constantly pushing yourself." He challenges audiences by challenging himself—and inspires us all in the process.