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Clint Eastwood Could Direct A Film About a 90-Year-Old Drug Trafficker

Eastwood may also star as said drug mule.
Gran Torino Clint Eastwood
By  · Published on January 31st, 2018

Eastwood may also star as said drug mule.

Clint Eastwood may have his next directorial and acting project lined up, as reported by The Tracking Board. You read it right. Eastwood, who was last seen in a lead role in Robert Lorenz’s Trouble with the Curve, could return to center stage — or rather, screen — with The Mule.

Eastwood is currently circling The Mule, which has been floating around in development for a few years now. The film tells the true story of Leo Sharp, an award-winning horticulturist and decorated WWII veteran who started running drugs for the Sinaloa Cartel in his 80s. Sharp was then sentenced at the age of 90 for transporting $3 million worth of cocaine. Despite such a severe charge, Sharp only got three years in prison after his lawyer used dementia as a defense.

The Mule, in some ways, fits Eastwood’s M.O., no less because it’s a story about an ex-veteran trying to find his way in the America of today. From his extensive work in the western genre to more contemporary examinations of regular life, Eastwood’s movies are basically about white dudes who may or may not be morally ambiguous (and violent) and especially more recently, extremely pro-America. Eastwood has honed his skills by occasionally deconstructing symbols of power, but patriotism (especially via Big Acts of Bravery) has been thriving onscreen for a good number of years now.

Interestingly, the surprises of Sharp’s rather singular life could perhaps take the tenets of typical Eastwood filmmaking further than we’ve seen in a while. The New York Times article that The Mule is based on sets the scene; one of heightened suspense and drama. Sam Dolnick’s profile of Sharp — which doesn’t include much, if any, direct contact with Sharp himself — reads like a thriller script at times; for example, going through the cast of characters on the day Sharp was arrested for trafficking 104 kilos of cocaine, and documenting the car chase between ‘Tata’ (the cartel’s nickname for Sharp) and the DEA.

But peel back that layer of Sharp’s life story to reveal the apparent level of intensity he had as a horticulturist and we’re even more curious. He was practically a celebrity:

“Day-lily admirers are as intense as boxing fans, arguing passionately about the beauty and staying power of this or that varietal. And Leo Sharp is their Don King — a widely admired hybridizer with nearly 180 officially registered day lilies to his name.”

This was a man who was so renowned for his flowers that people arrived by the busload to see his work. Hence, Sharp’s overall motivations for his sudden embrace of a life of crime towards his twilight years evolves into something puzzling and far more intriguing.

Dolnick wrestles with reconciling the various presentations of Sharp throughout his article. The piece points out the juxtapositions between the perceptions of a typical drug trafficker and Sharp’s actual physical appearance in the Detroit federal courthouse: “it was hard to square the prosecutor’s descriptions of Sharp’s crimes — “the amount of wrecked lives is staggering” — with the kindly old man with crepe-paper skin slouching at the defense table.”

Not to say that judging a book by its cover is in any way advisable, but there is something about Sharp that resists categorization, making for a potentially interesting film. Although I don’t think there needs to be another white dude with morality issues onscreen anytime soon, Sharp’s age and unique circumstances lend some eccentricity to The Mule. There could be a story in there about how the ‘American Dream’ isn’t ever enough, and the quest for it will never stop if any opportunity presents itself no matter what age you’re at.

“One fundamental question looming over the case is whether Leo Sharp was savvy or senile.”

The Mule would likely investigate Sharp’s case and attempt to moralize him, but there’s something more to the character that changes things up for Eastwood movies. The combination of Sharp’s idiosyncrasies and Eastwood’s penchant for a holistic American identity will definitely make for a different kind of old-veteran-with-unclear-motivations movie.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)