What exactly are Eastwood’s “anti-war” credentials? That he was for the invasion of Iraq but not of Afghanistan (though he declined to say so publicly)? Did Eastwood call The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) “an anti-war picture”? Let’s take a quick look back.
The film was adapted from a novel by Forrest Carter, aka Asa Carter, one-time speech writer for George Wallace, white supremacist, and paramilitarist. Josey Wales, a super projection of Carter’s fantasy heroes Jesse James and Cole Younger, is hunted relentlessly out of Missouri through Texas and into Mexico by a vengeful Union army that can’t forgive him for refusing, like Carter, to be reconstructed.
In Carter’s paranoid fantasy, the “fed-rul guv’mint” is the enemy. His Josey Wales novels were his way of keeping the spirit of the Confederacy alive, a theme that the film’s original director, Philp Kaufman, was uneasy with. Eastwood, who was not, fired Kaufman (who went on to direct The Right Stuff and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, among others) and with scarcely an airbrush to Carter’s text brought his hysterical lost- cause vision to the screen.