Why did Clint Eastwoood’s puzzling speech to the GOP faithful at the Republican Convention in Tampa, FL, last week get such a resounding thumbs down? Eastwood’s now famous address–talking to an empty chair–did little to capture the public imagination in the right way. It was obviously not the warm-up act Team Romney was hoping for. Was this cold shower one of Dirty Harry’s worst performances?
The reviews were not kind. Eastwood’s failed motivational opener was invariably described as “rambling” by the commentators. Even Ann Romney damned Eastwood with faint praise by saying on morning television that Eastwood did “a unique thing last night.”
Eastwood’s problem was that his speech seemed too much like hard work. Talking to an empty chair, with its overtones of Gestalt therapy, seemed better suited to the analyst’s couch than national television. Above all, the exercise diffused Eastwood’s own anger, which is what was always going to connect with the audience. Despite the botched delivery, he made a case about why he is unhappy with the present administration. It could easily have been the temperature-setter for Romney’s later key speech, but instead Romney had to claw back the audience’s attention and start afresh.
The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Dirty Harry. Not a bad speech content wise, but why was its delivery so complicated?
The PR Takeaway: Speak from the heart and connect with the audience; any actor knows that. Eastwood’s speech read like an open letter to Obama, and what better way to have delivered it than to stare straight into the camera? Eastwood could have channelled the steeliness of Dirty Harry rather than taking a leaf out of the therapist’s handbook. Connecting with the audience and issuing the President with a series of ultimatums might have made Dirty Harry’s day, as well as Mitt Romney’s.
To see the speech click here.
What’s your opinion of Clint Eastwood’s “empty chair” speech? Give us your PR Verdict!