Alison Eastwood: A Star for Marine Mammals
Alison Eastwood is an actor, ﬁlm director, producer, environmentalist and former model who also happens to be the daughter of legendary actor and film director Clint Eastwood.
Through a series of fortuitous events, Alison recently met Peter Wallerstein, the director of Marine Animal Rescue—a project ﬂourishing in Los Angeles County under the Friends of Animals banner. After getting familiar with Peter’s vital work, Alison pledged to help raise the money for the future Marine Mammal Care Center.
Dustin Garrett Rhodes spoke to Alison by phone on October 28, 2010—about ﬁlm, marine mammals, rats, childhood dreams and dangerous toupées, among other subjects. The following conversation has been slightly edited for clarity.
You wear a lot of hats: actor, film director, producer, model, fashion designer; do you identify with one especially?
AE: I identify mostly with the acting and directing—working in film. Modeling was really just an excuse for me to go and live in Paris for a year. I wasn’t really ever a “model”; I never aspired to it; I met a great guy in France and then had a great opportunity.
The clothing line was a great opportunity for me and the friends who started the company to work together; unfortunately, the manufacturing of clothing and a lot of things that are involved in that industry were very difficult for me. It was also hard to balance that with acting and other projects I was doing at the time. So, I had to move on from that.
I grew up in a family where acting, directing and producing was the family business; that’s what I relate to most.
You’ve starred in and directed films, even a few alongside your father, Clint Eastwood; what project are you most proud of?
AE: I am most proud of the film I directed, actually—Rails and Ties (2007). I did get to work with a lot of people in my father’s company. I don’t think I have as much confidence as an actor, but I am really proud of the film and the actors and the crew I worked with. It’s such a big job to have to oversee an entire film from its inception until it’s on the screen.
You grew up around a lot of artists. How did that shape your interests and what you’re doing today?
AE: All of this felt natural, like it’s what I should be doing. My dad always had music playing around the house, and now my brother is a jazz musician; I am sure my brother was influenced a lot. I feel the same way. The film and acting, they feel like home for me. Being around movie sets and creative people, writers, directors and actors—all of that feels natural.
Were you the four-year-old who said “I’m going to be an actor and director when I grow up?”
AE: No; I was always a huge animal lover, and I actually aspired to be a veterinarian. I always loved animals and felt a need to protect and help them in some way. I thought I’d either be a large animal vet (I grew up loving horses) or even a small animal vet. But then I got into school, and realized all the extra time spent there wasn’t for me. I wasn’t a big lover of school, and the thought of all those extra years just didn’t appeal to me. As I got older, I was drawn to working in a more creative capacity. It just felt more natural to gravitate towards the arts, ultimately.
I recently read that your father and step-mother, Dina, live with quite a few non-traditional animals—like tortoises, a pig, chickens, a couple of rats…I even read that your dad has a squirrel that visits him at his studio.
AE: Unfortunately, we never had, like you say, traditional pets like dogs and cats, because my father and brother are both highly allergic to them. But I managed to bring home any animal that somehow needed help. We had rats and rabbits and fish and birds. I am actually sitting here right now next to my pet rat. That’s carried over to today. We’ve rescued a lot of animals. My dad is a really generous person and has a wonderful spirit when it comes to animals. I think that’s been instilled in me too.
I have heard so many people who live with rats say they’re very smart, curious, interesting and easy to fall in love with. How did you come to live with one?
AE: My boyfriend wanted to give me a gift a couple of years ago, and he ended up saving a “feeder rat” from becoming food for a snake. He rescued her from “the snake pit,” as we call it. We have totally fallen in love with Ruby; she is the apple of my eye. She goes places with us; I don’t think she knows she’s a rat. She’s a little person, and she gets along great with the dog and the rabbit. Obviously, we keep the cat separated; the sort of natural born enemies (laughs). She’s our little daughter. Very smart and wonderful…We call her Kate Moss, sometimes, even though her name is Ruby. Ruby because of her intense red eyes. We call her Kate Moss when she is looking particularly beautiful. (Laughs.)
How did you meet Peter Wallerstein and find out about Marine Mammal Rescue Center and Friends of Animals?
AE: A friend of mine from high school that I am working with, who is also a big animal lover and defender, actually met Peter first. Peter told her about the need for the center and what he did, and then I decided I needed to go out and meet him. We were in the midst of pitching a wildlife rescue TV show; my friend found out about him through researching wildlife rescue in California. Ultimately, we all hooked up and wondered how we could be of service, and how can we help Peter.
Peter is such a great person; we had fun meeting and spending time with him, and learning about what he does and how he’s of service not only to animals but everyone who lives in California.
Why do you see a need for a Marine Mammal Care Center in Los Angeles County?
AE: We don’t really have what we need down here. I am not knocking the one that Peter is affiliated with right now down in San Pedro, but they aren’t a huge facility and a lot of times they are completely overwhelmed and I think they have to turn away animals; I don’t think they have the capacity of the funding. I don’t think any animals should be turned away; these animals are in need because of urban life, pollution, human activity. We need to have a place that will take every animal in need—every sick or injured marine mammal in need. Peter’s ultimate goal is to give every animal a chance.
You are helping to make this happen. Can you tell us about your involvement?
AE: I made a pledge to Peter, along with my friends, that we would help him fundraise and bring awareness to this as a local cause. I am very much a believer in acting locally and thinking globally. I am reaching out to celebrities; I am proud to say that my dad is going to donate to the groundbreaking of the center. We are trying to put together a movie premiere next year with Warner Bros. that would also be a fundraiser for the center. Right now, I am just trying to get the contacts I have to help—whatever I can do to help bring in some money.
Are people receptive?
AE: We’ve had some great response! Working with Facebook, Twitter and all the different social networks, reaching out to people—and everyone I’ve talked to in person has been both positive and helpful. I am hoping their enthusiasm will carry on through the long process of putting together the amount of money it will take to build and sustain this center.
You haven’t been on a rescue with Peter, right? Is that something you are interested in doing?
AE: No, I haven’t. Well, I am interested, and I do want to—but, the thing is, I get really, really sea sick. That’s the reason I haven’t, and I hate sounding like a wuss, but I think I’ll have to stick to observing a rescue that happens on the beach. I need terra firma. I don’t want to be the person who, while Peter is in the middle of a tense rescue, is leaning over the side of the boat, vomiting. (Laughs.)
What’s next on your artistic plate?
AE: Right now, along with the friend who introduced me to Peter, we are working on two wildlife rescue shows for TV. One is actually a TV show around Peter and what he does in Southern California; the other is more of an exotic wildlife rescue show. These shows are meant to bring awareness and, eventually, bring funding to the causes that need help and attention.
I also have two films that I am set to direct. We are in the process of looking for financing for the films. Right now, one foot is in the entertainment industry and the other is in animal-rescue mode. The television thing is new for me, so there’s been a learning curve while tying to make all of this come to fruition.
What are the films about?
AE: The two films I am directing are both pretty quirky. One is a dramedy—a term I hate. It’s a slice-of-life, coming-of-age story. The other one is a high comedy about an evil toupée. (Laughs.)
As in, like, hairpiece?
AE: A really good friend of mine wrote a really funny, silly script about an evil hair piece that is killing people in New York City. It sounds crazy, and it is crazy, but it’s really well-written and clever. And it’s very funny.
I have been trying to do different things; my first film was such an intense drama about a woman dying of cancer and the issues around her marriage and her dying; it was pretty heavy, obviously. This is the opposite end of the spectrum.
Time for evil hairpieces!
AE: Yes, rampaging Gotham City!
I can hardly wait. Thanks for your time and everything you are doing to help.
AE: See you at the groundbreaking!