Clint's Deep 'River'

By Robert Kahn
Newsday [New York]
October 3, 2003

The molestation crisis in the Catholic church led director Clint Eastwood to make a minor, but eyebrow-raising plot change in the film adaptation of "Mystic River," which tonight opens the New York Film Festival.

In Dennis Lehane's book about the stifling of childhood innocence in a fictional Boston-area community, two pedophiles posing as police officers kidnap a young boy.

But in Eastwood's moody adaptation, one of those molesters poses as a priest - a point driven home when the criminal reaches over the back of a car seat and displays a gold ring emblazoned with a cross.

"What's been happening all over the country, but in Boston in particular, influenced me to use [the crisis] as a red herring," Eastwood said after a screening this week at Lincoln Center.

"You try to lead people into anticipating what is coming next, so right away they go 'Maybe this is going to be about that whole deal with Cardinal Law,' but then it isn't. You lead them into little red herrings before they finally find out where it ends up."

Eastwood said he was not concerned about church reaction to the plot device: "In the story, it turns out [the pedophile] is not a member of the church, so I don't worry about that."

A spokesman for the Catholic church in Manhattan had not seen the film and said comment would be premature. "I would hope that nobody would try to exploit the terrible tragedy of sexual abuse of minors by clergy," said Joseph Zwilling of the Archdiocese of New York. "If this is clearly a criminal posing as a priest, and not meant to represent a priest itself, I believe that would make a large difference in any potential reaction we might have once we have seen the film."


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