TORONTO (Reuters) - When Alison Eastwood decided to follow in the footsteps of her famous father Clint and direct a movie, she got some odd advice from dad.
“Get a lot of sleep and take your vitamins — kind of fatherly tips and not so much Academy Award-winning director tips,” Alison Eastwood told reporters, laughingly, at a news conference promoting her directorial debut “Rails & Ties.”
“As far as tips, he doesn’t say a lot,” she added.
The film drama debuts at the Toronto International Film Festival Friday night and is expected to hit cinemas in North America later this fall.
Eastwood, 35, is the daughter of former model Maggie Johnson, from whom her father was divorced when Eastwood was six years-old.
She spent her childhood on her father’s productions, and made her acting debut on his film “Tightrope.” She turned away from acting in her teenage years and only returned in 1997, again on her father’s film “Absolute Power.”
Eastwood, who also has been a fashion designer and producer, said the film set feels like home and the crew, like family. So, it seemed natural that, like her father, she would turn from acting to directing.
“The one thing I learned from my dad is that you really want to set a great feeling and a great tone for the set, for the crew and the cast,” she said. “If you put that kind of energy out there, you pick it up on the camera.”
“Rails & Ties” centres on the relationship between a young boy and a train engineer after the boy’s mom takes her own life by parking her car on a railroad track in front of the train.
The orphaned boy, named Danny, seeks out the engineer, Tom (Kevin Bacon), to ask why he killed the child’s mother and thus their relationship begins.
Tom’s wife Megan (Marcia Gay Harden) is dying of cancer, and the boy and older man help each other heal from emotional trauma they are experiencing.
Eastwood said she felt the characters were real and on a unique journey, and she added that for her first directing effort, she wanted to keep things simple.
“I wanted to make it a small, kind of indie feeling, intimate simple film that is character driven,” Eastwood said.
Harden, who won an Oscar for supporting actress in “Pollock” said working with a first-time director did not cause her any concern.
“Sometimes people who are doing first-time scripts are (doing) something without all the boundaries and borders and rules,” Harden said.
Eastwood admits she was a little nervous when she first showed “Rails & Ties” to her father, who has won Oscars for directing 2004 boxing drama “Million Dollar Baby” and 1992 western “Unforgiven”.
“He kind of jokingly, after he watched it said: ‘oh, chip off the old block’ and I said, ‘no, more like a shard’,” Eastwood said, adding that he said he liked it.
“At the end of the day, he’s still my dad and I want to make him proud. It was important to me that he liked it and he was helpful on a peripheral level and from afar,” she said.
Eastwood added that she wants to learn storytelling strengths from her father and work with great people as he has. But she also wants pave her own way as a director.