Clint Eastwood steals Romney show with interrogation of chair

Surprise guest goes wildly off-message at Republican convention before Mitt Romney's big moment

LAST UPDATED AT 09:43 ON Fri 31 Aug 2012

HE WAS supposed to be the night's big coup. But Clint Eastwood, surprise guest at the Republican convention last night, embarrassed his hosts with a rambling speech to an empty chair which went wildly off-message.

The Oscar-winning actor and director was the last to speak before Romney formally accepted the Republican nomination for the presidential race. Eastwood had been allocated a five-minute slot but threw away his script before he went on in favour of ad-libbing for a full 15 minutes, leaving Romney with 24 minutes for a 40-minute script.

Now 82, the Dirty Harry star opened by telling his audience that not all Hollywood stars are "to the left of Lenin". It was all downhill from there, reports The Times. Eastwood went "rogue" and "veered wildly off message", says the paper.

The actor introduced an empty chair as Barack Obama and then asked it questions. "What do you want me to tell Romney?" he said in mock horror. "I can't tell him to do that to himself!" The audience laughter was "nervous", The Times says.

Eastwood's subsequent gaffes included incorrectly claiming that Romney wanted to bring US troops home from Afghanistan "tomorrow" and saying he "never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be the president" in reference to Obama - apparently unaware that both Romney and running mate Paul Ryan are law graduates.

The reaction from Democrats was one of amusement: Obama's campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said he was "referring all questions to Salvador Dali" while Obama's official Twitter feed posted a picture of the president from behind in a chair labelled 'President' with the message: "This seat's taken."

Republicans put a brave face on director Eastwood's 'uncut' speech, which took up primetime TV coverage intended for Romney. The party spin machine put out the following statement: "Judging an American icon like Clint Eastwood through a typical political lens doesn’t work. His ad-libbing was a break from all the political speeches, and the crowd enjoyed it." · 

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