LOS ANGELES — Clint Eastwood says the idea to talk to an empty chair that he said represented President Barack Obama during last week's Republican National Convention came to him just before he went onstage. The actor's speech, which even he called "very unorthodox," was widely mocked.
"I didn't make up my mind exactly what I was going to say until I said it," the 82-year-old actor-director said in an interview published Friday in the Carmel Pine Cone, a small California newspaper.
It was his first public comment since his impromptu but rambling 12-minute performance.
Eastwood told the newspaper that he seized on the idea when he was offered a seat backstage.
"There was a stool there, and some fella kept asking me if I wanted to sit down," Eastwood said. "When I saw the stool sitting there, it gave me the idea. I'll just put the stool out there and I'll talk to Mr. Obama and ask him why he didn't keep all of the promises he made to everybody."
The actor had been unveiled as a surprise convention speaker.
Eastwood said aides for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, whose formal nomination to challenge Obama was meant to be the highlight of the highly scripted convention, had asked what Eastwood would say in his speech.
"They vet most of the people, but I told them, 'You can't do that with me, because I don't know what I'm going to say,'" Eastwood told the newspaper.
Eastwood's peculiar conversation with an imaginary Obama set social media ablaze. Eastwood said he was told to speak for five minutes but he said it was difficult to gauge time and there weren't any signals or cues telling him to stop.
He told the newspaper that he knew had made some stumbles, but "that's what happens when you don't have a written-out speech."
Eastwood added that he wanted to point out that Obama had broken promises he made when he took office. He told the newspaper, "President Obama is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."
He told the crowd last week that when an elected official doesn't do the job, "we've got to let 'em go."
After his speech, he told the newspaper, Romney and running mate Paul Ryan thanked him: "They were very enthusiastic, and we were all laughing."
Reaction generally has split along party lines, with Republicans raving about his rebuke of Obama and Democrats ridiculing him as old, angry and out of touch.
Eastwood's manager, Leonard Hirshan, says he wasn't aware of the newspaper interview. The actor has no publicist.