I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
In late 2014 and early 2015, it was apparently time for Hollywood to try to make Scott Eastwood — son of Clint — a thing. Growing up under the iron fist of Clint Eastwood seems terrifying, but is also clearly an IMDb booster. Scott Eastwood’s was full of bit parts in his dad’s projects, thrillers, horror films, and one movie about a horse trainer. But the tide seemed to turn when Eastwood was cast as the lead in a Nicholas Sparks movie.
For the uninitiated, Nicholas Sparks movies are about two hot people who fall in love — and then something Tragic happens. They usually end up being a showcase for the It guy and girl of the moment, who are blindingly white. (Seriously, so white.) Getting a big part in one of these movies is a helpful way to cement one’s viability as a romantic lead — even if the movie’s terrible. (The roster of past Sparks leading men includes Zac Efron, Channing Tatum, Ryan Gosling, and James Marsden.) The Longest Ride, plus Eastwood’s face, plus his dad made his future stardom seem inevitable. He played Luke Collins — a sexy bull rider who gets injured but can’t stop riding — who falls for some vaguely arty type played by Britt Robinson. But one month before The Longest Ride hit theaters, Eastwood was part of one of the most inexplicable sets of paparazzi photos that have ever been released. Three years later, I’ve still been unable to dislodge them from my mind.
In a classic case of clearly calling the paps on himself, Eastwood is photographed working out. Okay, sure, seems normal enough. Who among us hasn’t seen a casual series of photos of a celeb working out? But there’s a lot to unpack in this particular set, once you can tear yourself away from his very well-sculpted torso.
First of all, he’s working out in jeans in the Los Angeles heat. JEANS. Who works out in jeans? Absolutely no one. Holding up said jeans is an enormous metal belt buckle. What if the belt buckle gets hot? Did Eastwood burn his taut tummy on it? But we haven’t even gotten to the most perplexing part of the exercise pic: he’s barefoot. He’s barefoot on the street, running on the Santa Monica stairs by the Pacific Coast Highway. Let me put my I-lived-in-Los-Angeles cap on right now to say that those stairs are disgusting. There’s trash and likely needles and rusty nails and god knows what else on them. Did Eastwood immediately go to Urgent Care and get a tetanus shot afterward? I hope so.
It gets even better: He uses street signs as workout equipment! (He’s just like us!) The workout eventually culminates in him tailgating in the back of his truck, drinking from an enormous jug of water, and then tearing into some chicken from Whole Foods with his bare hands. After revisiting these photos for years now, I still can’t understand the reasoning behind them.
In part, these pictures of Eastwood have stuck with me because he’s completely failed at what he ostensibly tried to accomplish. It feels like he was trying to telegraph “down-to-earth dude,” but, instead, he comes off like an alien cosplaying at being a future Hollywood It Boy. It’s like he sat down with his publicist and asked “what will make me sexy and relatable?” and then two people who have never stepped inside a gym before settled on this.
Needless to say, The Longest Ride didn’t do great critically — it got a 29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. And while many said Eastwood was charming in the film, his abs were perhaps mentioned more than his thespian skills. Things for Eastwood since these iconic photos were released haven’t been bad. He was in Suicide Squad, Pacific Rim 2, Fate of the Furious and that weird colonizing Taylor Swift video. But much like the woman in the background of his pull up picture, her quizzical expression about what he’s doing is perhaps the most accurate description for both this set of photos and Eastwood’s entire career.