For “The Mule”, Clint Eastwood collaborates again with the screenwriter Nick Schenk, author of “Gran Torino”. The latter develops another character of a former veteran in search of redemption. If many adventures are fictitious, horticulturalist Earl Stone is inspired by Leo Sharp, who shipped hundreds of kilos of drugs for years for a cartel.
The mule : Clint Eastwood, friend of drug traffickers
Six years later A new chance, Clint Eastwood returns to the camera in 2019 to The mule, for which he also signs the staging. As in Gran Torino, the actor plays here a Korean War veteran developed by screenwriter Nick Schenk. Renowned horticulturalist Earl Stone is much more affable than Walt Kowalski. But like the old man determined to keep the young Thao away from a gang, the old man has completely missed his family life.
Separated for many years from his partner Mary (Dianne Wiest), quarreled with his daughter Iris (Alison Eastwood), Earl nevertheless remains close to his granddaughter Ginny (Taissa Farmiga). As Earl attends Ginny’s wedding rehearsal, a member of a cartel makes her an offer. Considering that the octogenarian could be useful to him because of his low chances of being arrested, he offers to transport cocaine in his pick-up to Illinois for a nice salary.
In debt up to his neck, Earl agrees to become a mule. He is the joy of drug traffickers by carrying astronomical quantities of drugs. Things get complicated when he finds himself in the sights of DEA agent Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper). Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Andy Garcia and Clifton Collins Jr. complete the cast of The mule, dramatic comedy with which Clint Eastwood offers himself a new poignant redemption.
Leo Sharp, the real Earl Stone
The mule was born thanks to an article by Sam Dolnick published in the New York Times in 2014, titled The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule. In this story, the journalist tells the story of Leo Sharp. WWII Veteran decorated with the Bronze Star Medal, this former soldier was nicknamed “El Tata” (“the grandpa”) by drug traffickers. About the discovery of this extraordinary personality and his desire to embody him, Clint Eastwood tells, quoted by Allocine :
I read the article from New York Times which speaks of the real type from which the character of Earl is inspired. I thought to myself that it would be fun to play someone of that age… That is to say of my age in fact. I like to think I’m still watching, learning, and Earl is like that, too. The older we get, the more we realize that we don’t know anything. Suddenly, we continue to move forward.
Leo Sharp was one of the biggest mules in the Sinaloa cartel, carrying hundreds of kilos of cocaine from Mexico to Michigan. Like Earl Stone, he is a horticulturalist. A job that surprises the actor and director:
His passion for daylilies (perennials) surprised me, but I made the connection with the work of my grandfather who raised chickens. To a certain extent, I modeled the character of Earl on him and his physique, especially his walk as an elderly man.
Despite months of investigating Leo Sharp, Sam Dolnick did never grasped his true motives. He explains about it, still in the New York Times :
Even with all of my research, I couldn’t say what motivated Mr. Sharp. I don’t think anyone could, not even Leo Sharp himself.
A conviction for his 90e birthday
In 2010, Leo Sharp reportedly shipped between 200 and 250 kilograms of drugs per month. Figures unpublished at the time for the DEA team based in Chicago. That year, he would have pocketed a million dollars.
After ten years on the mule, Leo Sharp was stopped on a Michigan highway in October 2011 by the men of DEA agent Jeff Moore. More than 100 kilos are then hidden in his pick-up.
During his trial, he pleads guilty. He offers to reimburse $ 500,000 in damages by growing papaya trees for the state. May 7, 2014, his 90’s daye anniversary, American justice condemns him to three years in prison. According to NBC, he reportedly told a judge:
All I can tell you, Your Honor, is that I am truly heartbroken for doing what I have done. But it’s done.
Due to his declining health, Leo Sharp finds freedom after a year spent behind bars. He…