It wasn’t until middle school that Francesca Eastwood knew that her father, Clint Eastwood, was famous. “My dad would come to school to pick me up, and all of a sudden, the teachers were a lot nicer. They would be like, ‘Oh, your daughter is such a good student. She’s so creative.’ And I’d be like, are you kidding me? You literally have to ask me to leave the class every five minutes.Francesca holds her dad’s Life Achievement Award at the 9th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2003.WireImage
“It was like ‘Oh, everyone is extra nice . . . and super accommodating to my parents. I get it now.’ ”
Less than a decade later, she would learn that fame is a double-edged sword, as her last name drew unwanted attention to her wild-child behavior: Clint’s daughter marries Jonah Hill’s brother in Vegas! Clint’s daughter has weeklong marriage annulled!
No wonder she wasn’t sure if she wanted to follow in her parents’ footsteps (her mom is “Titanic” actress Frances Fisher, currently on the ABC show “Resurrection”). But this month, she has a role in “Jersey Boys,” the film adaptation — directed by Clint, no less — of the hit Broadway show about the rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Francesca plays a waitress who flirts with one of the band members, and it was her father’s idea that she audition. “We were at dinner and he was like, ‘Oh, I have a part you might be right for in my next picture.’ ”
Francesca, who admits that she uses her famous surname to get restaurant reservations (“I mean . . . why not? It’s meaningless”), recognizes that her on-set experience was not like that of most ingénues. “I guess a new actress wouldn’t be talking to him in between takes and making jokes and eating lunch together,” she says.Francesca in “Jersey Boys”
Now 20, she barely remembers her first role in her dad’s “True Crime” in 1999, when she was 6 years old. Francesca’s mom, who met Clint on the set of 1989’s “Pink Cadillac,” was also in the film. (Frances and Clint, who never married, split in 1995 — but he has since cast her in a couple of movies he’s directed.) Francesca lived with her dad in Carmel, Calif. — the small northern California town he was the mayor of from 1986 to 1988 — while she attended high school.
When she moved down to LA and enrolled at the University of Southern California, it was not to study acting, but business. “I didn’t want to be just another kid who becomes an actress — another struggling actress,” she says. But when a friend asked her to do a short film last year, she couldn’t say no. She’s since filmed parts in the upcoming films “Final Girl” (along with Abigail Breslin) and “Kids vs. Monsters” and starred in the new web sitcom “Oh, You Pretty Things!,” about — what else? — 20-somethings trying to make it in LA. (She left USC, but says she hopes to go back one day.)
Dolling up in “Jersey Boys” 1960s garb felt natural to Francesca — and not only because her parents used to play that music when she was growing up. “When I was 16,” she says, “I was obsessed with this guy who loved doo-wop. So I was like, ‘I love doo-wop too!’
“ ‘Sea of Love,’ Phil Phillips, that stuff really melts my heart.”Francesca with her mom Frances Fisher in 2004.WireImage
But when Francesca shows up for lunch in Hollywood, she’s the picture of another era altogether. The actress wears ripped-up, rolled-up vintage Levi’s, high-top white Converse sneakers and a white Brandy Melville tank with a black bodice underneath, with a plaid shirt draped over her chair. “I’m a ’90s baby, I like grunge,” she says as she pulls at her ponytail to tighten it. Her best friends are “mainly dudes” who keep her down to earth, and her fashion icons are Kurt Cobain and Grace Kelly. “I’m kind of a tomboy, but at heart — secretly — a girly girl. I don’t like to wear heels unless I have to.”
Today, Francesca is carrying a black Chanel bag that looks as purposefully beaten up as her Levi’s, like it’s been dragged across a sidewalk. “No, I beat it up,” says Francesca. “I destroy my bags!”Francesca was Miss Golden Globe 2013.Getty Images
The irony of that joke is that two summers ago, Francesca caused a stir for lighting a red Birkin bag on fire for an art project with photographer — and her boyfriend at the time — Tyler Shields. In her mind, the shoot wasn’t a big deal. “It was surprising to me when it got twisted into, like, me being spoiled and burning 0,000,” Francesca explains. “It was a prop for a shoot. It’s the same thing as in a movie when they blow up a car. The intention was to be thought-provoking, and it was thought-provoking. But I guess,” she laughs, “it was also hate-provoking.”Francesca in Los Angeles in 2013.WireImage
Indeed, Twitter had a field day. “Which I understand,” she says. “If I read the headline ‘Francesca Eastwood burns 0,000’ I would be like, ‘What a lame person.’ ” The whole endeavor appeared on an episode of the 2012 E! reality show “Mrs. Eastwood & Company,” which starred Francesca, her half sister Morgan and Morgan’s mom (now divorced from Clint), Dina. That experience taught Francesca another thing she doesn’t want: fame for fame’s sake.
“Shooting it, we had fun. But once it came out, I found out very quickly it wasn’t what I wanted. It’s kind of odd to me,” she explains, “being famous when you haven’t done anything. You just sat in front of a camera and had a somewhat real lunch conversation. I didn’t feel satisfied.” Plus, she adds, “I want to be able to do the projects that I love — and the projects I love are not for people who are on TMZ every day. You can’t be running off to Nevada.”
She’s referencing, of course, her quickie Las Vegas wedding to music manager — and Jonah Hill’s brother — Jordan Feldstein this past November. “I am very spontaneous,” she admits. “I don’t like to plan a lot of things too much, because plans can disappoint you.”Jordan Feldstein.WireImage
People were shocked. What was a 20-year-old knockout doing tying the knot when there were never reports of the couple dating?
Though Francesca won’t say what kind of relationship the two had before, or after, the marriage, her former stepmother, Dina Eastwood, offered an explanation on Bethenny Frankel’s talk show: “[Francesca’s] a lovely, smart, amazing person who will do a goof-off at a whim. She calls me and says, ‘I didn’t think anyone would find out.’ ”
But the press Francesca got for that marriage — which reportedly lasted a week before it was annulled — she could do without. “I think it’s really affected my career. I’ve got a lot of proving myself to do as an actress. I don’t want to slide by in my career. I want to really be good.”Francesca at the Nylon Magazine May Young Hollywood Issue Party in May.FilmMagic
She’d also love to do some theater in New York and spend time living here; for now, she just visits once in a while. She’s eaten at Harry Cipriani, shopped in the West Village and, this past winter, visited the Empire State Building for the first time. That same trip, she begged of a friend, “You have to take me to the Plaza”; that’s where Francesca, who was obsessed with Eloise, had her 12th birthday. “But it wasn’t this majestic castle anymore,” she says, visibly disappointed. “It was, like, a grown-up hotel.”
In a way, that visit to the Plaza reflects her life now. “I had a big wake-up call recently,” says Francesca. “I’ve grown up in the past year.” I’m learning that there are boundaries you have to set for yourself.” She also traded in her fun, sporty car for a safe, dependable “mom-mobile” to drive to auditions in LA.
She doesn’t regret her mistakes because she’s learned so much from them. But she’s only now starting to do work that she loves and feeling really proud. “I feel a lot more clearheaded,” she says, which is what this year’s been about for her. “As much as I don’t like to plan things,” she laughs, “I hope it stays that way.”