The Mule: 5 Things About Clint Eastwood’s Recap of Leo Sharp’s Life

The story of Leo Sharp’s life which is the inspiration behind the film, The Mule is nothing short of intriguing and continues to be one of the most fascinating real-life stories turned into a movie. Many have pondered (and more will) about how it came to be that a second world war veteran and horticulturist would wind up being a drug mule for a unit of one of the deadliest drug cartels in the world. More intriguing was not merely that an elderly gentleman with no criminal record would have dealings with the notorious Sinaloa cartel but the fact that these activities took place when he was an octogenarian. This begs the question of what his motives may have been. Did he do it for the money or was he coerced into doing it?

How Leo Sharp’s Life Story As The Mule was Discovered

The story of Sharp’s exploits came to light after he was arrested and was being prosecuted in court. The New York Times journalist, Sam Dolnick investigated and reported on the story after he found out about Sharp while scrolling through his Twitter feed and stumbled upon a tweet of the story by a local newspaper. Soon after that, he embarked on a quest to find out every detail he could about Leo Sharp’s life and his dealings with the drug cartel.

This led to several interviews with law enforcement officials, chiefly those in the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) involved in the investigation as well as Sharps neighbors, friends, and acquaintances. Although attempts at interviewing Sharp himself for the story were blocked by his lawyer Darryl Goldberg, Dolnick was able to gather sufficient details to write a lengthy and truly riveting article in 2014.

Imperative Entertainment bought the rights to the story from The New York Times and had screenwriter Nick Schenk adapt it into a screenplay. The resultant film, The Mule, which was released in December 2018, began shooting in January of the same year.

5 Things About Clint Eastwood’s Recap of Leo Sharp’s Life

1. Clint Eastwood Acted in and Directed the Movie

Clint Eastwood has been a prolific actor over the course of his storied career. Some might even consider him the king of Westerns. He, however, mentioned in an interview that he had never played a role like that of Earl Stone (the character based on Leo Sharp) before The Mule. Many critics’ assessments of his performance of the role have been very positive. Other actors and actresses in the film also described his directorship as one of the best of their careers.

The Mule
Eastwood and Leo Sharp image source

2. Clint Eastwood’s Daughter Appeared in The Mule as his daughter

Alison Eastwood played the role of Iris, the daughter of the drug-trafficking mule, Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood’s character). The younger Eastwood is an accomplished actress in her own right who started appearing in films and TV shows from when she was seven years old. Alison Eastwood is also a successful fashion model and has been featured on the covers of some high profile fashion industry magazines including Vogue. She also posed nude for Playboy magazine in 2003.

Other Cast members of The Mule include Dianne Wiest who portrayed Stone’s ex-wife Mary, Bradley Cooper who played Colin Bates, a DEA agent based on the real-life agent, Jeff Moore who had been on Leo Sharp’s trail. Other cast members are Lawrence Fishburne, Lobo Sebastian and Michael Pena who all played roles of DEA Agents on the Sharp case with Fishburne’s character being the agent in charge.

3. The Mule Made the Second-Highest Box Office Revenue in its Opening Weekend

The opening weekend revenue for The Mule stood at $17.5 million coming second to only Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse‘s $35.4 million dollars opening weekend. Its United States and Canada gross stood at $103.8 million dollars and global gross reached $172.5 million dollars.

4. Critical Reception of the Movie

The Mule had a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 70 percent from 181 reviews. Beyond this, the bulk of the reviews have been average while a good number lauded Eastwood’s directorial and acting performance as nothing short of excellent.

5. Differences Between Leo Sharp the Person and Earl Stone the Film Character

While the theme of the story happens to be very close to the life and true events surrounding Leo Sharp and his drug-trafficking activities which The Mule is based on, there were a number of differences. For instance, the film is set in Chicago whereas Sharp operated mostly in Detroit, Michigan. Sharp was a second world war veteran but Stone was depicted as a Korean war veteran. It remains unclear if Sharp took up the courier job offer for purely financial reasons or he was put under duress, however, the film portrays that it was for financial gain owing to his dwindling finances.


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