Born: 31 May 1930
Where: San Francisco, California, USA
Awards: Won 4 Oscars and 5 Golden Globes
He is, of course, best known as The Man With No Name. With that menacing squint, the cigar-stub clenched between his teeth, the Stetson pulled low, ever ready to flip back that dirty poncho and reveal that well-oiled six-shooter. Woe betide you if you ever insulted his mule. Everyone, but everyone knows Clint Eastwood from Sergio Leone’s Dollar trilogy. That was how he came to fame, wasn’t it? Those were the films that led him to become the cynical deputy sheriff of Coogan’s Bluff, the mystic revengers of High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider, the last of the rebel hold-outs in The Outlaw Josey Wales, and the aged gunslinger dragged back to violence in the Oscar-winning Unforgiven.
But, though he achieved his box-office breakthrough with those legendary mid-Sixties spaghetti westerns, and over the next 3 decades produced some of the greatest cowboy movies ever made, Eastwood has also scored major financial and artistic successes far beyond the dusty genre that spawned him. Where, say, Sylvester Stallone found trouble when he stepped away from Rocky or Rambo, Eastwood remained convincing when not portraying his cold frontiersman or his other major character, the perp-hating, authority-baiting "Dirty" Harry Callahan. Think of his manipulative Confederate seducer in The Beguiled: his orang-utan-loving bare-knuckle fighter in Every Which Way But Loose: his drunken cop, doomed by his incompetence in The Gauntlet: his dying singer, battling his way to the Grand Ole Oprey in Honkytonk Man: his haunted agent, desperate to save the President in In The Line Of Fire: his ageing photographer, suffering unrequited love in The Bridges Of Madison County. No sign of the silent killer there, but great films, all of them, along with so many more. It is to the Academy’s undying shame that Eastwood was not nominated in any category till he was gone 60.
That said, his westerns have made such an icon of him that it’s hard to conceive he was ever born — it’s so much easier to imagine him riding out of the desert one day, fully-formed, heavily armed and quietly demanding to see Sam Goldwyn. Nevertheless, he did have a mum and dad — Clinton Senior and Ruth — and an older sister, Jean. Dad was a steelworker, but this being the Great Depression, work was hard to find, the family moving all over California (Clint was born in St Francis Hospital, San Francisco) before finally settling in Oakland.
Clint’s early education would set the seal on his later approach to work. Studying at Oakland Technical High School, he learned an understanding of and respect for blue collar workers dreaming of a better and more liberated life — attitudes that would inform such characters as Bronco Billy McCoy and Philo Beddoe from Every Which Way But Loose. His working practices would be deeply affected, too. As a director, Eastwood is famously well prepared and fast in the shoot, never slipping over budget. He also later recalled an influential trip to Yosemite National Park where, still very young, he was moved by the silence, the emptiness and the beauty of the place. Such scenes would appear many times in his westerns — vast, glorious vistas where a damaged man might possibly find redemption.
Graduating from High School in 1948, to make ends meet he’d take many manual jobs, as a lumberjack, in steel mills and aircraft factories, pumping gas, and bailing hay. He spent plenty of time in seedy dives, listening to his beloved jazz — he was a huge fan of Brubeck and Mulligan, Ellington and Basie, devouring books on them all.
In fact, a life in music was top of his list, and he tried out for a music program at Seattle University, but unfortunately he was drafted before he could enrol. So, in 1950, he found himself in the Army Special Services, based at Fort Ord, in Monterey. Here things changed, as Clint’s new friends included a bunch of actors, amongst them Martin Milner and David Janssen, later to find major fame as The Fugitive and Harry O. They would persuade Clint to try a career in Hollywood, and once his 3 military years were up, he gave it a go.
Moving to Los Angeles, he enrolled at LA City College to study business administration, but quickly dropped out. He was enjoying the high life too much, particularly the company of young ladies. In 1953, he married a swimsuit model, Maggie Johnson. They would remain together for 25 years, but Maggie, as Clint was once quoted as saying "had to learn I was going to do as I pleased". Thus she would have to tolerate his daytime trysts with young starlets, or "nooners" with "little dollies", as he put it, as well as, in 1964, a child by one Roxanne Tunis, an exotic dancer who worked with a big snake. The kid, Kimber, would later become an actress. Eventually, Maggie would bear her own children by Clint. First came Kyle, who’d star with Clint in Honkytonk Man and later become a jazz musician, then Alison, also an actress, who’d appear with her dad in Absolute Power.
At the same time, Clint hunted movie roles and, in 1955, his first break came when a cinematographer friend scored him a screen test. This impressed Arthur Lubin, who’d directed Nelson Eddy in a remake of Phantom Of The Opera, as well as Francis The Talking Mule, a novelty hit (featuring a young Tony Curtis) that spawned a series of sequels, and it was Lubin who arranged a contract for Clint with Universal. It was $75 a week, with acting classes every day, an excellent introduction to the business.
Clint made his debut as a lab technician in Revenge Of The Creature, directed by Jack Arnold, a sequel to Arnold’s own 3-D hit Creature From The Black Lagoon. Here scientists catch the creature and dump him in an aquarium, only to have him fall in love and escape, King Kong -style. Next came Lubin and Francis In The Navy, where Donald O’Connor’s four-legged friend advised him on military life. After this, there was more Lubin with Lady Godiva, with Clint as an unlikely Saxon and Maureen O’Hara as Coventry’s naked aristocrat, and then Clint took to the skies as a jet squadron leader, heading an aerial assault on a 100 foot spider in Jack Arnold’s Tarantula.
1956 brought more small roles, but in more serious pieces. Clint joined David Janssen in Never Say Goodbye, where Rock Hudson starred as an army doctor in 1945 Berlin whose wife gets trapped in the Russian zone (Hudson liked the specs Clint had bought for his role and "borrowed" them). Star In The Dust saw Clint as a ranch hand in his first screen western. Then he was back with Lubin, in a bigger role in The First Travelling Saleslady. This had Ginger Rogers and Carol Channing as turn-of-the-20th Century showbiz gals who, deciding to start their own business, attempt to sell barbed wired to suspicious Texas cowboys. Clint played a rough rider who, utterly bizarrely, winds up paired off with Channing (yes, Clint’s first leading lady was the brash bawler who originated the lead in Hello Dolly). Lubin would also direct Clint’s next effort, the Jeff Chandler vehicle Away All Boats, where Clint played a marine medic in the Pacific during WW2.
1958 brought just 2 more movies. First came Lafayette Escadrille (again with Janssen), concerning the famous American volunteer squadron of WW1. Then there was Ambush At Cimarron Pass, where a post-Civil War army unit joins up with some cowboys to battle Indians on the warpath. It wasn’t great, but interestingly Clint played an ex-Confederate soldier who really doesn’t want to help out the Union Army. Eighteen years later, in one of his finest films, his Josey Wales would be the legendary last of the Confederate hold-outs.
It seemed to be going well, then suddenly he was dropped by Universal. Apparently, his Adam’s Apple was too big. Undeterred, he continued with his acting classes, worked out in the gym and made ends meet by digging swimming pools in the San Fernando Valley. Auditions only brought one role, in the cop show Highway Patrol.
But everything turned around in 1958 when he won a prime role in Rawhide. Visiting a friend on the CBS lot, he was spotted by an executive who thought he looked so much like a cowboy he hired him immediately. TV western serials were big business back then, with Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, Cheyenne, Lawman, Wyatt Earp and Maverick all doing well. Now Charles Marquis Warren, who’d originally brought the radio show Gunlaw to TV as Gunsmoke, had a bright idea — to base a new serial around a never-ending cattle drive. Inspired by Cattle Empire, the 1866 diary of drover George C. Duffield, and Borden Chase’s novel The Chisolm Trail (already the inspiration behind John Wayne’s Red River), the series had interested CBS and premiered in January, 1959, as a mid-season replacement.
Initially, CBS were not impressed with the figures. In fact, after 10 episodes they dropped the show, and Clint went off to film an episode of Maverick, where he hilariously bullied star James Garner. But after only a few weeks, CBS changed their minds and brought Rawhide back. It was a wise move. With Eric Fleming as his boss, Gil Favor, Clint played trail hand Rowdy Yates, a hot-headed punk (as his name suggests). He didn’t feature much in early episodes, but as the series grew so did Yates, maturing into a macho hunk and eventually becoming trail boss himself.
Rawhide was a massive worldwide hit for 7 seven years. Kids everywhere mimicked the catch-phrase "Head ’em up and move ’em out". Clint became a TV star, earning $100,000 a year. By 1962, he was also something of a pop star. It was traditional for TV heroes to release records and Clint knocked out three singles — Unknown Girl, Rowdy and For You, For Me, For Evermore — and an album, Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favourites. Beyond this, he even got to guest star in an episode of Mr Ed — his second encounter with a talking horse-type creature. Clint had always reckoned that, due to his boyish looks, he wouldn’t make it till in his thirties, and he was dead right.
Yet still he wasn’t happy. Yates had no darkness to him, nothing to interest Clint as an actor. Then he got a call from agents in Italy, asking if he’d consider making a western feature over there, in his off-time. Initially, he refused, but having read the script and recognised it as a reworking of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (unsurprisingly, he loved Kurosawa), he went for it.
Beyond the story-line, there was also director Sergio Leone. Now, most critics have shown scant respect for Leone’s movies, giving the impression that they were flukes, springing from some weird Italian take on westerns. But Leone was in fact steeped in cinema and its theory. He’d been Assistant Director on Vittorio De Sica’s renowned The Bicycle Thief, a breakthrough in Neo-Realism, using non-actors and natural light. He’d furthermore been Second Unit Director on the epics Quo Vadis, Helen Of Troy, Sodom And Gomorrah and Ben-Hur, working under the likes of William Wyler, Robert Aldrich and Robert Wise. So, no mug he.
Recognising a chance to subvert his nice-guy TV image, and having received assurances that Leone would be concentrating on the "primitive and ignoble nature of frontier life", Clint picked out a poncho and hopped on the plane to film A Fistful Of Dollars.
Clint’s part had initially been offered to Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson, but neither had bitten (five years later, the then infinitely more famous Leone would nab them both for his Once Upon A Time In America). Clint took his chance with both hands. Mean, scruffy, manipulative and utterly cool, his anonymous gunslinger played two warring families off against one another with great aplomb, receiving only the occasional thrashing. It was brilliant stuff and entirely novel, with its ultra-close-ups and beautiful panoramas, its clipped dialogue and exceptional Ennio Morricone soundtrack. Everyone was cheating, betraying and sweating in the palpable heat of the desert. And Clint was a revelation, sticking tight to his old drama coach’s assertion: "Don’t just do something, STAND there".
For the next 2 years, Eastwood would spend his breaks from Rawhide working on Dollar movies. First, in For A Few Dollars More, he found himself in competition with a slick Lee Van Cleef as they both hunted the bounty on renegade Indio. Punching each other out and shooting each other’s hats, they made a superb double act, and the conclusion, where the duelling Van Cleef and Indio await the last chime of a musical watch before opening fire, is one of the great western sequences.
Then came The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, where Eastwood, Van Cleef and Eli Wallach tricked each other mercilessly in their pursuit of $200,000 in gold, buried, as it happens, in a Confederate graveyard. The final sequence contains one of Clint’s great lines, when he says to Wallach "You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig".
The Dollar westerns were made on an extremely low budget. Indeed, Clint, who received $15,000 for A Fistful Of Dollars, had had to share not just a room but a bed with Wallach. But when all three were released in the US in 1966, they were massively successful, immediately turning TV star Clint into a fully-fledged movie star. La Streghe, a 5-segment Italian art movie, would be the last time he found himself down the credits. Interestingly, Clint’s segment — a sensuous, fantastical affair where he played alongside Silvana Mangano — was directed by Leone’s former mentor and triple Oscar-winner Vittorio De Sica.
Now he was off and running. Hang ‘Em High saw him survive a lynching then return as a lawman to remorseless round up his attackers. Then came Coogan’s Bluff, where he played an Arizona country cop in New York to collect a prisoner. This had Clint’s "character" — arrogant, brutal, authority-baiting and sexually irresistible — come to an outlandish peak as he argued with department chief Lee J. Cobb, romanced his prisoner’s probation officer AND his girlfriend, and basically battered everyone else. Two more points of note. First, the film being screened at the Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel club is actually Eastwood’s own Tarantula. Second, this marked the first time Clint worked with director Don Siegel, helmsman of such hard-edged thrillers as Riot In Cell Block 11, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and Lee Marvin’s The Killers. Appreciating Siegel’s discipline, no-nonsense approach and sense of timing and drama, Clint would collaborate with him on many of his finest works. Tellingly, he would dedicate his Oscar-winning Unforgiven to both Siegel and Sergio Leone.
1968 also brought Clint’s first blockbuster, Where Eagles Dare. Penned by Alistair MacLean, this saw him paired with Richard Burton as the Allies attempt to break a captured US General out of a Nazi-held castle. Shot through with superb special effects, it featured Clint’s highest ever body-count and was a big hit. And Clint had almost missed out. Reluctant to take second billing beneath Burton, he’d only been placated by a hefty wage of $800,000.
Famed as an action star, Clint now moved into unfamiliar territory — something he’d do with regularity throughout his career. Next up was Paint Your Wagon, a western comedy-musical with a score by Lerner and Lowe. Here Clint teamed up with another taciturn tough-guy, Lee Marvin, sharing Mormon wife Jean Seberg as they hunted riches in the California Gold Rush. Amidst break-ins, kidnappings, drunken brawls and hijacks, there were plenty of memorable songs, including Marvin’s growly Number One Wandrin’ Star, Clint contributing Elisa, Gold Fever, the unconscionably wimpy I Talk To The Trees, and many others. His musical efforts have usually been overlooked, but he’d later provide the song Burning Bridges for Kelly’s Heroes (a minor hit as a single), and much of the soundtrack to Honkytonk Man. Bronco Billy would see him dueting with Merle Haggard, Any Which Way You Can with Ray Charles, and he’d provide the themes for Unforgiven, Absolute Power, A Perfect World and The Bridges Of Madison County. To prove the respect with he’s held by "real" musicians, Diana Krall would later cover his Why Should I Care?
As said, Eastwood was ever practical, and now began to make use of his A-list position. His next movie would be the first for his own production company, Malpaso, and he’d produce nearly all of his movies from here on in. Two Mules For Sister Sara, reuniting with director Siegel, had him down in Mexico, rescuing nun Shirley Maclaine from rapist cowboys, then gradually coming to suspect that she’s not as saintly as her garments suggest. It was a fine action-comedy, as was his next picture, Kelly’s Heroes, directed by Brian G. Hutton, who’d earlier helmed Where Eagles Dare. This saw Clint leading a rabble of US soldiers across enemy lines to nab a hoard of Nazi treasure, with Donald Sutherland standing out as the groovy hippy Sergeant Oddball.
1971 saw Clint step away from action again. It also revealed him to be building a trustworthy team around himself. His next movie, The Beguiled, would be directed by Siegel, and shot by Bruce Surtees, who’d stick with Clint for another 15 years, with music provided by Lalo Schifrin, who’d been onboard since Coogan’s Bluff. The Beguiled was a real departure, with Eastwood as an absolute wretch of a Confederate soldier, wounded in the Civil War and taken in by the denizens of a small private girls’ school. Sly, charming and without conscience, he steals the hearts of pupils and teachers alike, seducing several of them, but messes with the wrong gal when he petulantly kills Randolph, a pet turtle. Onscreen, he’d never again be punished so summarily for taking a life — and, by God, has he taken some lives.
The Beguiled was a superb thriller, still shocking even today. His next wasn’t bad either as, with Siegel advising, he donned the director’s cap for Play Misty For Me. He was immediately efficient, completing the shoot in just 21 days. The movie had him as a casually lascivious DJ in Carmel (where he now lived, and of which he’d become mayor in 1986) who sleeps with a fan, Jessica Walter, then dumps her. Unfortunately for him, she’s a direct forerunner of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and will not be treated so shoddily.
If Play Misty For Me brought accusations of misogyny, they were nothing compared to the storm surrounding Clint’s next film, the notorious Dirty Harry, based on San Francisco’s real-life Zodiac Killer. Here he made his debut as Inspector Harry Callahan, a San Francisco cop who’ll do pretty much anything to bring criminals to justice, constantly battling against bureaucratic jobsworths and a liberal morality that, to him, seems out-of-control. His present case is that of a sniper, Scorpio (brilliantly played by Andrew Robinson) who, having murdered to prove his seriousness, kidnaps a young girl and demands a huge ransom from the City — less he let her run out of air. As officials prevaricate, Harry tortures Scorpio to discover the girl’s whereabouts, and thus finds himself suspended and the killer freed. Now outside the law, he must seek justice alone.
Harry was another fascinating creation, a glorious misfit with nerves of steel. His entrance was one of cinema’s most exciting ever. Buying a burger, he notices an armed robbery in progress and violently intervenes, causing a chaos of wrecked cars and spouting water hydrants. Still munching his burger, he approaches a wounded and desperate robber and challenges him to reach for his gun with the classic line "I know what you’re thinking — did he fire 6 shots or only 5?", before threatening him with destructive potential of his soon-to-be-famous handgun, a Smith & Wesson Magnum .44, "the most powerful handgun in the world". When the man bottles it, Harry aims at him and pulls the trigger on an empty chamber, then wheels away with a beam of satisfaction.
This kind of behaviour sent the liberal media into paroxysms of outrage. The action genre, said critic Pauline Kael "has always had a fascist potential, and it has finally surfaced". Others, in the burgeoning counter-culture, condemned the movie for being pro-police when "the pigs" were universally despised. But Dirty Harry was far more complex than that. Fascism generally involves the tyrannical oppression of a people by a controlling bureaucracy, and Callahan was resolutely and aggressively against that (in tune with Eastwood’s own past, Harry was a blue collar worker oppressed by "the suits"). One of the questions asked here is this: when a man has taken a girl and buried her, and a second man violates the first’s rights in order to save her, who is oppressing who? If there is a fascist here, which one is it? And, if it’s both, which one do you choose? Better make up your mind quickly, or that girl will die.
Dirty Harry was influential in that it brought victims’ rights to the fore in movies, as well as inspiring several thousand maverick cop movies. But in the furore over Harry’s brutality and crowd-pleasing one-liners, most failed to notice how Callahan was actually portrayed. For all his wise-cracking relentlessness, he’s hardly someone you’d want to be. His wife’s left him, he lives alone, he has no real friends and doesn’t know his neighbours. He eats poorly and his job prospects are non-existent. Really, he’s a bit of a loser. Indeed, in an early version of the script, the robbery scene described above ended with Harry holding the Magnum to his own head. None of the Dirty Harry rip-offs that followed would have a lead this interesting.
As with the Dollar trilogy, Clint was not first choice. Frank Sinatra was chosen as Harry Callahan, but hurt his hand in an accident. John Wayne, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman were all approached. Also, war hero film star Audie Murphy was asked to play Scorpio, but died before giving an answer. Though superb, his replacement Robinson was so anti-guns he flinched every time he fired, causing Siegel to shut down production for a week and send his sniper on a crash-course in sniping.
1972 was an up-and-down year. It started with Joe Kidd, oddly written by Elmore Leonard, where Clint played an ex-bounty hunter hired by Robert Duvall to catch a Mexican rebel. Quickly he comes to ask himself who the bad guys really are. This was followed by a real humdinger, the mystic western High Plains Drifter, written by Ernest Tidyman, who the year before had delivered both Shaft and The French Connection. The movie took Clint’s iconic gunslinger to an absolute extreme, intimating that this time he’s a lawman back from beyond the grave to revenge himself on a gang of outlaws who whipped him to death. Or is he the victim’s brother? Whatever, the townsfolk of Lago, who didn’t stand up for their murdered sheriff, have had the gang jailed. But now they’re out and on their way back to waste the town. So, in rides Clint, guns blazing, and the townsfolk hire him to protect them. He proceeds to assume total authority, appointing as mayor the town’s scapegoat dwarf, taking for himself the best room, the best food and the best (married) women, and painting all the buildings bright red. After all, the city-limits sign now says Welcome To Hell.
It was such a strange film, packed with deeply flawed characters. They’re cowardly, vicious, jealous, curious, ambitious, and fearful. The women in particular have been crushed into accepting silence and are, to a point, freed by the stranger’s actions (interesting this, as Eastwood’s films were so often accused of misogyny). Everyone exhibits the worst qualities, yet everyone is utterly, convincingly human amidst the carnage of this society. This makes it one of the best westerns ever made.
After enjoying a complete change of pace by directing Breezy, where William Holden had an affair with a young hippy chick, now came the first of the Dirty Harry sequels, Magnum Force. Here a gang of super-rookies, including David Soul and Robert Urich, who idolise Callahan for his aggressive tactics, start killing perps who cheat the courts on technicalities. They invite their hero to join them but he refuses (Why? BECAUSE HE’S NOT A FASCIST), and goes after them instead. There would be three more follow-ups, of fast-decreasing quality. 1976’s The Enforcer would see Harry suffering a female partner (Tyne Daly) and battling a terrorist gang on Alcatraz. 1983’s Sudden Impact, which featured the famous catchphrase "Go ahead, make my day", saw him sorting things out when a rape victim starts slaughtering the gang that attacked her. And finally 1988’s The Dead Pool featured a distributed list of local celebrities, including Callahan, with people betting on which would die first. Just sick fun, you think, till someone starts lowering their odds by offing the celebs himself.
After Magnum Force, Clint stepped away from cops %u2018n’ cowboys for a short while. Written and directed by Michael "Deer Hunter" Cimino, Thunderbolt And Lightfoot was a semi-comic heist thriller that saw him paired with young drifter Jeff Bridges, as part of a gang attempting to replicate a robbery they’d committed years before. It’s clever, funny and really brutal as gang-member George Kennedy gets increasingly riled with Bridges, eventually giving him an unforgettable kicking. This was followed by The Eiger Sanction, where Clint played college professor and former mountain-climber Jonathan Hemlock, who finances his art collection by working as an assassin for a thoroughly shady government office. When his former partner is butchered, he must join a team scaling the infamous Eiger in order to identify and "sanction" the killer.
After Play Misty For Me and High Plains Drifter, The Eiger Sanction was Eastwood’s third directorial effort. His fourth would arguably be his best. In The Outlaw Josey Wales, based on Forrest Tucker’s novel Gone To Texas, his Wales was a Missouri farmer whose family is murdered by renegade Union soldiers — "red legs". Joining Bloody Bill Anderson’s raiders, he becomes the most psychotic revenger of them all, refusing to surrender even when his peers have handed themselves over (and been executed for their pains). On the run, he crosses Indian Territory into Texas, hounded all the way by soldiers and bounty hunters. Then, having saved a bunch of Kansas innocents from comancheros, he joins them in their search for a new frontier home — leading to a final confrontation with the mighty Indian leader Ten Bears.
Pulling together all he’d learned from Leone and Siegel, as well as the vast experience he’d gained on Rawhide, Eastwood here created a masterpiece, a beautifully shot combination of romance and realism, packed with trail wisdom and gritty, violent encounters. Written by Philip Kaufman, who’d later pen Raiders Of The Lost Ark and direct both The Right Stuff and The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, it had a brilliant script, too (Kaufman actually began as director, but was replaced by Eastwood during shooting). "Man’s gotta do something for a living" says a bounty hunter who’s cornered Wales. "Dyin’ ain’t much of a livin’, boy" comes the terrifying reply.
Clint’s Josey Wales was just the man he’d imagined as a kid back in the Yosemite National Park, running from a savage past, his dreams of a brighter future always shredded by those who will not let him forget. And, as said, the film was a masterpiece. But so concerned was the Academy with the "fascistic" tendencies of the characters Eastwood had played thus far, it was nominated only for its music. Incredible. When, 16 years later, he next attempted a western of the same scope and complexity — Unforgiven — they’d attempt to assuage their guilt by giving him Best Picture.
The Outlaw Josey Wales also saw the undermining of Eastwood’s marriage to Maggie Johnson, when he began an affair with co-star Sondra Locke, an actress Oscar-nominated for 1968’s The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. When, after The Enforcer, Clint cast Locke as his leading lady in The Gauntlet, Maggie divorced him.
The Gauntlet saw a new high in violence. Here Locke played a tough hooker who has the sexy goods on a top official, with Clint as cop Ben Shockley, sent to escort her from Vegas to Phoenix. He thinks this is because he’s the man for the job, but actually, as she continually points out, it’s because he’s useless — there’s a conspiracy to stop her testifying. So, the guns are out for the couple, and there are so many guns. A house is shot to pieces, then a car and, in a memorable finale, Eastwood drives a bus through Phoenix to City Hall, being blasted from both sides by thousands of cops. Fantastic stuff.
After this, Eastwood began to seriously vary his roles. Next came the down-home comedy Every Which Way But Loose, where he played an easy-going mechanic and part-time bare-knuckle fighter who, after a one-nighter with country singer Locke, crosses the country after her, accompanied by his pet orang-utan Clyde, and his brother (Geoffrey Lewis, Juliette’s dad and a longtime Eastwood collaborator). After them come a couple of off-duty cops he’s offended, and a hilariously pathetic band of bikers, the Black Widows. Ruth Gordon would stand out as Clint’s fabulously crotchety mum.
This was followed by Escape From Alcatraz, where Clint was directed for the last time by Don Siegel. Slow, tense and brilliantly shot, it concerned the only (possibly) successful, er, escape from Alcatraz. Then it was back to comedy with Bronco Billy, where Clint was a shoe-salesman who’s left his dull life to run a travelling cowboy show. This was an excellent comic performance by Clint, whose Bronco Billy McCoy, purposefully deluded and remorselessly decent, was constantly under fire from the sarcastic barbs of Locke’s jaded heiress. After this came an Every Which Way follow-up, Any Which Way You Can, which saw Clint in a super-scrap with William Smith, with all the old characters showing up again. This last movie would be directed by Buddy Van Horn who’d been Second Unit director on Magnum Force and would later direct Clint in The Dead Pool and Pink Cadillac. He’d organise the stunts on many of Eastwood’s movies — a job he also performed on both Spartacus and The Deer Hunter.
These comedies would help to lighten Clint’s image and were all major hits, seeing Clint join Burt Reynolds at the very top of the Hollywood tree. Bronco Billy did indeed make less than its fellows but, thanks to Eastwood’s incredible efficiency, it only cost $5 million. Being as it was sold to TV for $10 million, you can see the kind of profit percentages he enjoyed.
After these comedies, though, Clint had a pretty shaky Eighties. Firefox, where he played a traumatised pilot sneaking into Russia to steal a super-fighter, was only a passable thriller. Honkytonk Man, where he played a dying country singer who needs his young nephew to drive him to Nashville to the Grand Ole Oprey, introducing the kid to much more than he ought along the way, was far better, a genuinely moving drama. Then came Sudden Impact, and Tightrope where he was a cop chasing a killer of girls. Things get interesting when the killer moves on Eastwood’s friends and family, and we begin to realise that Clint is pretty pervy himself. After this came City Heat, a miserable attempt to team Eastwood with fellow megastar Reynolds. With the duo battling the Mob 1930s Kansas City, it was at best knockabout nonsense.
Thankfully, it got better. Pale Rider took him back to High Plains Drifter territory as a priest (as it happens, a formerly dead priest) who protects a community of prospectors from an avaricious businessman and his hired team of ruthless gunmen. It was a mysterious and violent take on Shane, and another excellent western.
But then his career went into freefall. Heartbreak Ridge was interesting only in that it was the first film where he identified himself as "a relic". Here he played a gunnery sergeant and veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, who’s training up marines but, considered "only useful in war", he’s on the way out. Then comes redemption in the shape of the invasion of Grenada — though it’s not much of a redemption as, really, that wasn’t much of a war. And it got worse. After the wretched Dead Pool came the silly road movie Pink Cadillac where he played a modern-day bounty hunter helping Bernadette Peters rescue her kid from her neo-Nazi husband.
As the Nineties arrived, so did trouble as Sondra Locke launched a palimony suit against him. Their relationship had been stormy, and all the more so when Clint had two children, Scott and Kathryn, by air hostess Jacelyn Reeves. He and Locke would split in 1988, with the suit launched in 1990. The final agreement would include a development deal for Locke with Warners for whom she would direct three movies. But, by 1999, with all her proposals having been rejected, she sued again. Throughout, Eastwood maintained a stony silence.
Now entering his sixties, there seemed little chance of Eastwood making a comeback, yet he did it anyway. White Hunter, Black Heart saw him as director John Huston, trying to hunt elephants and control the wayward finances while shooting The African Queen. This was a sturdy movie that regained a critical approval that was only slightly dented by his next film, The Rookie, where his tough cop was partnered by young loose cannon Charlie Sheen in a hunt for major car thieves.
And then came the ultimate approval, for Unforgiven. Eastwood had had the script lying around for ages, but waited till he himself was old enough to play the role of William Munny, a former gunslinger and robber whose wife has died, leaving him to bring up their kids alone. When the chance of a bounty killing comes his way, he has to take it and, along with old compadre Morgan Freeman, dusts off his six-guns to take on Gene Hackman’s gloriously aggressive sheriff, Little Bill.
Like The Outlaw Josey Wales, Unforgiven was a western of great scope and humanity, peopled with memorable characters like Richard Harris’s English Bob (according to Little Bill "the Duck of Death"). And, as said, it would see the Academy honouring Eastwood at last with Best Film and Best Director — just as they would the next year with another money-spinning maverick, Steven Spielberg. In 1995, they’d also present Clint with the prestigious Irving Thalberg Memorial Award. Eastwood has usually received more respect outside his own country. In France, for instance, Pale Rider, White Hunter and Bird, his Golden Globe-winning biopic of Charlie Parker, were all nominated for the Palm D-Or at Cannes.
As well as those Oscars, he was also given another child, Francesca Ruth, by English-born actress Frances Fisher, known for the detective series Edge Of Night and who’d appeared in both Pink Cadillac and Unforgiven. Their relationship would not last long, though. By 1996, Clint was ensconced with TV anchor-woman Dina Ruiz who, though 35 years his junior, would that year bear his daughter, Morgan.
Now Clint was on a roll. Unforgiven was followed by In The Line Of Fire where he played an FBI agent who, deeply affected by his failure to save President Kennedy, finds himself struggling, years later, to prevent super-smart assassin John Malkovich doing the presidential dirty again. Next came another winner, A Perfect World, where he drew an excellent performance from Kevin Costner as an escaped con who kidnaps a kid. He even dared to step right away from the action genre with The Bridges Of Madison County, a sure-fire weepie where his National Geographic photographer enjoys and suffers a brief, unrequited love with housewife Meryl Streep.
His next outings were not so hot. Absolute Power had him as a burglar who witnesses a murder by President Gene Hackman — a fine premise but a convoluted novel made for a dull script. Then came True Crime where he was an alcoholic, adulterous journalist trying to rescue Isaiah Washington on Death Row. Far superior was the Eastwood-directed In The Garden Of Good And Evil, where John Cusack became embroiled in sex, death and voodoo in the salacious South.
Space Cowboys upped the ante a little, when he played a retired engineer called in to save a failing satellite, and recruiting his old astronaut buddies to help. These included Tommy Lee Jones, as well as Clint’s Kelly’s Heroes co-star Donald Sutherland, and James Garner, who he’d so memorably pushed about in Maverick. It was unchallenging fare, but reasonable fun nonetheless. Blood Work would be far more complex, with Eastwood as a retired FBI profiler, recovering from a heart transplant, who’s hired to investigate a woman’s death. Not only does he find he’s got that woman’s heart, but she might also have been murdered by a serial killer he pursued for years and never caught.
After this would come Mystic River, on which he served as director, but not star. This saw three Irish kids in Boston have their lives radically altered when one of them is captured by a child molester. Years later, the grown-up kids now played by Tim Robbins, Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon, there is another terrible event. Penn’s daughter is murdered, cop Bacon investigates, and handyman Robbins looks guilty as hell. Packed with secrets and suspicions, love and loss, the movie was boosted by a series of brilliant performances that saw Penn and Robbins win Oscars (Eastwood would be nominated as Best Director and his work as Best Film). Shot, with Eastwood’s usual economy in just 39 days, it also made three times its $30 million budget in the US. Interestingly, it also featured a cameo by Eli Wallach — the first time he’d worked with Eastwood since The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.
For his next outing, Million Dollar Baby, Eastwood would both direct and star. Based on Rope Burns, a set of stories by former boxing manager and cut-man Jerry Boyd (writing as FX Toole), this would see him play Frankie Dunn, a trainer who refuses to take on hick girl fighter Hilary Swank (because she’s a "girly"). Eventually, though, he persuaded by Swank’s persistence and the wise words of ex-Unforgiven co-star Morgan Freeman, playing a friend and former protege. Like Mystic River, the film was genuinely strong on character, not really a boxing movie at all, and it won Golden Globes for Swank and Eastwood the director. Swank and Freeman would also snap up Oscars, with Eastwood losing out to Jamie Foxx as Best Actor. He would, though, take the gongs for Best Film and, with Martin Scorsese losing out again, Best Director. Eastwood would move on to another movie written by Paul Haggis, Flags Of Our Fathers, concerning the taking of Iwo Jima in 1945. This would be co-produced by Steven Spielberg, as The Bridges Of Madison County had been.
Beyond this, there is certain to be more involvement in music (he’d continued to write music for his own movies, inclusing Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby, the latter seeing him nominated for a Golden Globe). Eastwood’s love of jazz has only grown stronger over the years. Indeed, in 1996, he played Carnegie Hall in a tribute to the jazz used in his movies. Coming onstage he announced "I can’t leave Carnegie Hall without playing at least one chord . . . the Lost Chord, so you’re going to have to bear with me". 2003 would see him direct one episode of miniseries The Blues (as did the likes of Martin Scorsese and Wim Wenders). Eastwood’s segment, Piano Blues, would feature Ray Charles and Dr John, as well as lesser known luminaries as Pinetop Perkins. Clint will also continue with his civic responsibilities having, in 2002, been appointed one of 9 Parks Commissioners for California. At the induction ceremony, he held up his new badge and said "You’re all under arrest". He’ll furthermore continue to help run his Tehama Golf Club in Carmel (he also has a part share in the famous Pebble Beach course), and to sell his sportswear brand, Tehama Clint, and his beer, Pale Rider Ale. And, considering how famous he is, there may well be more controversy. 2004 saw him take action against Patrick McGilligan and the publishers of his Eastwood biography, wherein he claimed that Clint had beaten and abused his first wife, Maggie. The passages were removed, damages undisclosed.
Aside from being one of cinema’s most iconic stars, Clint Eastwood has earned the status of great film-maker. Having scored with westerns, thrillers, dramas, romances and comedies, he has proved himself to be capable in most every genre. You have to respect him. Well, DON’T you, punk?