Eastwood at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival
Clinton “Clint” Eastwood, Jr. (born May 31, 1930) is an American film actor, director, producer, composer, and politician. Eastwood first came to prominence as a supporting cast member in the TV series Rawhide (1959–1965). He rose to fame for playing the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone‘s Dollars trilogy of spaghetti westerns(A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) during the late 1960s, and as Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry films (Dirty Harry,Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, and The Dead Pool) throughout the 1970s and 1980s. These roles, among others, have made him an enduring cultural icon of masculinity.
For his work in the films Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004), Eastwood won Academy Awards for Best Director and Producer of the Best Picture, as well as receiving nominations for Best Actor. These films in particular, as well as others including Play Misty for Me (1971), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Escape from Alcatraz (1979), Tightrope (1984), Pale Rider(1985), Heartbreak Ridge (1986), In the Line of Fire (1993), The Bridges of Madison County (1995), and Gran Torino (2008), have all received commercial success and critical acclaim. Eastwood’s only comedies have been Every Which Way but Loose(1978) and its sequel Any Which Way You Can (1980), which are his two most commercially successful films after adjustment for inflation.
In addition to directing most of his own star vehicles, Eastwood has also directed films in which he did not appear, such as Mystic River (2003) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), for which he received Academy Award nominations, and Changeling(2008). He has received considerable critical praise in France, including for several films which were not well received in the United States, and he has been awarded two of France’s highest honors: in 1994, the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres medal, and in 2007 the Légion d’honneur medal. In 2000, he was awarded the Italian Venice Film Festival Golden Lion for lifetime achievement.
Since 1967, Eastwood has run his own production company, Malpaso, which has produced all except four of his American films. He also served as the nonpartisan mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, from 1986 to 1988. Eastwood has seven children by five women, although he has only married twice.
Dirty Harry (1971), written by Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink, centers around a hard-edged New York City (later changed to San Francisco) police inspector named Harry Callahanwho is determined to stop a psychotic killer by any means. Dirty Harry has been described as being arguably Eastwood’s most memorable character, and the film has been credited with inventing the “loose-cannon cop” genre. Author Eric Lichtenfeld argues that Eastwood’s role as Dirty Harry established the “first true archetype” of the action film genre. His lines (quoted left) have been cited as among the most memorable in cinematic history and are regarded by firearms historians, such as Garry James and Richard Venola, as the force which catapulted the ownership of .44 Magnum pistols to unprecedented heights in the United States; specifically the Smith & Wesson Model 29 carried by Harry Callahan. Dirty Harry achieved huge success after its release in December 1971, earning $22 million (US$126 million in 2012 dollars) in the United States and Canada alone. It was Siegel’s highest-grossing film and the start of a series of films featuring the character Harry Callahan. Although a number of critics praised Eastwood’s performance as Dirty Harry, such as Jay Cocks of Time magazine who described him as “giving his best performance so far, tense, tough, full of implicit identification with his character,” the film was also widely criticized and accused of being fascistic.
Following Sean Connery‘s announcement that he would not play James Bond again, Eastwood was offered the role but turned it down because he believed the character should be played by an English actor. He next starred in the loner Western Joe Kidd (1972), based on a character inspired by Reies Lopez Tijerina who stormed a courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, in June 1967. During filming, Eastwood suffered symptoms of a bronchial infection and several panic attacks. Joe Kidd received a mixed reception, with Roger Greenspun of The New York Times writing that it was unremarkable, with foolish symbolism and sloppy editing, although he praised Eastwood’s performance.
In 1973, Eastwood directed his first western, High Plains Drifter, in which he starred alongside Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill, Billy Curtis, Rawhide’s Paul Brinegar and Geoffrey Lewis. The film had a moral and supernatural theme, later emulated in Pale Rider. The plot follows a mysterious stranger (Eastwood) who arrives in a brooding Western town where the people hire him to protect them against three soon-to-be-released felons. There remains confusion during the film as to whether the stranger is the brother of the deputy, whom the felons lynched and murdered, or his ghost. Holes in the plot were filled with black humor and allegory, influenced by Leone. The revisionist film received a mixed reception, but was a major box office success. A number of critics thought Eastwood’s directing was “as derivative as it was expressive”, with Arthur Knight of the Saturday Review remarking that Eastwood had “absorbed the approaches of Siegel and Leone and fused them with his own paranoid vision of society.” John Wayne, who had declined a role in the film, sent a letter to Eastwood soon after the film’s release in which he complained that, “the townspeople did not represent the true spirit of the American pioneer, the spirit that made America great.”
Eastwood directing William Holden in Breezy (1973)
Eastwood next turned his attention towards Breezy (1973), a film about love blossoming between a middle-aged man and a teenage girl. During casting for the film Eastwood met Sondra Locke, an actress who would play major roles in many of his films for the next ten years and would become an important figure in his life. Kay Lenz was awarded the part of Breezy because Locke, at 28, was considered too old. The film, shot very quickly and efficiently by Eastwood and Frank Stanley, came in $1 million (US$5.24 million in 2012 dollars under budget and was finished three days ahead of schedule. Breezy was not a major critical or commercial success and it was only made available on video in 1998.
Once filming of Breezy had finished, Warner Brothers announced that Eastwood had agreed to reprise his role as Detective Harry Callahan in Magnum Force (1973), a sequel to Dirty Harry, about a group of rogue young officers (among them David Soul, Robert Urich and Tim Matheson) in the San Francisco Police Force who systematically exterminate the city’s worst criminals. Although the film was a major success after release, grossing $58.1 million (US$304 million in 2012 dollars) in the United States (a record for Eastwood), it was not a critical success. The New York Timescritic Nora Sayre panned the often contradictory moral themes of the film, while the paper’s Frank Rich called it “the same old stuff.”
In 1974, Eastwood teamed up with Jeff Bridges and George Kennedy in the buddy action caper Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, a road movie about a veteran bank robber Thunderbolt (Eastwood) and a young con man drifter, Lightfoot (Bridges). On its release, in spring 1974, the film was praised for its offbeat comedy mixed with high suspense and tragedy but was only a modest success at the box office, earning $32.4 million (US$153 million in 2012 dollars). Eastwood’s acting was noted by critics, but was overshadowed by Bridges who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Eastwood reportedly fumed at the lack of Academy Award recognition for him and swore that he would never work for United Artists again.
Eastwood’s next film The Eiger Sanction (1975) was based on Trevanian‘s critically acclaimed spy novel of the same name. Eastwood plays Jonathan Hemlock in a role originally intended for Paul Newman, an assassin turned college art professor who decides to return to his former profession for one last “sanction” in return for a rare Pissarro painting. In the process he must climb the north face of the Eiger in Switzerland under perilous conditions. Once again Eastwood starred alongside George Kennedy. Mike Hoover taught Eastwood how to climb during several weeks of preparation at Yosemite in the summer of 1974 before filming commenced in Grindelwald on August 12, 1974. Despite prior warnings about the perils of the Eiger the film crew suffered a number of accidents, including one fatality. Despite the danger, Eastwood insisted on doing all his own climbing and stunts. Upon release in May 1975 The Eiger Sanction was a commercial failure, receiving only $23.8 million (US$103 million in 2012 dollars) at the box office, and was poorly received by most critics. Joy Gould Boyum of the Wall Street Journal dismissed the film as “brutal fantasy.” Eastwood blamed Universal Studios for the film’s poor promotion and turned his back on them to make an agreement with Warner Brothers, through Frank Wells, that has lasted to the present day.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), a western inspired by Asa Carter‘s eponymous 1972 novel, has lead character Josey Wales (Eastwood) as a pro-Confederate guerilla who refuses to surrender his arms after the American Civil War and is chased across the old southwest by a group of enforcers. Eastwood cast his young son Kyle Eastwood, Chief Dan George, and Sondra Locke for the first time, against the wishes of director Philip Kaufman. Kaufman was fired by producer Bob Daley under Eastwood’s command, resulting in a fine reported to be around $60,000 (US$245,053 in 2012 dollars) from the Directors Guild of America—who subsequently passed new legislation reserving the right to impose a major fine on a producer for discharging and replacing a director. The film was pre-screened at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities in Idaho during a six-day conference entitled Western Movies: Myths and Images. Invited to the screening were a number of esteemed film critics, including Jay Cocksand Arthur Knight; directors such as King Vidor, William Wyler, and Howard Hawks; and a number of academics. Upon release in August 1976 The Outlaw Josey Wales was widely acclaimed, with many critics and viewers seeing Eastwood’s role as an iconic one that related to America’s ancestral past and the destiny of the nation after the American Civil War. Roger Ebert compared the nature and vulnerability of Eastwood’s portrayal of Josey Wales with his Man with No Name character in the Dollars westerns and praised the film’s atmosphere. The film would later appear in Time‘s “Top 10 Films of the Year.”
Eastwood was then offered the role of Benjamin L. Willard in Francis Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now, but declined as he did not want to spend weeks on location in the Philippines. He also refused the part of a platoon leader in Ted Post‘s Vietnam War film Go Tell the Spartans and instead decided to make a third Dirty Harry film The Enforcer. The film had Harry partnered with a new female officer (Tyne Daly) to face a San Francisco Bay area group resembling the Symbionese Liberation Army. The film, culminating in a shootout on Alcatraz island, was considerably shorter than the previous Dirty Harry films at 95 minutes, but was a major commercial success grossing $100 million (US$408 million in 2012 dollars) worldwide to become Eastwood’s highest-grossing film to date.
In 1977, he directed and starred in The Gauntlet opposite Locke, Pat Hingle, William Prince, Bill McKinney, and Mara Corday. Eastwood portrays a down-and-out cop who falls in love with a prostitute he is assigned to escort from Las Vegas to Phoenix, to testify against the mafia. Although a moderate hit with the viewing public, critics had mixed feelings about the film, with many believing it was overly violent. Eastwood’s longtime nemesis Pauline Kael called it “a tale varnished with foul language and garnished with violence.” Roger Ebert, in contrast, gave the film three stars and called it “…classic Clint Eastwood: fast, furious, and funny.” In 1978 Eastwood starred in Every Which Way but Loose alongside Locke, Geoffrey Lewis, Ruth Gordon and John Quade. In an uncharacteristic offbeat comedy role, Eastwood played Philo Beddoe, a trucker and brawler who roams the American West searching for a lost love accompanied by his brother and an orangutan called Clyde. The film proved a surprising success upon its release and became Eastwood’s most commercially successful film at the time. Panned by critics, it ranked high among the box office successes of his career and was the second-highest grossing film of 1978.
Eastwood starred in the thriller Escape from Alcatraz in 1979, the last of his films to be directed by Don Siegel. It was based on the true story of Frank Lee Morris who, along with John and Clarence Anglin, escaped from the notorious Alcatraz prison in 1962. The film was a major success; Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic praised it as “crystalline cinema” and Frank Rich ofTime described it as “cool, cinematic grace.” The film marked the beginning of a critically acclaimed period for Eastwood.