I don’t use the terms "icon" or “living legend” very often in these profiles. However, when it comes to Clint Eastwood, they might as well be a part of his title: actor, director, producer, composer, Oscar-winner, icon, living legend, and all around bad ass. Nobody does cool like Clint.
Clinton “Clint” Eastwood Jr. was born on May 31st, 1930 in San Francisco. A blue collar family (father Clinton Sr. was a steelworker, mother Margaret, a factory worker), the middle-class Protestant Eastwoods moved up and down the West Coast as Clint’s dad chased employment. Finally settling in Piedmont, California, Clint graduated from Oakland Technical High School in 1949. After brief stints working at a pulp mill, a gas station, a firehouse, and a saloon (where pianist Clint played ragtime piano), he was drafted into the Army in 1950 during the Korean War. Clint was aboard a military flight that crashed into the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco – though he escaped serious injury, the incident stopped him from being shipped to Korea.
After his discharge in the mid 1950s, Clint pursued an acting career in Los Angeles. His first stints included small roles in B-fare like Revenge of the Creature, Tarantula, and Francis in the Navy. Yet it wouldn’t be until 1958 that Clint caught his biggest break: playing Rowdy Yates on the TV western Rawhide. Clint, who stayed with the series for its seven-year run, would later refer to Rowdy as “the idiot of the plains.”
While he did make a couple of small films during this period, it wasn’t until Italian director Sergio Leone called in 1964, offering Clint a part that many others had turned down (thank God) – that of a mysterious stranger, the man with no name, in his “spaghetti western” A Fistful of Dollars. The film was a re-imagining of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, about a lone gunslinger who finds himself between two warring mafioso-style families. The film would quickly generate two hugely popular sequels, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. This trilogy would propel Clint into worldwide stardom. (Note: ‘The Man With No Name’ was rally a marketing ploy. Clint’s character is referred to by others in all the films as either Joe, Manco, or Blondie – though they may have just been nicknames.)
More tough guy roles would soon follow, in films like Where Eagles Dare and Coogan’s Bluff. The latter would be the first pairing between Clint and director Don Siegel. After a brief stint in musical cinema, 1969’s Paint Your Wagon (where Clint would croon “I Talk to the Trees”), he returned to edgier fare with Kelly’s Heroes, Two Mules For Sister Sara, and The Beguiled (those last two also directed by Don Siegel).
In 1971, Clint made his directorial debut with Play MIsty For Me – he played a disc jockey stalked by a deranged fan. The film was a massive success. (Examiner's Note: since The Beguiled involved a wounded Civil War soldier held captive at a Southern girls school where, ultimately, to keep him there, the women cut off one of his legs, and that this film was followed by Play Misty For Me, I often wonder if these two films, shot in succession, had any influence on Stephen King when he would, years later, pen his novel Misery, which seems to be a combination of both. Just a random thought.)
That same (banner) year, Clint teamed with Siegel again to film what would become his signature role. The film was Dirty Harry. Clint played Harry Callahan, an Inspector on the SFPD, whose impatience with a bureaucracy that too-often lets criminals run free leads him to take matters into his own hands. While during the initial run of Dirty Harry some critics thought the film was fascist, this is not the case. Others, like myself, see Harry as just another extension of his lone gunslinger come to dole out justice when no one else will. Dirty Harry spawned four sequels, Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), and The Dead Pool (1988).
Two more westerns followed Dirty Harry, both of which were directed by Clint: High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales. Both films added to, and were aided by, Clint’s iconic image as the (aforementioned) lone gunslinger. Between those two movies, Clint made Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and The Eiger Sanction. In 1977, he directed and starred in The Gauntlet, which reunited him with costar Sandra Locke – the two would eventually make a total of six films together. They would also have a long and tumultuous relationship which ended quite badly.
Clint kicked off a brief “good ol’ boy” period with 1978’s Every Which Way But Loose, playing a trucker looking for his lost love, while accompanied by his pet orangutan, Clyde. While it was trashed by critics, the film was a monster success, and ended up being the second-highest-grossing film of 1978. It spawned a sequel two years later: Any Which Way You Can.
In 1979, Clint paired up for the last time with director Don Siegel in Escape From Alcatraz. Clint played Frank Morris who, in 1962, broke out of the titular prison with two other men. (While the FBI claims that the men drowned, their bodies were never found.)
By the 1980s, Clint was already a living legend. He continued his successful box office run (as both actor and director) with atypical fare like Bronco Billy, Firefox, Honkytonk Man, Tightrope, and City Heat. Briefly returning to the western genre in 1985 with Pale Rider (a brave choice given the fact that the genre was considered dead), the film was heavy with religious symbolism – an apocalyptical allegory which could very well have been called Revelation According to Shane. Heartbreak Ridge and The Dead Pool (the last and weakest Dirty Harry film) followed.
After Clint’s first foray into directing a picture in which he did not appear (the well-received Charlie Parker biopic Bird), Clint produced the decidedly mixed bag of Pink Cadillac, White Hunter/Black Heart, and The Rookie. Yet the highlight of his career was just around the corner.
Clint won two Oscars for 1992’s Unforgiven. Playing William Munny, an aging gunslinger called out of retirement to aid a small band of prostitutes, one of whom was badly cut up by a customer, Clint’s performance was the perfect grand thesis for all his years in the western genre. The film was nominated for nine Oscars, and took home four, including Best Director and Best Picture.
More successes followed, including In The Line of Fire, A Perfect World, The Bridges of Madison County, Absolute Power, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, True Crime, Space Cowboys, Blood Work, and Mystic River.
Clint would receive two more Oscars (Best Director and Best Picture) for 2004’s boxing drama Million Dollar Baby. It would also win for Best Actress (Hilary Swank) and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman).
In 2006, Clint directed (but did not appear in) two movies about World War II’s Battle of Iwo Jima: Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima. Both films were critical and financial successes and garnered a number of Oscar nominations.
In 2008, Clint directed Angelina Jolie in Changeling. He would also direct and star in Gran Torino. The latter, which was Clint’s best opening to date, is rumored to be his swan song as an actor. If it is, it is the perfect sendoff. Some critics have likened Gran Torino to Dirty Harry’s Unforgiven, and I would say this is an arguably apt description.
More recently, Clint has directed Invictus, Hereafter, and J. Edgar.
In addition to being an accomplished jazz musician (and scoring a number of his films), Clint also made a brief foray into politics. While he has been a registered republican since 1951, he describes himself as a Libertarian, whose motto is “Everyone leaves everyone else alone.” From 1986 - 1988, he was Mayor of Carmel, California.
Clint has been married twice. He has two sons and five daughters by five different women. Son Kyle costarred with his father in Honkytonk Man.
Since 1993, Clint has been married to Dina Ruiz, an anchorwoman who won his heart during an interview. The couple have one daughter, Morgan.
Whatever comes next for this icon and living legend, his place in cinematic history, and in the hearts of movie goers around the globe, is lofty and secure.
Clint Eastwood Quotes:
"My old drama coach used to say, 'Don't just do something, stand there.' Gary Cooper wasn't afraid to do nothing."
"I have a very strict gun control policy: if there's a gun around, I want to be in control of it."
"I'm interested in the fact that the less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice."
"I don't believe in pessimism. If something doesn't come up the way you want, forge ahead."
"Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that's real power."
"This film cost $31 million. With that kind of money I could have invaded some country."
"We boil at different degrees."
"We are like boxers, one never knows how much longer one has."
"There's a lot of great movies that have won the Academy Award, and a lot of great movies that haven't. You just do the best you can."
"My father used to say to me, 'Show `em what you can do, and don`t worry about what you`re gonna get. Say you`ll work for free and make yourself invaluable.' "
"I like the libertarian view, which is to leave everyone alone. Even as a kid, I was annoyed by people who wanted to tell everyone how to live."
"I love every aspect of the creation of motion pictures and I guess I am committed to it for life."
"There`s a rebel lying deep in my soul. Anytime anybody tells me the trend is such and such, I go the opposite direction. I hate the idea of trends. I hate imitation; I have a reverence for individuality. I got where I am by coming off the wall. I`ve always considered myself too individualistic to be either right-wing or left-wing."
"I also wonder how I got this far in life. Growing up, I never knew what I wanted to do. I was not a terribly good student or a very vivacious, outgoing person. I was just kind of a backward kid. I grew up in various little towns and ended up in Oakland, California, going to a trade school. I didn`t want to be an actor, because I thought an actor had to be an extrovert – somebody who loved to tell jokes and talk and be a raconteur. And I was something of an introvert. My mother used to say: 'You have a little angel on your shoulder.' I guess she was surprised I grew up at all, never mind that I got to where I am. The best I can do is quote a line from Unforgiven (1992): 'Deserve`s got nothing to do with it.' "
"Macho was a fashionable word in the 1980s. Everybody was kind of into it, what`s macho and what isn`t macho. I really don`t know what macho is. I never have understood. Does it mean somebody who swaggers around exuding testosterone? And kicks the gate open and runs sprints up and down the street? Or does handsprings or whatever? Or is macho a quiet thing based on your security. I remember shaking hands with Rocky Marciano. He was gentle, he didn`t squeeze your hand. And he had a high voice. But he could knock people around, it was a given. That`s macho. Muhammad Ali is the same. If you talked with him in his younger years, he spoke gently. He wasn`t kicking over chairs. I think some of the most macho people are the gentlest."
"If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster."