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Clint Eastwood

Here’s Why Clint Eastwood Passed On Starring In Die Hard [Exclusive]

For those of us who grew up with “Die Hard” (especially the children of parents who deemed it one of their favorite Christmas movies), it is nearly impossible to imagine the film’s blood-and-sweat-drenched protagonist John McClane being played by anyone other than Bruce Willis. Little did we know, Willis was essentially the last person everyone had in mind when it came to casting “Die Hard,” as he wasn’t considered a formidable action star at the time. Having only appeared in a handful of films beforehand, Willis made his name while starring in “Moonlighting,” a dramedy about private investigators and their L.A. case files that garnered the actor three Golden Globe nominations and two Emmy nods. Suffice to say, Willis possessed the acting chops — his uphill battle was in proving that he could read as a gun-slinging, glass-walking action hero.

/Film’s Jack Giroux recently spoke with screenwriter Jeb Stuart for an upcoming project, with the conversation momentarily turning to his work on “Die Hard.” Though the fact that Clint Eastwood was once among many names considered to originally play John McClane is well-known among fans, Stuart really digs into why Eastwood passed on the role — and it’s got more to do with comedic mistranslations than one might expect: “Ironically, his response to the producers was, ‘I don’t get the humor.’”

A revelation from the interview

Eastwood in Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars

That’s right — the main reason why Eastwood turned down “Die Hard” was that the script’s humor escaped him. When Giroux asked Stuart about the original conception of McClane and Hans Gruber versus how they appeared on screen, the screenwriter re-hashed a common fact with some brand-new insight.

“They went to Clint Eastwood first. Ironically, his response to the producers was, ‘I don’t get the humor.’ Which, for me, was a shock because if you listen to a lot of those words, Eastwood’s one of the few people who could have delivered a line like ‘Come to LA, have a great time.’ All that kind of stuff. You could see him doing that. He was my inspiration.”

It’s nearly common knowledge at this point that several more well-known action stars were asked to take the role of John McClane before Willis was seriously considered. According to Mental Floss, Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro, Charles Bronson, Nick Nolte, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, Burt Reynolds, and Richard Dean Anderson were all offered the role, with each of them respectively declining. It’s almost as if Willis was merely a last resort, so much so that the first round of promotional posters were effectively missing his face — with Nakatomi Plaza standing in as the ostensible star of “Die Hard” (remember, this was Alan Rickman’s first role as well, playing the German hostage-taker Hans Gruber).

What would an Eastwood-starring Die Hard even look like?

Eastwood as The Man with No Name in "A Fistful of Dollars"

What’s so surprising about Eastwood’s intolerance to the comedic elements in “Die Hard” is that his films are brimming with dead-pan punchlines, often uttered immediately before or following an intense shoot-out with some baddies. If Bruce Willis didn’t literally ad-lib “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfer” himself, it would have been a perfect utterance for Eastwood, whose “In The Line of Fire” quip of “You have a rendezvous with my a**, motherfer” is almost uncannily similar. Sure, the gunfire in “Die Hard” is largely spouted from Berettas as opposed to Smith & Wessons, but the humor seems to translate just as seamlessly.

Another interesting tidbit about Eastwood’s near-involvement in “Die Hard” comes from the fact that the actor/director previously owned the film rights to “Nothing Lasts Forever,” the novel by Roderick Thorp on which “Die Hard” is based. In the early ’80s, Eastwood had planned on producing and starring in this adaptation, a project that clearly never came to fruition. Perhaps the gun-slinging icon resented the fact that he would no longer be involved in the production of the film, and as such dismissed the script’s comedic tone before moving onto other ventures.

Rest assured, Bruce Willis is eternally the best version of John McClane

Bruce Willis as John McClane in "Die Hard"

Getting back to the Willis-Eastwood connection, one thing remains true: no one else could have worn McClane’s absolutely decimated tank top with more swagger than Willis. Sure, Eastwood might still have acted in orgy scenes as a spry late-80-year-old, but being barefoot in a tank top as opposed to clad in a wool poncho and cowboy spurs in his late 50s would have surely been a deal-breaker. As it turns out, Stuart still firmly believes Willis was the best choice for the role, and was even an early fan of his work.

“When it went to Willis, I was a big fan of ‘Moonlighting,’ but nobody picked him as an action guy. So in terms of getting the character right, they nailed that. I mean, it was just making sure that the audience could buy the fact that he’s not this glib guy from Jersey. And Bruce brought that to the table. I think nobody doubted it after that point.”

Coincidentally, “Die Hard” would have also been a semi-sequel to the 1968 film “The Detective,” which was based on the 1968 Thorp novel of the same name which precedes “Nothing Lasts Forever.” Because Frank Sinatra starred in “The Detective,” the filmmakers were obligated to offer him the role of John McClane — which the 78-year-old Sinatra predictably turned down. Paralleling fate further, Willis’ first on-screen role was in the 1980 film “The First Deadly Sin,” in which Willis briefly appears as a man entering a restaurant just as Sinatra’s character is leaving. If this isn’t some sort of prophecy signaling Willis’ succession of Sinatra’s original character, I don’t know what is.

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Clint Eastwood

Dirty Harry: 5 Ways He’s Clint Eastwood’s Best Character (& 5 Alternatives)

After starring in Don Siegel’s gritty police thriller Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood reprised the title role of Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan in a grand total of four sequels, from Magnum Force to The Dead Pool. Callahan is arguably Eastwood’s greatest role, making full use of his strengths as an actor and giving him plenty of dramatic material to sink his teeth into, but there are a bunch of other close contenders.

The actor’s decades-long career has been lined with iconic characters. From Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns to his own directorial efforts, Eastwood has played a ton of roles that have come close to matching Callahan as a screen icon.

10. Dirty Harry Is The Best: He’s A Quintessential Antihero

Clint Eastwood is best utilized when he’s given less than perfect people to play. His gruff demeanor and icy stare are beautifully matched to antiheroes who do questionable things and try not to look back.

Harry Callahan is a quintessential antihero, breaking away from the police’s codes of conduct if they stand in the way of what he sees as the right course of action.

9. Alternative: Frankie Dunn

Although Million Dollar Baby was marketed as a female version of Rocky, it becomes a much more depressing affair after its midpoint twist in which its protagonist, budding boxer Maggie Fitzgerald, is disabled at the beginning of her promising career.

Clint Eastwood co-stars as Maggie’s trainer Frankie Dunn, who champions her through her first few fights and then has to contend with the heartache of her sudden paralysis.

8. Dirty Harry Is The Best: He’s Eastwood’s Darkest Character

The best acting plumbs the darkest depths of the human soul, from Martin Sheen’s turn as Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now to Al Pacino’s portrayal of the corruption of Michael Corleone in The Godfather trilogy.

Clint Eastwood is one of the world’s greatest actors in terms of playing dark roles. As a cop who will torture suspects without thinking twice, Harry Callahan is easily Eastwood’s darkest role.

7. Alternative: Josey Wales

The title role in The Outlaw Josey Wales is a challenging one, as he’s a farmer whose family is murdered by the Union during the Civil War who then joins a Confederate guerrilla army in pursuit of vengeance.

In addition to directing The Outlaw Josey Wales as a magnificent study of the Civil War, Eastwood starred as one of his most iconic characters.

6. Dirty Harry Is The Best: He’s Morally Complex

Unlike a lot of gun-toting detectives in Hollywood cinema, Harry Callahan isn’t depicted as a clear-cut hero. He’ll bend the law in order to catch a bad guy or he’ll feel justified in killing if he thinks it will prevent more killing.

The audience isn’t expected to be on Harry’s side at every turn, but the moral gray area in which he operates means he’s never anything less than compelling.

5. Alternative: Walt Kowalski

In Gran Torino, Eastwood stars as Walt Kowalski, a Korean War veteran who now lives in a neighborhood filled with Korean gangsters. As he’s caught in a gangland conflict, he confronts his own prejudices and makes the ultimate sacrifice in a harrowing finale.

The actor’s ice-cold glare was perfect for the role of Kowalski. He plays the role as a typical crotchety old neighbor, but with a dark side that’s as clear as day.

4. Dirty Harry Is The Best: He Has Most Of Eastwood’s Quotable Lines

Over the course of an incredible career that spans seven decades and counting, Clint Eastwood has uttered a ton of memorable lines on the big screen that have been quoted by fans ever since.

But the majority of his most beloved quotes belong to Harry Callahan, like “Go ahead, make my day,” “A man’s got to know his limitations,” and “You’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

3. Alternative: William Munny

Eastwood gave the perfect swansong to the outdated genre that spawned his career with the bleak revisionist western Unforgiven. Years after turning his back on a life of killing to lead a simple farming existence, William Munny is reluctantly recruited for one last gig as an outlaw.

The movie is a grisly tale of redemption as Munny strives to exact brutal vigilante justice, but it also takes every chance to remind viewers that he’s no hero.

2. Dirty Harry Is The Best: A Lot Of Eastwood’s Subsequent Roles Emulated Harry

After the success of Dirty Harry, the title character became Clint Eastwood’s defining role, to the point that many of his subsequent roles were written to emulate Harry’s blunt, unconventional style.

Eastwood had made his name as a cowboy in Italian westerns and playing an iconic detective on the streets of San Francisco ensured him a career in contemporary American thrillers.

1. Alternative: The Man With No Name

Between 1964 and 1966, Clint Eastwood teamed up with Sergio Leone to create three of the greatest westerns ever made. With A Fistful of Dollars, Leone recontextualized Kurosawa’s Yojimbo for the Wild West and pioneered the spaghetti western. With The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, he perfected the genre.

Across all three movies, Eastwood played the fabled Man with No Name, a gunslinging drifter who chases bounties and plays gangs against each other.

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Clint Eastwood

Why Clint Eastwood Only Acts In Movies He Directs (And When It Started)

Clint Eastwood has largely acted in movies that he was also directing throughout a large portion of his career – so why is this, and when did it start? He will forever be remembered for the Westerns he starred in, however, his directing career reads as a mightily impressive one. Even the films that he has directed but not appeared in, have also gone on to achieve incredible commercial and critical success. His latest western Cry Macho was released last year, and had Clint Eastwood starring, directing, and producing. But why does he only seem interested in appearing in movies that he directs himself?

Clint Eastwood found his way onto TV screens with his breakout role in Rawhide. He then went on to achieve incredible fame and success as ‘the Man with No Name’ in the legendary Dollars Trilogy, directed by none other than Sergio Leone. However, in 1971 he took up dual roles of being both in front and behind the camera in Play Misty for Me, and so marked the beginning of his incredible career in directing. From here on out, the Dirty Harry star was more interested in being the conductor of his own orchestra – to the extent that Eastwood literally even composed music for the soundtracks on many of his films.

Since then, Clint Eastwood never took his foot off the gas when it came to directing and his success in the area is plain to see. Prime examples of this are his four Academy Award wins, two each for Best Picture and Best Director for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby respectively, as well as his two Best Actor nominations. Eastwood has never explained why he only acts in movies he directs, but it is clear to see it is a method that works for him – with this likely being the main reason his film efforts have taken this direction. While he had been self-directing for many years previous, the release of White Hunter Black Heart in 1990 marked the beginning of Clint Eastwood acting solely in films he was directing. From this point, he would only appear in front of the lens if he was also the man behind it.

Clint Eastwood had reportedly become frustrated with the atmosphere and pace of some film sets and wanted to create his own environment for making movies. He explained in his book Film Craft: Directing that “sets didn’t have to be nerve-wracking or bell-ringing or booby-trapped as it was with some“. So when Clint Eastwood directed his movies, he encouraged a “comfortable and calm environment on set” and kept the scenes moving. Many actors who have worked with him have said that most shots are done in one or two takes, which is astonishingly efficient – in fact, Eastwood is said to have taken over directing in the 1976 film The Outlaw Josey Wales because he believed it was being directed at too slow a pace.

At 91, it is of no surprise that Clint Eastwood’s movie career is at a point where he has decided that no one is going to tell him what to do besides himself. The exception to this came in 2012, when he starred in Trouble with the Curve – but that was the first project that he had acted in and not directed since his cameo appearance as himself in the 1995 film Casper. What movie Eastwood does next is anyone’s guess. Clint Eastwood has shown he is willing to work with directors in the not-so-distant past, but it’s evident that the actor is clearly someone who likes to work at his own pace – and with such a lengthy history in the industry, it makes sense he uses all his range of abilities to ensure this pace is set.

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Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood To Direct & Star In 70s Rodeo Drama

Clint Eastwood sets the 1970s-era drama Cry Macho as his next movie. An iconic Hollywood legend with a career spanning 8 decades, Eastwood continues to work at a rapid pace despite now being 90 years old. Though Eastwood in recent years has largely restricted himself to working behind the camera, the star did step back before the lens in 2018 for The Mule, which went on to gross $174 million at the worldwide box office.

As reported by Deadline, Eastwood is again ready to pull double duty as actor and director for his next project, the Warner Bros. drama Cry Macho. Though the film does not yet have an official greenlight from the studio, and even though COVID restrictions are in place everywhere, Eastwood is said to already be scouting locations. Frequent Eastwood collaborator Nick Schenk penned the script, based on a screenplay by Cry Macho novelist N. Richard Nash, who passed away in 2000. Interestingly, Eastwood’s fellow action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally set to play the lead role in an adaptation of the same book back in 2011.

Set in 1978, Nash’s Cry Macho follows a washed up rodeo star who develops a bond with a young Mexican boy after getting involved in a scheme to take the boy away from his alcoholic mother. Over the course of the story, the boy learns what it means to be a man from his hard-scrabble elder while Eastwood’s character receives a measure of redemption. Warner Bros. is hoping the new film marks a return to form for Eastwood after his last effort Richard Jewell proved to be somewhat of a disappointment, grossing just $43 million worldwide on a budget of $45 million. Indeed, Cry Macho sounds like a solid vehicle for Eastwood, with its neo-Western story involving the unlikely bond between an older man and a youngster in need of some guidance.

Set in 1978, Nash’s Cry Macho follows a washed up rodeo star who develops a bond with a young Mexican boy after getting involved in a scheme to take the boy away from his alcoholic mother. Over the course of the story, the boy learns what it means to be a man from his hard-scrabble elder while Eastwood’s character receives a measure of redemption. Warner Bros. is hoping the new film marks a return to form for Eastwood after his last effort Richard Jewell proved to be somewhat of a disappointment, grossing just $43 million worldwide on a budget of $45 million. Indeed, Cry Macho sounds like a solid vehicle for Eastwood, with its neo-Western story involving the unlikely bond between an older man and a youngster in need of some guidance.

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