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Clint Eastwood

Six definitive films: A beginner’s guide to Clint Eastwood

American actor and filmmaker Clint Eastwood is widely considered by many to be one of the biggest stars of the 20th century while others regard him as a crumbling symbol of an obsolete idea of masculinity. Ranging from his iconic portrayal of the ‘Man with No Name’ to his directorial talent evident in films like Unforgiven, Eastwood’s cinematic legacy is full of prestigious accolades like multiple Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

In an interview, Eastwood once said: “For me, because I’ve directed myself so often, I go back and forth. I always carry a certain amount of it, but I can live and think about other things. The character is sort of seated in your mind before you do the picture. It’s like doing a play. You have it in your mind but you can have a life and go to dinner and then pull yourself into it. The only difference in movies is that you’re doing it a hundred times a day. It’s a technique that you develop over the years. Some people find it very difficult, others find it not easy but less difficult.”

He added, “Everyone directs movies differently, but the way I get that is just by doing it. Certain scenes I’ll rehearse if there are technical difficulties of lighting and camera. Fortunately I have a camera crew that’s very well oiled, so they pretty much know where I’m headed, without much explanation. And then, when we get to the point where I’m doing it, no one asks questions when I’m trying to get into the part. The objective is to make everything sound like the first time it’s said, so the only thing I can do is try to pick it up the very first time it is said.”

On his 91st birthday, we take a look at six definitive films from Clint Eastwood’s illustrious career as a celebration of his contribution to the world of cinema.

Clint Eastwood’s 6 definitive films:

Dollars Trilogy (Sergio Leone – 1964 to 1966)

Sergio Leone‘s famous trilogy of iconic spaghetti westerns featured Eastwood in his first iconic leading role. Consisting of A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Leone’s trilogy is now credited as the body of work that established the spaghetti western genre. Due to the unprecedented success of the films, Eastwood experienced stardom and acclaim.

The actor said: “I think [the Leone films] changed the style, the approach to Westerns [in Hollywood]. … They made the violence and the shooting aspect a little more larger than life, and they had great music and new types of scores. … They were stories that hadn’t been used in other Westerns. They just had a look and a style that was a little different at the time: I don’t think any of them was a classic story—like [John Wayne’s 1956] The Searchers or something like that—they were more fragmented, episodic, following the central character through various little episodes.”

The Man With No Name - Dollars Trilogy

Dirty Harry (Don Siegel – 1971)

One of Eastwood’s most popular film performances, he stars in Don Siegel’s 1971 neo-noir as a psychopathic police detective. The film drew inspiration from the events of the Zodiac Killer case and turned out to be a major critical and commercial success. It even inspired copycat criminals who tried to mimic the film’s excesses.

Eastwood admitted: “I was told when I first got the script that other actors had liked it but had reservations about the political elements of it. But even at that age, I was not afraid of it. To me, it was an exciting detective story. It was a fantasy. Here’s a guy who is so dogmatic that nothing is going to stop him when his mind is made up.”

Dirty Harry Do You ( I ) Feel Lucky Punk?  ( high quality )

High Plains Drifter (Clint Eastwood – 1973)

Influenced by the directors he had worked under, Eastwood directed his own competent western in 1973 where he starred as an enigmatic stranger who acts as the arbitrary enforcer of morality and justice. The screenplay was based on the actual 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese.

According to multiple reports, Eastwood wrote a letter to John Wayne suggesting a collaboration after the release of High Plains Drifter. However, Wayne was critical of Eastwood’s “violence and revisionist portrayal of the Old West” and declined the offer.

High Plains Drifter - Clint Eastwood Entry

Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood – 1992)

Unforgiven is Eastwood’s memorable attempt to construct a compelling revisionist western. At the time of making it, the director said that it would be his last western before he moved on to new things. Unforgiven picked up multiple awards like including Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director among others.

“A lot of people said, ‘Hey, you’re supposed to be a cowboy actor.’ But I want to mix it up. I guess that’s why when I got (the script for) Unforgiven in the early ’80s I put it in a drawer for 10 years, I’d done a bunch of Westerns, I thought I should do some other things first. Then 10 years later I picked it up and re-read it and it felt fresh,” the actor commented.

Unforgiven (1992) Official Trailer - Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman Movie H

Mystic River (Clint Eastwood – 2003)

A film adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s eponymous novel, Mystic River investigates the relationship between childhood trauma and the fracture of the human psyche. It stars Sean Penn as a former convict whose life devolves into tragedy due to his painful past.

While speaking about his motivation to make the film, Eastwood said, “It’s very difficult to say what attracts you to the project, but I’ve always been very curious about victims of crime, victims of child abuse, one of the most hideous crimes we have on the planet.”

He added, “There’s a certain father’s nightmare in the drama of this film, how one [terrible] tiny incident affects so many people. It’s a kind of fate-driven story, a train you can’t get off, like it or not. Kevin has a speech at the end of the movie: ‘Maybe we all got in that car that day.’ It’s baggage these characters carry from when they are little boys.”

Mystic River - Theatrical Trailer

Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood – 2006)

This 2006 war film was made in conjunction with Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers and tells the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima from a Japanese perspective. The film was more appreciated in Japan where it was a huge commercial success and received praise from audiences who felt that Letters from Iwo Jima worked because it actively discarded problematic stereotypes.

Eastwood recalled, “I got the idea to do The Letters from Iwo Jima, and I thought, ‘That’s so hard to do because it’s hard to find out much information on it.’ So I went to Japan and talked to the governor of the prefecture in charge of Iwo Jima and I told him that this is a story that has to be told from a Japanese point of view. And I think there’s an awful lot of relatives and people left over from that era who would love to imagine what it must be like to be in that situation.”

Letters From Iwo Jima (2006) Trailer - HD

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Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood ‘Treats His Actors Like Horses,’ According to Tom Hanks

Clint Eastwood is a dominating yet somewhat stoic force that has dominated the entertainment world for over 60 years now.

From acting in a number of iconic roles, many of which are Western movies, to now directing Oscar-winning projects, Eastwood has evolved a lot in Hollywood. He first became popular after playing the “Man with No Name” in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy.”

Clint Eastwood Treats People Like Horses

He also gets to work with his fair share of other iconic actors over the years. That includes people like Morgan Freeman and Eli Wallach. He’s got quite the reputation for his overall matter-of-fact and serious personality. It seems to result in some efficient and amazing working conditions.

Tom Hanks, who worked with Eastwood for “Sully” in 2016, once spoke out about what it’s like to work with the very intimidating director. The movie is about a man named Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger that safely lands an endangered plane in the Hudson River.

While they were promoting the movie, Hanks appeared on “The Graham Norton Show.” As it turns out, Eastwood is about as intimidating as you’d think the man who plays the “Man with No Name” would be.

“He treats his actors like horses because when he did the 60s series Rawhide, the director would shout ‘Action!’ and all the horses bolted. So when he’s in charge, he says in a really quiet, soft voice, ‘All right, go ahead,’ and instead of shouting ‘Cut!’ he says, ‘That’s enough of that.’ It’s intimidating as hell!” Hanks said during the interview.

His calming voice and demeanor stand out in a world where directors are always shouting out demands. It’s probably a bit refreshing but also equal parts terrifying.

Forest Whitaker once worked with Eastwood in the movie “Bird.”

The actor said in an interview with People, “He really believed in me. I had never done anything to justify taking on a role like that …”

Eastwood is a Pleasure to Work With

Clint Eastwood even impressed Tom Hanks with how he works with other actors. Hanks is known in the industry for being kind and good-hearted.

After working in the business for so long, Eastwood still has all the respect of the people that he’s worked alongside.

According to Buzzfeed, one person on Reddit who was friends with a video editor that worked with Eastwood spoke out about working alongside the “Cry Macho” star.

“He said most people come in with assistants and have general demands like food, coffee, room temperature, and with attitudes that others have to work around. Not Clint Eastwood. He drove himself in his own pickup and sat down with you to get the work done and was always nice,” the person noted.

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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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