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Clint Eastwood

The Clint Eastwood Western That Doubles as an Anti-War Movie


 Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales is a Western film that delves into the harsh realities of violence and warfare.
 Eastwood labels the film as an “anti-war” movie, highlighting the parallels between the narrative and the Vietnam War.
 The film combines elements of vengeance and traditional warfare, ultimately showcasing the inevitability of violence and the impact it has on American society.

In the history of Hollywood, no figure was quite as reflective of their image, star persona, and stature in the industry as Clint Eastwood. While he is a tried and true action movie star, frequently playing gun-toting outlaws who defy the orders of society, Eastwood has aspired to deconstruct the archetypes of cops and cowboys on screen throughout his illustrious six-decade career as an actor and director. He is symbolic of seemingly contrasting tastes. He can seamlessly give audiences a satisfying thriller about revenge featuring copious amounts of gun fights, yet his most accomplished films confront the harsh underbelly of violence. With his 1976 Western The Outlaw Josey Wales, Eastwood examines violence in the context of America’s past and present relationship to warfare.

The Outlaw Josey Wales Film Poster

The Outlaw Josey Wales
Missouri farmer Josey Wales joins a Confederate guerrilla unit and winds up on the run from the Union soldiers who murdered his family.

Release DateJune 30, 1976
DirectorClint Eastwood
CastClint Eastwood , Chief Dan George , Sondra Locke , Bill McKinney , John Vernon , Paula Trueman
Runtime135 minutes
Main GenreWestern
WritersForrest Carter , Philip Kaufman , Sonia Chernus
Tagline…an army of one.

What Is Clint Eastwood’s ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ About?
The Outlaw Josey Wales follows the titular Missouri farmer (Eastwood) who joins a Confederate guerrilla military unit after the slaying of his family by Union soldiers. Eventually, as he emerges a feared gunfighter, Wales becomes the target of a manhunt by the same Union soldiers and a gang of bounty hunters. On the surface, Josey Wales appeals to the cheap sensibilities of exploitation pictures.
The film, from its synopsis to its perspective, centered on the Confederacy during the Civil War, seems like trashy and troubling material that is beneath Eastwood. In the end, the film’s confrontation with transgressive topics and circumstances leaves an immeasurable impact on the final product, as Eastwood’s sobering commentary on the brutality and bleak inevitability of war is some of the star’s most resonant storytelling.

Clint Eastwood Interprets ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ as an Anti-War Film

Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey WalesImage via Warner Bros.

In a 2011 interview with The Wall Street Journal, in the lead-up to his upcoming biopic, J. Edgar, Eastwood opined on the ethics of law enforcement and reflected on his military experience in the Korean War. His sympathy towards law officials (from the real-life J. Edgar Hoover to Gene Hackman‘s Oscar-winning turn as “Little” Bill Daggett in Unforgiven) who seek proper justice but are derailed by an excess of chivalry is an insightful portrayal of his vast filmography. Ultimately, the subtext of The Outlaw Josey Wales crystallizes Eastwood’s belief that the nobility of justice is destined to be undermined by a warmonger complex that permeates American politics.
More so than any of his explicit war films, including Letters from Iwo Jima or American Sniper, Eastwood labeled Josey Wales as an “anti-war” film. “I saw the parallels to the modern day at that time. Everybody gets tired of it, but it never ends,” he said, comparing the film’s narrative to the contemporaneous turmoil ensuing during the Vietnam War. Eastwood identifies a solemn reality surrounding war’s existence, stating that “war is a horrible thing, but it’s also a unifier of countries.” According to the actor-director, civilization perversely coexists and sparks genuine camaraderie among people during these years of bloody havoc. Humans are also at their most creative, as evident by the mass development of advanced weapons and machinery. “That’s kind of a sad statement on mankind, if that’s what it takes,” he remarks.

Clint Eastwood’s Josey Wales Wants Revenge

Indeed, camaraderie is an essential fabric of the story of The Outlaw Josey Wales. Following the harrowing murder of his wife and young son, led by Captain Terrill (Bill McKinney), he sharpened his skills as a gunfighter. Along his journey of vengeance, he forms a brief alliance with a Confederate guerrilla army before their subsequent surrender and killing at the hands of the Union soldiers. Soon after, Wales forms a pact with an assortment of misfits, including a Cherokee man, Lone Watie (Chief Dan George), a Navajo woman, Little Moonlight (Geraldine Keams), an elderly woman from Kansas, Sarah Turner (Paula Trueman), and her granddaughter, Laura Lee (Sondra Locke, who developed a personal relationship with Eastwood). In the film’s early moments, immediately after his family is massacred and his home is destroyed, the Confederate army emerges in the background. A distraught Josey, at his lowest moment, is given a chance for payback. This feeling of worth and validation is the root of the film and its harsh commentary on how warfare captures the emotional vulnerability of Americans.

The core structure of The Outlaw Josey Wales calls for a lone outlaw to exact brutal revenge on anyone who walks in his path. However, the tribal complex involved in the conflict between the Union and Confederate armies and Native Americans versus their local oppressors draws Wales into the orbit of traditional warfare. What started as a primal streak of vengeance evolved into a series of battles and disputes between other gangs and Native tribes, including the Comancheros and the Comanche tribe, respectively. Wales’ companions that he encounters along the way are also subjected to his journey of retribution. The character’s personal stakes blend in with the greater machinations of tribal warfare. Despite being set in a familiar Western setting filled with vistas and horseback riding shootouts, Josey Wales takes on the likeness of a man-on-a-mission war epic, such as the Eastwood-starring World War II film, Where Eagles Dare.

Clint Eastwood’s ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ Is a Smartly Directed Western

Clint Eastwood directing The Outlaw Josey WalesImage via Warner Bros. 

Beyond the thematic crux of the story, Eastwood’s film is visually rendered like a combat picture. The cinematography of Bruce Surtees, a frequent collaborator of Eastwood, and his filmmaking mentor, Don Siegel, shoots the Western vistas and rural villages with a distinct grain. The weathered landscapes of Missouri, Kansas, and the U.S.-Mexico border are antithetical to the glossy, painterly images created by John Ford, the definitive visionary of Western iconography. The gritty visual aesthetic is complemented by the direction of action sequences, which are stripped away of the elegance of a pistol duel in classic Westerns. The fast cuts and unstable camera movements create the sensation of being in the middle of an intense military clash.
In the film, Union and Confederate armies are equipped with advanced weaponry, including a Gatling gun that Wales used to attack the opposing soldiers during the Confederacy’s surrender. Wales operates as a military tactician, methodically executing schemes such as shooting off a rope that is attached to a Union vessel, subsequently trapping them in the middle of a body of water, or creating a diversion by placing a corpse on top of a riding horse to draw out soldiers at a camp. Eastwood’s proclamation to the WSJ that war brings out the most ingenious qualities in humans was clearly practiced when directing Josey Wales.

Violence Is an Inevitability in ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’

bearded man holding two guns and looking at the horizon

Eastwood’s films, from his brash, free-spirited vigilante characters (notably “Dirty” Harry Callahan) and his experience in the Western genre, are loosely connected to his libertarian politics. Even in the scenarios where he plays a law enforcement official, his characters are proudly anti-government. In The Outlaw Josey Wales, Eastwood struggles to uphold his identity as a lone wolf. When Wales embarks on his quest following the encounter with Lone Watie and Little Moonlight, he says to them, “Might as well ride along with us. Hell, everybody else is.”
The powers of the military-industrial complex limit his independence. This is an especially noteworthy thematic trait because of the film’s genre. Westerns are about open fields and conquering uninhabited and non-industrialized lands. The climactic battle between Wales and Terrill takes place outside a fortified ranch where the outlaw’s companions take shelter. A settlement that should present itself with tranquility is shattered by the carnage of warfare between Wales’ pact and Terrill’s army.


Eastwood’s quote in the Wall Street Journal story informs an inevitability surrounding America’s reckless involvement in war activity. Regardless of one’s desire for bloody vengeance, warfare is destined to hit the American homefront. “Sometimes trouble just follows a man,” Wales reckons before riding off to battle. Viewers may interpret this line as a moment of self-reflection or obliviousness on the character’s part. It carries the weight of Western myths while signaling the pathos of violence that Eastwood strives to connect with in his direction. The oppressive nature of Wales’ violent plight is primarily self-inflicted, as he is not a pure hero in this story, but it complements his relationship with Native American people. Far more effectively than even the greatest Westerns in history, Josey Wales‘ depictions of Native Americans are quite sympathetic, as the titular character takes solace in their oppression by the American government.

‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ Is Reminiscent of John Ford’s ‘The Searchers’

John Wayne in The SearchersImage via Warner Bros. 

The beauty of the Western genre is that each film, to varying degrees, is reflective of other films in the canon. As for The Outlaw Josey Wales, the mediation on the waning sense of nobility when carrying out justice belongs to the spirit of John Ford’s greatest achievements. The DNA of Sergio Leone‘s Dollars trilogy starring Eastwood is also evident in the 1976 film. Furthermore, Eastwood’s widely recognized revisionist Western masterpiece Unforgiven, can be interpreted as a spiritual successor to Josey Wales.
Like every Western that arrived in its wake, the film is indebted to Ford’s The Searchers, just on the merit of Josey Wales‘ closing line alone. Before riding off into the sunset, Wales, after overhearing Fletcher (John Vernon) enlightening a pair of Texas Rangers about the story of the outlaw’s (who is believed to be dead) trail of vengeance, remarks “I guess we all died a little in that damned war.” As a film released just one year following the end of the Vietnam War, this line unabashedly conveys the gloomy American sentiment of the period.

In The Searchers, Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns from the Civil War as a broken soul, and resorts to savage retribution against a Native American tribe. In his worldview, the war never ended. For Josey Wales, a once average American, combat is a rudimentary facet of life. Even if his past traumas are healed, he will always encounter violence along the way.
The Outlaw Josey Wales is available to rent on Prime Video in the U.S.

Clint Eastwood

“I don’t like it when it’s dumb”: Yellowstone Star Kevin Costner Revealed He Hates Western Genre Despite Sharing Clint Eastwood’s Rare Record In Hollywood

Taking a look at the rear-view mirror in the journey of Hollywood, everyone remembers the good old days when Western films dominated not just the US, but the entire world. And leading that charge was the legendary Clint Eastwood, along with stars like Kevin Costner following close behind. To this day, the effect of those classic pieces of cinema can be felt.
Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner
In fact, when we take a look at Costner’s career in the industry, many will realize that it was the 1985 Western classic Silverado that brought him to the spotlight. In the later stage of his career, he won two Academy Awards for his film Dances with Wolves, something that Eastwood has also managed to achieve. But despite leaving an everlasting impression, it seems like he doesn’t love the genre for being dumb.
Kevin Costner Reveals That He Doesn’t Love The Western Genre Because It’s Dumb
Kevin Costner in a still from Dances with Wolves Kevin Costner in a still from Dances with Wolves
While he may have been forgotten for a while in the changing landscape of Hollywood, the fans of the classic Western genre of films will never forget the impact Kevin Costner made with his films in the category. Going toe-to-toe in this genre with the face of old-school Western films Clint Eastwood himself, the actor and director has proved why he’s a genius in this department.
But despite achieving the extremely rare accolade of directing one of the only four Western films to receive the Oscars, also including Unforgiven by the Dirty Harry star, Costner reveals that this genre may not be his favorite.
In a past interview with Good Morning America, the former Yellowstone star talked about how he was not a big fan of the Western genre, the reason being that most of the films produced in it are dumb and illogical. He says that there’s too much of a straight divide between good and bad without any substantial form of moral complexity.
On top of that, he calls out the genre for being somewhat illiterate but has the potential to become so much more than just an illustrious piece of history. He said:
“[western] have to be literate. It’s too much black hat, white hat…I won’t tolerate bad language, meaning literacy of a western on TV or in film. I hate it. I don’t like it when it’s dumb because there’s such great opportunity because the architecture of a western should be to actually frighten you sitting in the dark, watching something. ‘That could have just happened to me. And I don’t know what I would’ve done’”
Thus, his new and unique outlook on the filmmaking of a Western film is what drives him to only make the best that the genre has ever seen.
What Was Dances With Wolves About?
A still from Dances with Wolves A still from Dances with Wolves
Widely considered to be one of the best films in the history of this genre, recognized by being awarded two Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director for Costner, Dances with Wolves may be Western filmmaking done right.
The film tells the tale of Civil War soldier Lieutenant John J. Dunbar, a man who is posted at Fort Hays, where he meets and develops a relationship with the native Lakota Indian tribe. Mesmerized by their lifestyle and simple outlook on the world, he soon finds himself being welcomed into their clan. But when Union Army soldiers come to their land with the agenda of uprooting the tribe, Dunbar has to choose a side.
Dances with Wolves, streaming on Prime Video.

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Clint Eastwood

“He was too expensive”: Clint Eastwood Starred in ‘Dollars Trilogy’ After Director Couldn’t Afford Another Oscar Winning Actor With $15000 Salary

In today’s day and age, Clint Eastwood’s name is one that echoes with terms such as legendary and brilliant. His ability to be expressive as an actor without having to say too many dialogues was one admired by many. Not only his skills as an actor, but being a talented director helped build his reputation in the best way possible.
Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
During his days as an actor, there were many films offered to him. Some he let go of, others he grabbed as soon as he could. One of his most iconic works is the Dollars Trilogy with director Sergio Leone. Despite the massive amount of fame that he got from it, there was an unfortunate yet slight chance that Eastwood would have lost out on the role because Leone wanted another actor altogether.
Sergio Leone’s Initial Choice for His Trilogy was not Clint Eastwood
One of Clint Eastwood’s biggest movie trilogies, the Dollars trilogy was something that came along his career, giving him a boost the actor never knew he needed. The year 1964 saw a rise in his fame from then on. However, as per BBC (via Farout Magazine), Eastwood was not Sergio Leone’s first choice for the film.
James Coburn
“I really wanted James Coburn, but he was too expensive,” Leone stated. “The Italian cinema is very poor. We got Clint for $15,000, Coburn wanted $25,000.”
The director revealed that because of the budgetary limitations that they had, there was no way possible for him to get James Coburn for the role. The actor wanted $10,000 more than what Eastwood had settled on, making it an absolutely impossible choice for them to hire Coburn. He elaborated on how being in the Italian cinema at that time did not give him flexibility with the budget. Due to this, Eastwood became his ideal choice and that in turn benefitted his career.
Clint Eastwood Almost did not Join Sergio Leone
Clint Eastwood’s career has been a rising climb for decades now. One of the reasons for this is his credible fame because of the Dollars trilogy. However, there was a slight chance that the actor would have given up on the role. According to a BBC documentary (via Farout Magazine), the actor was hesitant about saying yes.
Clint EastwoodClint Eastwood
 “I was doing Rawhide, and I was coming to a hiatus,” Eastwood remembered. “I took three months off, usually around February, March and April every year, and my agent in Los Angeles called me up and asked me if I’d like to go to Europe and make an Italian, German, Spanish co-production of a remake of a Japanese film [Yojimbo] in the plains of Spain.”
The actor/director stated that he was asked to make a film in a rather peculiar setting right after he was coming back from a three-month-long break. His reply to the same had been a rejection. In the end, he warmed up to the idea.

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Clint Eastwood

“I got to take her, and I still remember that”: Clint Eastwood Had A Personal Reason To Cherish His Oscar Win Despite His Anti-Semitic Comments Against Academy

Clint Eastwood is a legendary figure in Hollywood, not only because of acting prowess but also because he is a brilliant storyteller. From countless nominations to multiple wins, the Dirty Harry star has had enough accolades to his name, proving that he is every bit deserving of the fame he has received all these years. However, despite his immense fame, the actor has said some very concerning things in the past.
Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood
Years ago he had made some alleged antisemitic remarks about the Academy Awards committee but when he won his first Oscar, the actor-director accepted and enjoyed the experience for a very personal reason.
Clint Eastwood’s Reason For Cherishing His First Oscar
eastwood with his late motherEastwood with his late mother
Also Read:  “He was too expensive”: Clint Eastwood Starred in ‘Dollars Trilogy’ After Director Couldn’t Afford Another Oscar-Winning Actor With $15000 Salary
It has been decades since Clint Eastwood made his debut in Hollywood and ever since then he has been unstoppable. A recipient of numerous accolades and maker of multiple successful movies, the actor-director once had expressed his reservations about Academy Awards, even before he won his first-ever nomination.
While certain people labeled him as anti-semitic because of his Academy-related comments, he went on to get his first-ever nomination just sometime later at the age of 62. It was his movie Unforgiven that gave him an Oscar each for Best Picture and Best Director and a nomination for Best Actor.
Despite his earlier comments, the actor enjoyed his first nomination and win for a very personal reason which was being able to take his mother Ruth Wood to the ceremony (via Parade).
“It was nice, I guess. The nicest thing was that I got to take my mother to the Oscars. I’d been successful as a movie director and actor but not as successful in that kind of hoopla. So that was fun. I got to take her, and I still remember that. The trophies are tucked away in the house somewhere.”
Stated the director when asked if he even cared at that point about awards like the Oscars for he was already a pretty successful filmmaker at that point.
What Alleged Anti-Semitic Comments Did Clint Eastwood Make?
Clint Eastwood in UnforgivenClint Eastwood in Unforgiven
Clint Eastwood was 62 when he received his first Oscar nomination. Even though he lacked an Academy Award before, he was already a successful filmmaker and actor, having acted and directed several fan-loved movies.
However, before he ever won or was nominated for an Oscar, the actor was said to have stated in the book Clint: The Life and Legend of Clint Eastwood, a biography of his life written by Patrick McGilligan,
“I will never win an Oscar and do you know why? First of all, because I’m not Jewish. Secondly, because I make too much money for those old farts in the Academy. Thirdly, and most importantly, because I don’t give a f**k.”
His comments were understood by many as anti-semitic. However, things began to change for soon he went on to earn multiple Oscar nominations in the subsequent years after his first win with Unforgiven.
Unforgiven can be streamed on HBO Max.

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