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Clint Eastwood

Young Clint Eastwood: How the Western Legend Got His Start

Actor and director Clint Eastwood has been a Hollywood legend since the ’50s, and at 93 he’s still going strong. He even has a new movie in production, Juror No. 2, which is rumored to be his final film. With a career that spans six decades and includes classics like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Dirty Harry and Unforgiven, we know that once the screen cowboy rides off into the sunset a final time, he will be truly irreplaceable.
In anticipation of his upcoming film, we’re taking a look back at how young Clint Eastwood began his incredible Hollywood reign.
Young Clint Eastwood in 1958

Young Clint Eastwood in 1958Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty
Clint Eastwood’s origins
Born in San Francisco on May 31, 1930, young Clint Eastwood had a transitory life growing up during the Great Depression. His family moved around before settling in Piedmont, a small city surrounded by Oakland, California. His parents were Clinton Eastwood Sr., a bond salesman and later manufacturing executive for Georgia-Pacific Corporation, and Ruth Wood, a housewife who became an IBM clerk. Eastwood’s mother once said young Clint had quite an imagination and made up many imaginary friends, which may have inspired him to become an actor.
Growing up, Clint was interested in music (later telling Esquire “If I’d had good discipline, I might have gone into music“) but he didn’t fully apply himself in school, and was held back a grade. When Eastwood graduated from high school in 1949, he and his parents and sister, Jeanne, moved to Seattle. He spent a few years in the Pacific Northwest as a young adult, operating log broncs in Springfield, Oregon, and serving as a summer lifeguard in Renton, Washington.
Young Clint Eastwood taking a swim, 1956Clint Eastwood taking a swim in 1956Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty
In 1951, Eastwood returned to his native California, but duty called with the Korean War. Eastwood got drafted and did a two-year stint at Fort Ord, a now-closed Army base. “I didn’t know where I wanted to be until I was drafted in the Army,” Eastwood told Parade. “I got out and I knew that I had to do something.” That something turned out to be acting. Eastwood enrolled at Los Angeles City College, but soon dropped out of school to pursue acting, and thus began an incredible career.
Portrait of young Clint Eastwood, 1960Portrait of Clint Eastwood in 1960Hulton Archive/Getty
Clint Eastwood the young actor
Like many young actors trying to get their foot in the door, Eastwood started out in small, uncredited roles in B-movies like Revenge of the Creature and Tarantula, both in 1955. During this time, Eastwood continued to work day jobs — including digging swimming pools and driving a garbage truck — to supplement his income. Meanwhile, in 1953, Eastwood married Maggie Johnson, a secretary he met on a blind date. The couple had a turbulent marriage, and their divorce was finalized in 1984.
Maggie Johnson and Clint Eastwood, 1956Maggie Johnson and Clint Eastwood in 1956Michael Ochs Archives/Getty
Young Eastwood’s breakthrough role came in 1959, when he began playing Rowdy Yates in the Western TV series Rawhide. The show ran until 1965, and made Eastwood into a star over the course of 217 episodes.
In the ’60s, Eastwood became an international movie star, as he was cast in many Spaghetti Westerns (a subgenre of Western films from Europe, mostly produced by Italians). Eastwood starred as the Man With No Name in Sergio Leone’s classic mid-’60s trilogy of A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. In these films, he was the archetypal stoic antihero. Eastwood’s first US-made Western, Hang ‘Em High, was a success in 1968, as was Coogan’s Bluff, a crime thriller made with director Don Siegel, who would become his frequent collaborator.
Clint Eastwood on the set of 'For a Few Dollars More,' 1965Clint Eastwood in For a Few Dollars More (1965)United Artists/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty
Clint Eastwood in the ’70s and ’80s
In 1971, Eastwood had his busiest-yet film year, starring as a Union soldier in The Beguiled. Then, he crossed over into film directing, making his director’s debut that same year with the psychological thriller Play Misty for Me. Eastwood became a household name with his 1971 role as the hard-boiled police inspector title character in Dirty Harry, which was one of his most iconic roles. He’d go on to reprise the part throughout the ’70s and ’80s in Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool.
Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry (1971)Silver Screen Collection/Getty
Eastwood’s fire continued to burn brightly for the rest of the ’70s, with one action-packed, intense film after another. Other hits in this decade include Joe Kidd, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and Escape from Alcatraz. While Eastwood is known for Westerns, he branched out into the comedy genre in 1978, starring alongside an orangutang in Every Which Way but Loose. The movie was a surprise hit, and became his top-grossing title at the time.
Clint Eastwood In 'Every Which Way But Loose,' 1978Clint Eastwood in Every Which Way but Loose (1978)Warner Brothers/Getty
Eastwood’s successful streak continued in the ’80s. In 1980, he starred in Any Which Way You Can, a sequel to Every Which Way but Loose. Then came the fourth Dirty Harry film in 1983, Sudden Impact, which was the highest-grossing film of the series. Sudden Impact introduced the iconic catchphrase, “Go ahead, make my day.” Several more hits followed this decade, including Bronco Billy, Firefox and Tightrope — and then, in 1988, came the fifth and final Dirty Harry film, The Dead Pool.
Clint Eastwood In 'The Dead Pool,' 1988Clint Eastwood in The Dead Pool (1988)Warner Brothers/Getty
Unfortunately, that was the last successful Eastwood project for a while. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Eastwood had two films that bombed: Pink Cadillac in 1989 and The Rookie in 1990. But Eastwood was always a man who rose to the occasion, and soon enough, he’d make a triumphant comeback.
Clint Eastwood in the ’90s and beyond
After a disappointing end to the ‘80s, Eastwood, who told Variety, “I don’t want to repeat what I did in the last decade or the decade before that,” made his big comeback in 1992 with the dark Western Unforgiven. For this movie, a 62-year-old Eastwood earned Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture. He had a few more hits in the ‘90s, including The Bridges of Madison County, a romantic drama co-starring Meryl Streep, but Eastwood’s success stalled again at the end of the decade.
Clint Eastwood holding his Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, 1992 Clint Eastwood holding his Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director in 1993Steve Starr/Corbis/Getty
From the early 2000s on, Eastwood bounced back and revived his career, mostly in directing. He directed many critically and commercially successful movies, including Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, J. Edgar, American Sniper and Sully. Now in his 90s, with decades of experience in front of and behind the camera under his belt, Eastwood hasn’t entirely given up on acting. In fact, in 2021, Eastwood both directed and starred in Cry Macho.
In a 2021 interview with Parade, when asked about possibly retiring, Eastwood said, “I’m constantly figuring out what I’m going to do next. I still love taking somebody’s idea, whether it’s a book or a play, and developing it. Maybe other people want to do a few movies and quit, and that’s great. Maybe they’ve got something else they could do and keep busy. I don’t. I love movies and enjoy making them.” In his 90s, Eastwood still has the dedicated work ethic of a man half his age.
Clint Eastwood, 2019 Clint Eastwood in 2019Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty
While Juror No. 2 may well be Eastwood’s final movie, after such a storied career, we would welcome Eastwood for an encore if he’s up for it. If he does finally retire, his more than half-century-long filmography as a director and movie star is well worth revisiting, and we can’t help but admire his timeless cool and profound staying power in an ever-changing industry.

Clint Eastwood

Mystic River: Why Clint Eastwood’s Best Movie Still Holds Up Today

A filmmaker of Clint Eastwood‘s caliber is going to have a filmography full of gems. Primarily known for his work in Westerns, biopics, and military dramas, every so often, Eastwood steps outside his comfort zone and delivers in a genre that would seem completely unexpected on paper. That happened in 2003 with Mystic River, a neo-noir murder mystery drama that seems a bit forgotten or overlooked, even though it was a financial success and earned six Academy Award nominations. It represents Eastwood at his very best, breathing vivid life into complex characters as he examines a plethora of themes that range from loyalty, friendship, revenge, and, ultimately, forgiveness.

Mystic River is based on the 2001 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, and it follows the lives of three childhood friends, Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), and Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins), living in Charlestown, Boston in 1975. Dave is kidnapped by two men claiming to be police officers, and he’s sexually abused by them over a four-day period until he escapes. The traumatic event shapes the three friends, and they ultimately lead very different lives twenty-five years later.

Jimmy is an ex-con that now owns a convenience store in the neighborhood, Sean works for the Massachusetts State Police as a detective, and Dave is your everyday blue-collar worker that still lives with the trauma of being abducted and raped. Their lives are forced together once again through tragedy when Jimmy’s daughter Katie (Emmy Rossum) is found murdered, and friendship is tested when all signs point to Dave being the murderer.
Mystic River Is a Departure From Clint Eastwood’s Other Work

Sean Penn held back by cops in Mystic RiverWarner Bros.

Eastwood tackles the material in Mystic River with a sure and confident hand. It also represents a unique departure from some of his other films. Much of the action takes place under the cover of darkness, and Eastwood is able to find beauty in that darkness. The filmmaker focuses on a character’s eyes or the gleam of a weapon, for instance, as darkness permeates most of the scene.

For the scenes that take place during the day, the filmmaker opts for tight close-ups that linger over the emotions of his impressive cast. There is something uncomfortably intimate about Mystic River, and that has much to do with the subject matter. None of this story is particularly easy to digest, and Eastwood adds to that discomfort with his choices to frame scenes in such a way that’s almost intrusive. The audience feels a growing sense of dread and tension as more of the story unfolds.
Using Lehane’s novel and Brian Helgeland’s screenplay as a blueprint, Eastwood profoundly explores generational trauma and how the sins of the past can leave a permanent mark on our present. Even though the abuse only happened to Dave, the effects of the event leave a mark on all three friends, with Dave being the primary victim and the others feeling a sense of survivor’s guilt for not being subjected to it themselves.
The ordeal forever changes their union because they’re never quite able to look at each other the same way again, as each friend deals with the trauma differently. Jimmy is stunned by the act of abuse but can’t give Dave the support he needs, which then bleeds into their present when Jimmy begins to suspect that Dave had something to do with his daughter’s murder. He doesn’t want to consider that his friend would do something like this because of the trauma he endured as a child, but as evidence mounts against him, Jimmy has to decide if friendship and loyalty overshadow his need for vigilante justice. The story is rich with so many complexities that make it some of Eastwood’s most compelling work as a filmmaker.

Eastwood also takes his time with the story and lets it unfold as it should. Mystic River is very nuanced, and he knows he’s dealing with heartbreaking subject matter that requires patience and respect. The story is grounded in so much reality that Eastwood seems keenly aware that a viewer might be an actual victim of this kind of abuse themselves, so he delicately approaches the topic and gives it the emotional weight it deserves.
He also shows the uncomfortable side of abuse where the victim, unfortunately, can be shamed because of the event. Dave becomes an outsider later in his life, even with his close friends, something that sadly comes along with this kind of trauma. Eastwood approaches all of this responsibly and provides a very balanced outlook to all the events transpiring on screen.
Mystic River has become known for its powerhouse performances, and Eastwood pulls the very best from his ensemble cast. While the scenes with the young actors are brief in the beginning, they set the tone of who these people will be twenty-five years later. Dave becomes the outcast because of the event; Jimmy lacks empathy and doesn’t trust authority, while Sean becomes the grounded one of the bunch and a police officer in an attempt to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.

Clint Eastwood Pulls Powerhouse Performances From His Cast

Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, and Kevin Bacon do a great job conveying the unspoken tension between all three of these characters. There is a sense of loyalty, but so much has taken place over the years that it has forced them all to lead very different lives. As a group, they are uniformly excellent. You feel the history between the characters and the bonds that were broken, only to be reopened by a new traumatic event.
On their own, Penn gives the performance of a lifetime as Jimmy, and it’s not a shock that this turn finally earned him his first Academy Award for Best Actor. Penn is a dominant presence in all of his scenes, and there is a sense of uncertainty whenever he’s around because you don’t know exactly what move he will make.

That’s not to say he doesn’t display layers. All of that bravado is broken once he finds out his daughter is murdered. It’s hard to pinpoint a director’s best scene on film, but what Eastwood pulls out of Penn during the “Is that my daughter?” sequence represents some of his very best work as a filmmaker.
Robbins also received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work here, representing a much-deserved win. As Dave, Robbins is the tragic and emotional heart of the story. The viewer feels instant empathy for Dave due to what he went through as a child, but you’re also left questioning everything when it seems like Dave could be the one who murdered Katie.
Robbins keeps you on your toes throughout, making you question his innocence while also seeing the tenderness in him as he interacts with his own child, who is just about the age he was when he was abused. As for Bacon, of the three male leads, he gives the most subdued performance, but it suits the character. He’s trying to make everything right and keep it all together. It’s a subtle performance that carries its own emotional weight.

Eastwood also makes the supporting roles worthy of attention. Marcia Gay Harding, as Dave’s wife Celeste, puts in powerful work here that earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, while Laura Linney more than holds her own with Penn as his second wife, Annabeth. In addition, Laurence Fishburne also fills in as Sgt. Whitey Powers in another excellent part.
Mystic River is a haunting and poetic motion picture that showcases a director laying it all out on the table. Eastwood gives the audience everything he has as a director and pours it out across the screen in a film that is just as powerful twenty years after its initial release.

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Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood’s Most Iconic Non-Western Role Was Only Possible Because Of This Actor

SUMMARY

 Clint Eastwood’s role in Dirty Harry is considered one of his most iconic, and the film is a classic in the crime genre.
 Paul Newman initially turned down the role of Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry but recommended Clint Eastwood for the part.
 Newman declined the role due to his liberal beliefs, and Eastwood’s portrayal of Callahan differed from Newman’s perspective, but both respected each other.

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Although Clint Eastwood first built his impressive career on Western movies like The Man with No Name franchise and The Outlaw Josey Wales, the actor’s biggest non-Western role in Dirty Harry is one of his most iconic, and it might have never happened without this one actor. Clint Eastwood began acting in the 1950s, and over several decades, became a staple in the Western genre. What makes Eastwood stand out is the fact that he has not only appeared in countless films, but has also directed them himself. Films like Unforgiven and Gran Torino have defined his career. However, Dirty Harry is by far one of Clint Eastwood’s best films.

In 1971, Clint Eastwood starred in the neo-noir action film Dirty Harry. The film, and its adjoining sequels, follow Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan, a rugged detective that is on a hunt for a psychopathic serial killer named Scorpio. The Dirty Harry franchise lasted from 1971 to 1988, and has since been considered a classic. In fact, Dirty Harry was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress because of its cultural significance. However, this film might have been vastly different if Clint Eastwood had never been in it, and scarily enough, this definitely could have happened back in 1971.
Paul Newman Rejected Dirty Harry Before Suggesting Clint Eastwood For The Role

Dirty Harry 2

Dirty Harry went through many production challenges before it was actually made, and one of those included casting the iconic detective. In the film’s early stages, the role was offered to actors such as John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Steve McQueen, and Burt Lancaster. However, for various reasons, including the violence that permeates the film, these actors all declined. For a time, Frank Sinatra was attached to the project, but he also eventually left the production. In reality, Clint Eastwood wasn’t even in the cards for portraying Dirty Harry, but his big break came when Paul Newman was offered and declined the role.

Paul Newman, like many amazing actors before him, was offered the role of Harry Callahan, but ultimately said no. However, what makes his refusal stand out among the rest is that he recommended another actor that could be perfect for the role: Clint Eastwood. At this time, Eastwood was in post-production for his first film Play Misty for Me, meaning his career was taking something of a turn. Also, unlike his predecessors, Eastwood joined up with Dirty Harry, just as Newman thought he would. Because of his Western roots, the violence and aggression that made up Dirty Harry didn’t bother Eastwood at all.

Why Paul Newman Turned Down Dirty Harry

Paul Newman holding a gun.

Paul Newman turning down the leading role in Dirty Harry may not seem too surprising considering the host of other actors that also declined the movie, but Newman definitely had his reasons. While previous actors had condemned the movie for its incredible violence and themes of “the ends justify the means,” Newman refused to take the role because of his political beliefs. Since Harry Callahan was a renegade cop, intent on catching a serial killer no matter the cost or the rules that would be broken, Newman saw this character as too right-wing for his own liberal beliefs.

Paul Newman was an outspoken liberal during his life. He was open about his beliefs, so much so that he even made it onto Richard Nixon’s enemies list due to his opposition of the Vietnam War. Other issues that Newman spoke out for included gay rights and same-sex marriage, the decrease in production and use of nuclear weapons, and global warming. As a result of his politics, Newman quickly denied the role of Harry Callahan. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly as reported by Far Out Magazine, Clint Eastwood commented that he didn’t view Callahan in the way Newman did, but still respected him as an actor and a man.

Would Dirty Harry Have Been So Successful Without Clint Eastwood?

Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry Callahan

Ultimately, it’s hard to say whether Dirty Harry would have been successful without Clint Eastwood. Arguably, any big-time actor could have made the film succeed solely based on their fame. However, one aspect of Dirty Harry and its carousel of actors is that the movie had various scripts, all with different plots. So, if Dirty Harry had been in a different location with a different serial killer and a different lead actor, there’s a chance it wouldn’t have been nearly as successful. In the end, Dirty Harry is a signature for Clint Eastwood, and most likely, audiences are lucky that it was made the way it was.

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Clint Eastwood

The story of how Clint Eastwood prevented Ron Howard from embarrassment

A star of American cinema both in front of and behind the camera, Ron Howard is often forgotten when recalling the greatest directors of modern cinema, yet his contributions to the art form remain unmatched. Working with the likes of Tom Hanks, Chris Hemsworth, Russell Crowe and John Wayne, Howard has brought such classics as Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and Rush to the big screen.
Entering the industry in the late 1950s and 1960s, Howard started his career as an actor, making a name for himself in shows like Just Dennis and The Andy Griffith Show before his role in 1970s Happy Days would catapult him to national acclaim. His directorial debut would come at a similar time, helming 1977’s Grand Theft Auto, the ropey first movie in a filmography that would later become known for its abundance of quality.
Known for his acting talents, Howard wouldn’t become a fully-fledged director in the eyes of the general public until the 1980s, when he worked with Tom Hanks on 1984’s Splash and George Lucas for the 1988 cult favourite Willow.
With hopes of becoming the new Star Wars, Willow was instead a peculiar fantasy tale that told the story of a young farmer who is chosen to undertake the challenge to protect a magical baby from an evil queen. Starring the likes of Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley, the film failed to make a considerable dent in pop culture at the time, largely being ridiculed by critics and audiences alike.
Screened at the Cannes Film Festival, the movie was spared humiliation by none other than Clint Eastwood, who saw the craftsmanship behind the picture, as described by Ron’s daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard.
Speaking to Daily Mail, the actor recalled: “My dad made a film called Willow when he was a young filmmaker, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival and people were booing afterwards. It was obviously so painful for him, and Clint, who he didn’t know at that time, stood up and gave him a standing ovation and then everyone else stood up because Clint did”.
Dallas Howard, who worked with Eastwood on the 2010 movie Hereafter, became very fond of Eastwood as a result, looking up to him as an exemplary Hollywood talent. “Clint puts himself out there for people,” she added, “As a director he is very cool, very relaxed, there’s no yelling ‘action’ or ‘cut’. He just says: ‘You know when you’re ready.’ I told my dad he should do that!”.
Take a look at the trailer for Howard’s 1988 fantasy flick below.

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