Clint Eastwood: A look at the life of legendary Hollywood badass
You may say Clint Eastwood is the true badass American rebel who broke convention every step of the way -- from his early TV days to "spaghetti western" phase to the antihero cop Dirty Harry to directing movies and to politics. He went against the grain and left a mark in whichever space he entered. Although he never won an award for his acting, some of his works, among others, have made Eastwood him a lasting cultural icon of masculinity. He won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture for Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby(2004.)
Eastwood was immensely popular in Europe -- perhaps the westerns produced in Spain by Sergio Leone has something to do with it. In 2000, he was awarded the Italian Venice Film Festival Golden Lion for lifetime achievement. He received two of France's highest honors: Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1994 and the Legion of Honor medal in 2007.
Born on May 31, 1930, in San Francisco, California, Eastwood was never a good student. He was denied entry to Piedmont High School when after enrolling to the school, he rode his motorcycle on the school's sports field and tore up the wet turf. He then attended Oakland Technical High School, where he performed poorly. His high school friend quipped, "I don't think he was spending that much time at school because he was having a pretty good time elsewhere." "I think what happened is he just went off and started having a good time. I just don't think he finished high school," said another friend.
Before taking on acting, Eastwood worked as a lifeguard, paper carrier, grocery clerk, forest firefighter, and golf caddy. He was spotted in Fort Ord, California, by an assistant working at Universal studios. Director Arthur Lubin, who auditioned Eastwood was impressed by his appearance and stature, but not by his acting.
"He was quite amateurish. He didn't know which way to turn or which way to go or do anything." He did give him a minor role in Lady Godiva of Coventry, but Eastwood's performance was not well received. He was criticized for his stiff manner and delivering his lines through his teeth, which eventually became his signature.
In 1955, Eastwood appeared alongside Steve Allen, Tony Curtis, and Benny Goodman, in a few television shows produced by Universal. However, Universal terminated his contract the end of the year. He continued to audition and played small parts here and there with little success. After much struggle, he received his breakthrough role in 1958, for Rawhide, a CBS television series. The show ran from 1959 to 1965 and made Eastwood a familiar name.
I wanted to play it with an economy of words and create this whole feeling through attitude and movement. It was just the kind of character I had envisioned for a long time, keep to the mystery and allude to what happened in the past. It came about after the frustration of doing Rawhide for so long. I felt the less he said, the stronger he became and the more he grew in the imagination of the audience. -- on playing the Man with No Name character
In 1963, Italian director Sergio Leone was looking for a protagonist for A Fistful of Dollars. Not many actors, including Eric Fleming, were interested in the movie, but Eastwood took it as he saw an opportunity to break out of his Rawhide image.
The success of the movie, in which Eastwood played a mysterious man with no name, made him a major star in Italy. He was re-hired to star in For a Few Dollars More, and in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, alongside Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. All three movies were successful, especially the latter one, which made Eastwood a major star.
The three commercially successful spaghetti westerns, however, failed to impress American film critics. Eastwood's "wooden acting" was criticized heavily. Judith Crist called A Fistful of Dollars as "cheapjack," For a Few Dollars More was "excruciatingly dopey" for Newsweek, and Renata Adler of The New York Times said of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was "...the most expensive, pious and repellent movie in the history of its peculiar genre."
In 1968, Eastwood appeared in another western, Hang 'Em High, alongside Inger Stevens, Pat Hingle, Dennis Hopper, Ed Begley, Alan Hale, Ben Johnson, Bruce Dern, and James MacArthur. His onscreen persona of a mysterious lone stranger continued to fascinate the audience. In 1970, he appeared alongside Shirley MacLaine in Don Siegel-directed western Two Mules for Sister Sara.
Play Misty for Me (1971) was another major milestone for Eastwood - it was his first as a director. The movie, in which he appeared with Jessica Walter and Erroll Garner was highly acclaimed by film critics, including Jay Cocks and Andrew Sarris, among others. Then came Dirty Harry (1971,) a film written by Harry Julian Fink in which Eastwood played a hard-edged cop. His acting was widely praised.
Westerns. A period gone by, the pioneer, the loner operating by himself, without benefit of society. It usually has something to do with some sort of vengeance; he takes care of the vengeance himself, doesn't call the police. Like Robin Hood. It's the last masculine frontier. Romantic myth, I guess, though it's hard to think about anything romantic today. In a Western you can think, Jesus, there was a time when man was alone, on horseback, out there where man hasn't spoiled the land yet.
Share Quote — Eastwood, on the philosophical allure of portraying western loners
Eastwood collaborated Steven Spielberg in 1985 to direct Vanessa in the Garden episode of TV series Amazing Stories. The show starred Sondra Locke and Harvey Keitel. The year 1988 saw the release of the final Dirty Harry movie, The Dead Pool. His co-stars were Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, and Jim Carrey.
After a few dull years, in 1992, Eastwood went back to western genre with Unforgiven, which he directed. The script of the film had long existed, but Eastwood wanted to wait until he was old enough to play his character. Unforgiven turned out to be a major commercial and critical success, with nine Academy Awards nominations and four wins, including Best Picture and Best Director for Eastwood.
In 1997, Eastwood directed and starred in two moderately successful movies: Absolute Power alongside Gene Hackman and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, starring John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, and Jude Law.
His 2004 movie Million Dollar Baby, starring Hilary Swank, won four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Hilary Swank) and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman.) After a four-year hiatus, Eastwood directed and produced Gran Torino, which went on to become the highest-grossing film of Eastwood's career. Eastwood was 78 at the time.
With time Eastwood, became had also politically active. He registered as a Republican to vote for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and endorsed Richard Nixon's 1968 and 1972 campaigns -- an exception in a largely liberal Hollywood.
In his own words, his political views represented a fusion of Milton Friedman and Noam Chomsky. In 1986, he won election as mayor of his adopted hometown, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. In 2001 Eastwood was appointed to the California State Park and Recreation Commission by Governor Davis, then reappointed in 2004 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. During 2008 presidential election, Eastwood backed John McCain.
There's no stopping Eastwood.