Archive for the Profiles Category

Profile: Clint Eastwood- The Good, The Bad, and the Extraordinary

Posted in Profiles on February 16, 2009 by C.F. Varnau

Clint Eastwood is many things. An actor, director, producer, multi-time Oscar winner, father of seven and grandfather of two… but what he’s most known for is that face. That cold, determined look in his eyes. He’s famous for playing a character who has no name, but everyone knows the name Clint Eastwood.

Born May 31, 1930, in the prime of the depression, Clinton Eastwood Jr., son of a steel worker in San Francisco, Eastwood joined the military after having missed the second World War, and served as a swimming instructer in a boot camp during the Korean war, after surviving a plane crash and swimming three miles to shore.

After the war, young Eastwood was undecided about what to do in life. “Growing up, I never knew what I wanted to do. I was not a terribly good student or a very vivacious, outgoing person. I was just kind of a backward kid. I grew up in various little towns and ended up in Oakland, California, going to a trade school. I didn’t want to be an actor, because I thought an actor had to be an extrovert – somebody who loved to tell jokes and talk and be a raconteur. And I was something of an introvert. My mother used to say, ‘You have a little angel on your shoulder.’ I guess she was surprised I grew up at all, never mind that I got to where I am. The best I can do is quote a line from ‘Unforgiven,’ ‘Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.'”*

By 1955, he was starring in B-Films such as “Tarantula,” and soon got a part on the TV Western “Rawhide.”

“Rawhide” led to the biggest role he would ever play: The Man With No Name.

In 1964, the Italian film market was low. Sales were down and profits were nowhere. A group of producers hired director Sergio Leone to direct a film that could be marketed to an American audience as well as an Italian audience, but filmed by an Italian studio and shot for virtually nothing. The film was called “A Fistful of Dollars,” and it was an American Western remake of the Akira Kurosawa film “Yojimbo,” about a stranger in a town with two warring gangs who manages to take out both sides. The hero would be played by none other than Clint Eastwood.

“I was tired of playing the nice, clean-cut cowboy in ‘Rawhide,'” said Eastwood. “I wanted something earthier. Something different from the old-fashioned Western. You know: Hero rides in, very stalwart, with white hat, man’s beating a horse, hero jumps off, punches man, schoolmarm walks down the street, sees this situation going on, slight conflict with schoolmarm, but not too much. You know schoolmarm and hero will be together in exactly 10 more reels, if you care to sit around and wait, and you know the man beast horse with eventually get comeuppance from hero this guy bushwhacks him in reel nine. But ‘Fistful of Dollars’ was different; it definitely had satiric overtones. The hero was an enigmatic figure, and that worked within the context of this picture. In some films, he would be ludicrous. You can’t have a cartoon in the middle of a Renoir.”*

Two sequels followed, co-starring Lee Van Cleef. The final film in the trilogy, “The Good the Bad and the Ugly,” is often hailed as the best Western ever made.

Eastwood would then star in several more films, including “Hang ’em High,” “Coogan’s Bluff,” and “Kelly’s Heroes” before starring in his very own directorial debut, “Play Misty for Me.”

The film co-starred a young Jessica Walter, and was a large success. It would be the first of many Eastwood-helmed films that would be highly praised.

That same year, Eastwood starred in one of the biggest films of his career, “Dirty Harry.” He played a cop on the edge with an itchy trigger finger. The film elevated Eastwood into a higher level of celebrity status and the character and some of his one-liners became instantly recognizable.

Said Eastwood, “I think people jumped to conclusions about ‘Dirty Harry’ without giving the character much thought, trying to attach right-wing connotations to the film that were never really intended. Both the director and I thought it was a basic kind of drama – what do you do when you believe so much in law and order and coming to the rescue of people and you just have five hours to solve a case? That kind of impossible effort was fun to portray, but I think it was interpreted as a pro-police point of view, as a kind of rightist heroism, at a time in American history when police officers were looked down on as “pigs”, as very oppressive people – I’m sure there are some who are, and a lot who aren’t. I’ve met both kinds.”*

Eastwood would go on to make several sequels in the years to come, all which were successes.

In 1992, after over two decades of success with both acting and directing, Eastwood would make his masterpiece, one of the best films of the 90’s, “Unforgiven.”

Co-starring in the film was a friend of Eastwood’s and fellow actor, Gene Hackman. Said Eastwood, “Gene Hackman was interesting because I gave the ‘Unforgiven’ script to his agent and he said no, he didn’t want to do anything violent. But I went back to him and said, ‘I know where you’re coming from. You get to a certain age and I’m there too, where you don’t want to tell a lot of violent stories, but this is a chance to make a great statement.'”*

Hackman eventually accepted the role, and even won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. “Unforgiven” also won three more awards, including Best Director and Best Picture. To date, it’s ranked as one of the greatest films ever made.

Clint Eastwood’s next major role as actor and director would be in the 1995 drama, “The Bridges of Madison County.” This would prove to be a different film for the aging superstar. In it, Eastwood plays the part of Robert Kincaid, a photographer for National Geographic who has an intimate but brief enounter with a woman named Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep), that would change both of their lives.

“In ‘The Bridges of Madison County,'” said Eastwood, “(Robert) Kincaid’s a peculiar guy. Really, he’s kind of a lonely individual. He’s sort of a lost soul in mid-America. I’ve been that guy.”*

The film was successful, but definitely an unusual film for Eastwood, who commented, “When I was doing ‘The Bridges of Madison County,’ I said to myself, ‘This romantic stuff is really tough. I can’t wait to get back to shooting and killing.'”*

Eastwood went on to make two thrillers, “Absolute Power” and “True Crime,” a comedy called “Space Cowboys,” and another thriller, “Blood Work.” He would direct all of these, as well as the drama “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

In 2003, Eastwood directed an incredible, star-fueled drama called “Mystic River,” which swept the Oscars and amazed audiences and critics alike.

“I did not have to be in front of the camera, so it gave me a chance to stand back and watch some of the best performers we have in the country,”** said Eastwood prior to the film’s release.

The film won two Oscars, Sean Penn for Best Actor and Tim Robbins for Best Supporting Actor. The film was also nominated for Best Director and Best Picture.

The next year, Eastwood would return to the screen, behind the cameras, and at the Oscars with a film about morals, boxing, and will-power, “Million Dollar Baby.” In it, Eastwood played a boxing coach who reluctantly trains a young lady (Hilary Swank) and puts her on the independant circuit. But like most of Eastwood’s films, the tale would not turn out as happy as it would seem.

The film won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman), Best Actress (Hilary Swank), and Best Director.

In the years ahead, Eastwood would direct two incredible war films about Iwo Jima, “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima,” a critically-acclaimed drama called “Changeling,” and his most recent film, “Gran Torino,” about an aged man who takes on a gang in his rough neighborhood after the death of his wife.

“There’s a rebel lying deep in my soul,” said Eastwood. “Anytime anybody tells me the trend is such and such, I go the opposite direction. I hate the idea of trends. I hate imitation; I have a reverence for individuality. I got where I am by coming off the wall. I’ve always considered myself too individualistic to be either right-wing or left-wing.”*

Eastwood is 78, but he doesn’t seem to have any quit in him yet.

“My involvement goes deeper than acting or directing. I love every aspect of the creation of motion pictures and I guess I’m committed to it for life.”*

*quoted from
**from studio briefing