Towering at six feet and five inches, this lanky man of 83 years old possesses a charisma that is incredibly rare for a man of his age. In Hollywood, good looks can only get you so far; for someone like Clint who has both looks and talent, rising to stardom is inevitable.
Clinton “Clint” Eastwood, Jr. is the eldest child of Clinton Sr. and Margaret Ruth Runner. Clint’s father was a successful steelworker prior to the Great Depression. Clint was born on 31 May 1930, close to time the Stock Market crashed.
Margaret gave birth to Clint, their firstborn, at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco. His mother has said in an A&E biography, “I know that he is special from the start.” Her son weighed 11.6 pounds and was the biggest and heaviest baby in the nursery ward. Hospital nurses referred to Baby Clint as “Samson” because of his seemingly burly appearance – for an infant.
Following the depression, Clinton Sr.’s inevitably declined, with the family occasionally being forced to move to find better opportunities. With a growing family after the birth of their daughter, Jeanne, in 1934, Clinton Sr. was forced to take odd jobs to make ends meet. In desperate need of money, he even worked at a gas pumping station.
Due to their frequent moving, it was difficult for Clint to establish friendships. Just as he would get comfortable in a new environment, his parents would announce it was again time to move. This had a lasting impact on Clint’s formative years. He grew up a very shy boy; always being the new kid in town, Clint tended to keep to himself.
Although he disliked moving constantly from one place to another, he understood why it had to be done. Clint had always looked up to his dad, who taught him to excel in everything he does. It was his father who kindled his imagination and sensitivity. Clinton Sr. always told his son, “One must constantly be absorbing life and be educating oneself. If you didn't, you just ... slid back.”
This sort of upbringing certainly influenced Clint’s creativity. Jeanne describes her brother as a “dreamer” and very “imaginative,” with toys that were “the kind that talked.” As a child, he did not mind having to play all by himself.
Clint and Jeanne were very close to their grandmother, Virginia. They often spent summer vacations at Virginia’s farm, which she maintained herself. Clint has recalled playing with Jeanne on the farm while their grandmother lovingly looked after them.
Whenever the family moved, they brought with them only one piece of furniture: Grandma Andy’s Piano. It was made in Germany and had originally belonged to Clinton’s mother, who was a very able pianist, and Clint took after her love of music.
Unlike Grandma Virginia, who had the privilege of seeing both Clint and Jeanne, Grandma Andy passed away five years before Clint was born. Clint never knew his Grandma Andy, but he took great interest in the prized possession she left behind. It was Margaret who took time to nurture Clint’s musical interest.
Although the piano was a burly piece to take with them when they moved, the Eastwood couple never even considered letting it go. Even at their lowest moments when they were forced to spend the night in their car, the piano was left to the care of Grandma Virginia.
It was on that piano where Clint first learned how to play jazz music. When the family finally settled in Oakland in mid-1940s, Clint had grown into a handsome and lanky teenager. Aside from his musical inclination, Clint was also obsessed with cars. He was only 15 years old when he owned his first automobile—a model 32 Chevy.
Despite his good looks, Clint never thought of joining show business. He attended Oakland Technical High School and graduated in 1948, and helped his parents by doing odd jobs in gas stations, fields, steel mills and factories.
Not knowing which career path to take, Clint considered taking a course in music at Seattle University. However, before he had a chance to enrol, he was drafted to join the Army Special Services and serve in the war against Korea. He went with a heavy heart, believing that participating in a senseless war would effectively throw away the bright future awaiting him.
He began training at Fort Ord in Monterey in 1951. It was there where he struck friendship with actors Martin Milner and David Janssen. The two noticed Clint’s good looks and tried to persuade him to do a screen test. Being the introvert that he was, Clint brushed their well-meaning advice aside, all the while bent on pursuing a career in music.
Clint survived a plane crash during training at Fort Ord in 1951, ending what was supposed to be Clint’s foray into the military. The Douglas AD Bomber had encountered technical trouble and plunged into the ocean. To reach the coast, Clint and the pilot swam a total of five kilometers. He was not sent to Korea, but was instead assigned to tend the pool at Fort Ord. He also became a lifeguard and swimming instructor.
Clint Considers becoming an Actor
After his stint at Fort Ord, Clint moved from Monterey to Los Angeles, California. Under the G.I. Bill, he was able to enrol in Los Angeles City College and took classes in Business Administration. Music was not offered at L.A.C.C. and he did not give much thought to enrolling in a business course. Nevertheless, he enjoyed college life as he found himself constantly surrounded by girls. With good looks, as well as a talent for playing the piano, Clint needed little effort to attract the ladies’ attention.
Clint was tall, handsome, and adorably shy, and women were naturally intrigued by his enigmatic personality. In 1953, Clint was introduced to swimsuit model Margaret Johnson via a blind date. He was immediately smitten, supposedly by her smile and curiosity. At 23 years old, marriage was far from his mind; meeting Maggie, however, changed his priorities and turned his world upside down. Six months after meeting, Clint proposed to Maggie and they were married on 19 December 1953.
As in any young marriage, their relationship was complicated by both petty quarrels and a lack of readiness. They had to make money, and Clint was nothing but a university dropout. He had no idea where to begin building a career. He did not even know what he wanted.
Clint soon discovered what he was born to do after Chuck Hill, who had connections in Hollywood, managed to secure a meeting with a cameraman named Irving Glassberg.
Irving then introduced Clint to Arthur Lubin of Universal Studios (which was known as Universal-International at the time). Arthur needed only one look at Clint to surmise that he had the potential to be a Hollywood star. Clint, however, was not entirely prepared for the opportunity before him; it was obvious that the good-looking, 6’4” young man had never acted in his life.
To provide Clint with a sufficient base in acting, Lubin agreed on a contract which allowed him to take drama classes. Clint accepted the terms and was even able to secure a few un-credited roles in the 1955 films “Revenge of the Creature,” “Lady Godiva of Coventry,” and “Tarantula.”
Although his performances are often criticized as stiff and bereft of emotion, Clint has never truly changed his acting style; it is the audience, rather, who has grown accustomed to him.
Movie Offers begin
The first five years of his life in Hollywood consisted primarily of un-credited roles and insignificant TV appearances. A supporting role in the TV series “Rawhide,” which began airing in 1959, commenced his regular acting career. He played the part of Rowdy Yates and his performance was well-received, although he later confessed that he never felt comfortable with the role.
“Rawhide” proved to be a successful endeavour and maintained steady popularity for seven years. The show was then cancelled, reportedly due to a lack of new material to offer to viewers. Clint greatly profited from the experience, however, and the series was his longest to-date. He was also said to have received a total compensation of $119,000 upon the show’s cancellation.
Now gaining popularity and self–confidence, Clint wanted to break free from his “Rawhide” image. An incredible offer to star in a Sergio Leone-directed spaghetti western came in 1963. Eric Flemming, Clint’s co-star in “Rawhide,” was originally cast for the role. When Eric rejected the offer, Clint read the script and decided to take it, believing it was exactly the break he needed.
With a $15,000 contract and a promised Mercedes upon completion, Clint flew to Spain to begin filming what would become one of the classic cowboy movies of all time. “A Fist Full of Dollars” was so successful in Italy that Clint was launched instantly into superstardom. It was a foreshadowing of his imminent global success.
It was only his first lead role, and it effectively cemented his celebrity status. The success of the film earned Italian director Sergio Leone his claim to fame, as well, as the pioneer of spaghetti westerners (cowboy films directed by Italian filmmakers). It gave birth to a new genre of western films and defined Clint as a promising actor.
Because it was made for Italian viewers, “A Fist Full of Dollars” was not shown in the United States until the trilogy was completed. Sergio Leone soon contacted Clint for the second of three Dollar movies, “For a Few Dollars More.” Again, it was a box office hit in Italy and the audience was thrilled to see the Man With No Name pursue a renegade Indio. Clint was back on the big screen, smoking cigars and acting the part while saying so little.
The third and final installment of the Sergio Leone film was the widely-renowned “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” This time, his character was shown searching for gold buried in a cemetery.
It was four years after the Dollars trilogy began filming that it was released in the United States. All three films were shown in 1967, one after another—“A Fist Full of Dollars” in January, “For a Few More Dollars” in May, and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” in December. Despite being well-received by the public, critics were less convinced. Many bashed the films and insinuated that sensationalism was largely responsible for their success.
Amidst such criticism, Clint let them be; he did not make films to please only a select few. Many new offers poured in, and they were no longer for un-credited bits. Clint Eastwood had officially become a superstar in his home country.
Clint Starts Producing
Having earned quite a fortune from his box office trilogy, Clint decided to start his own productions company with the help of his accountant and advisor, Irving Leonard. They named the new business “The Malpaso Company,” which soon became “Malpaso Productions.”
Its name was derived from a property purchased by Clint in Monterey County where the Malpaso Creek can be found. The Italian word “Malpaso,” when translated into English, means “bad pass.” Despite its name, Malpaso Productions was anything but a bad venture.
With more liberty and creative control, he co-produced “Hang ‘Em High” with the Leonard Freeman Production. He played the role of a Marshall impostor who sought to vindicate himself against the vigilantes who manhandled and nearly killed him. “Coogan’s Bluff” was also filming even before filming for “Hang ‘Em High” began. It was the first of five movies Clint would produce with his director friend, Don Siegel.
Rising success meant spending more time away from his wife, Maggie. During the early part of the 1960s, the decade in which his popularity skyrocketed, Clint met Roxanne Tunis, an exotic dancer. An illicit affair began between the two which led to Roxanne’s pregnancy with Clint’s first child, Kimber Tunis, in 1964.
Clint did not acknowledge Kimber until she was 32 years old. Although Clint’s fathering a child in an extramarital affair almost cost him his marriage, the couple eventually reconciled and opted to start over. In 1968, Maggie gave birth to their first son, Kyle. Four years later, she gave birth to their first daughter, Alison.
In 1969, Clint starred in his first musical film, “Paint Your Wagon.” It was a commercial and critical failure, but earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. It was followed by another western, “Two Mules for Sister Sara,” in which he acted with Shirley MacLaine. It was not as successful as his Dollar trilogy, however and the critiques were unforgiving. Although the film did not earn the following they expected, it found its way into “The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made.”
His next film was “The Beguiled,” in which he again collaborated with Don Siegel. It did poorly in the United States, although it was a major success in France. Before the year ended, Clint also appeared in “Kelly’s Heroes,” and it was his last starring role in a film not produced by The Malpaso Company.
Even before the death of Clint’s business consultant, Irving Leonard, in 1971, the thought of directing had certainly crossed his mind. He debuted as a director in the film “Play Misty for Me,” a thriller about a disgruntled fan who starts an impersonal relationship with a disc-jockey. The psychotic fan was played by Jessica Walter, who earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress for her role.
Redefining Spaghetti Movies
In the same year, Clint would direct the first of his Harry Callahan films. “Dirty Harry” hit theatres in 1971 and not only solidified Clint’s superstar stature, but made him into an icon. He was widely considered perfect for the role.
After the film’s release, sales of .44 Magnum pistols reached unprecedented heights. Everyone wanted to carry the gun Harry Callahan so coolly fired at anyone who annoyed him. Some people argue that Harry Callahan was Clint’s all-time best performance; who could ever forget his historic line?
"I know what you're thinking — 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But, being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"
The audience was bound to remember whatever lines Clint’s characters spoke. He was even offered the role of James Bond, but he rejected the offer, commenting that the role is best played by an Englishman. In addition, Clint used his time away from acting to busy himself with Hog's Breath Inn, which he began operating in 1971.
Meeting Sondra Locke
He met the woman with whom he would soon start a romantic relationship on the set of “Breezy” in 1973. He and Sondra Locke were both married at the time; however, her sculptor husband, Gordon Anderson, eventually came out as a homosexual. Clint and Sondra were friends for two years before beginning a relationship that would last for 14 years.
In the same year that “Breezy” was released, Clint decided it was time for a second Harry Callahan movie. “Magnum Force” was released in 1973, and it earned $58.1 million dollars. Again, it was a major success despite not-so-favourable reviews from critics, who considered it predictable and repetitive.
After “Magnum Force,” “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” would be Clint’s next movie, alongside Jeff Bridges and George Kennedy. His impressive performance earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the Academy Awards. The then starred in “Eiger Sanction,” which he also directed. The film was so poorly-received that it led to the end of Clint’s collaboration with Universal Studios and, later, a brand-new deal with Warner Brothers.
A year after filing for divorce in 1975, Clint cast his and Maggie’s son, Kyle, in “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” a film in which he starred and directed. Despite some controversy, it was a huge success, and made it to TIME’s list of the Top 10 Films of the Year.
The third Harry Callahan film, “The Enforcer,” was not as renowned as the first two films of the series, and was also significantly shorter. It made a total of $100 million dollars, however, and with inflation adjustment, was touted as the highest-grossing film of Clint Eastwood’s career.
Another of Clint’s unforgettable roles was in the comedy “Every Which Way but Loose,” which included a scene of Clint talking with an orang-utan. The year 1979 was also the year in which “Escape from Alcatraz,” the last Clint Eastwood film directed by Don Siegel, was released.
Clint as a Director
Clint appeared with his children, Kyle and Allison, in the film “Bronco Billy.” By then, Clint had earned the reputation of an efficient director who, instead of barking “Action!” would say something closer to “OK, let’s start.” His “Cut!” sounded more like, “OK, that’s it.” He did not use storyboards, either. Clint was relatively laid-back as a director, but it did not diminish the quality of his work. If anything, it added to the scenes’ authenticity and made his films look more natural.
“Any Which Way You Can,” the sequel of “Every Which Way but Loose,” was released in 1980, and became one of the five top-grossing films of the year. It was also around this time that Clint had a clandestine affair with Jacelyn Reeves, a flight attendant whom he met at a pub. He is said to have fathered two children with her, Scott and Kathryn, although he never acknowledged them.
In 1982, Clint directed and starred in two movies—“Honkeytonk Man” and “Firefox.” The fourth Harry Callahan film was released one year later. “Sudden Impact” was the last movie he made with Sondra Locke, who refused to leave her gay husband. Their relationship ended in a nasty breakup that went as far as Sondra filing a lawsuit against Clint. The two later settled their differences silently and out of the public’s eye.
“Go ahead, make my day”—Used in Ronald Reagan’s Speech
It was in “Sudden Impact” that Clint said his legendary line: “Go ahead, make my day,” a line that was also famously quoted by then-candidate Ronald Reagan in the 1984 U.S. Presidential elections.
In 1985, Clint directed a TV series, “Amazing Stories,” in collaboration with Steven Spielberg, and oversaw the episode “Vanessa in the Garden.” Returning to the genre which offered the most comfort, Clint directed and acted in the movie “Pale Rider” that same year. It was often regarded as one of the best western films in history.
In addition to film, music has always been a love of his life. He filmed the biopic of his favourite jazz player, Charlie “Bird” Parker, with Forrest Whitaker playing the lead role. It earned Clint the Cecil B. DeMille Award and the Golden Globe award for Best Director.
Clint collaborated with Frances Fisher in the 1989 movie, “Pink Cadillac.” They began a relationship and moved in together the following year, later giving birth to a daughter named Francesca.
Producing and Directing Multi-Awarded Movies
Clint also starred in another western, “Unforgiven,” with Gene Hackman. It is considered Clint’s most critically-acclaimed movie, and it earned a total of nine Academy Awards. Among these, Clint was named Best Director and the film was awarded Best Picture. Clint found an even greater thrill when he met Dina Ruiz, a TV anchor who pursued him for an interview. Just as with his first wife, he was smitten by Diana’s eyes and, three years after meeting, got married for the second time. Their daughter, Morgan, was born in 1996.
During the 67th Academy Awards, Clint received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his contributions to the film industry. In 2003, he proved his worth as a musician when he scored the tracks for his movie “Mystic River.” Aside from Academy Award nominations, his impeccable directing skills have also earned him the Best Director of the Year Award from the London Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.
Another Best Director and Best Picture Award awaited Clint upon the success of his 2004 film, “Million Dollar Baby.” It would be another four years before his stellar comeback in “Gran Torino,” which earned $258 million dollars.
In 2011, he competed yet again with other seasoned directors when he directed Leonardo DiCaprio in “J. Edgar,” and “Trouble with the Curve,” a baseball drama, the following year.
There are countless reasons why Clint Eastwood was, and remains, an extraordinary actor, director, and composer. Even after six decades of making movies, he had this to say: "In every film you learn something; in every project you learn something new... That's what makes it exciting. That's why I'm still doing it." Clint took his father’s advice to heart; in his old age, he remains ever–perceiving.
Maybe if we see the world the way Clint Eastwood does, we will have better things to do with our lives and grow old as fulfilled and accomplished as he is—the result of a life spent doing anything but ordinary.
Organisations and Campaigns Supported
- Artists for Peace and Justice
- Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes
- Best Buddies International
- Best Friends Animal Society
- City of Hope
- Film Foundation
- Image of Change
- Onyx and Breezy Foundation
- Red Cross
- Unite for Japan
- Brady Bill
- California Film Commission
- California State Park and Recreation Commission
- Take Pride in America
- 1959: Produced Cowboy Favorites
- 1967: Founded Malpaso
- 1970: “Two Mules for Sister Sara” was included in The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made
- 1971: Opened his own pub, “Hog's Breath Inn”
- 1986-1988: Served as Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
- 1988: Received the Cecil B. DeMille Award
- 1988: Awarded Best Director and two Golden Globes for “Bird”
- 1992: “Unforgiven” was nominated for 9 Academy Awards, winning Best Director
- 1994: Received the French Republic's Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
- 1995: Received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
- 1995: Received the César Award for Best Foreign Film in France (The Bridges of Madison County)
- 1995: The Bridges of Madison County was nominated for Golden Globe Award
- 1996: Received the AFI Life Achievement Award
- 2000: Received the Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2000: Won the Future Film Festival Digital Award in the Venice Film Festival for “Space Cowboys”
- 2001 - 2004: Appointed to the California State Park and Recreation Commission
- 2003: Awarded Best Director of the Year by London Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics
- 2004: Appointed to the California Film Commission
- 2004: Won a Grammy Award for his musical score in “Million Dollar Baby”
- 2004: Nominated Best Actor in the Academy Awards for “Million Dollar Baby”
- 2004: Won Academy Award for Best Director (Million Dollar Baby)
- 2006: His film “Letters from Iwo Jima” was named Best Foreign Language Film
- 2006: Inducted into the California Hall of Fame
- 2006: Awarded an honorary degree by the University of the Pacific
- 2007: Received the Légion d'honneur medal
- 2007: Awarded Doctor of Humane Letters degree by University of Southern California
- 2007: Awarded Doctor of Music Honorary Degree by Berklee College of Music
- 2008: “Unforgiven” ranked number 4 on American Film Institute's “Best American Westerns” list
- 2008: His movie “Changeling” earned nominations for Best Original Score and Best Director
- 2009: Received a Lumière Award
- 2009: Awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, 3rd class, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon
- Nominated for Best Original Score and Best Original Song in “Grace is Gone”
- “Grace is Gone” won Best Song at 12th Satellite Awards
- Is one of only two people to have won Best Actor and Best Director in one film (accomplished twice: Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby)
- Oldest recipient of the Academy Award for Best Director
- Directed five actors in Academy Award–winning performances
- Won a total 4 Oscars and 5 Golden Globes
- Earned 3 BAFTA nominations