More about Clint Eastwood
The Sexual Cowboy
The Good, The Bad and The Raunchy
Moive Acclaim That's Making Big Clint's Day
Read Douglas Thompson's
interview with Clint- Eastwood
For almost five decades Clint Eastwood has been the cinema embodiment of a certain all-American masculinity.
Lean. Lanky. Laconic.
He’s always specialised in loners with a slyly ironic smile; self-sufficient men shut off by temperament and events from the world around them.
The solitary gunslinger who rides into town to exact his inimitable vengeance; the squinty-eyed cop who defies bureaucratic politesse to find justice; the ageing Secret Service agent who risks everything for his honour; the edgy but romantic idol.
The movies have made him a Billion Dollar Man. He’s been box office magic since the days of television’s ‘Rawhide’. When he made ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ he went on to earn just that. For many years.
Fistfuls of Oscars followed. He won the Academy Award for Best Director in 1992 for ‘Unforgiven’ which is considered one of the greatest Western films of all time.
In 2005, his moving, superb ‘Million Dollar Baby’ took the Oscar for Best Picture and won Clint Eastwood the statuette for Best Director yet again.
‘Clint Eastwood: Billion Dollar Man’ reveals the man behind the myth. Best-selling author Douglas Thompson draws on thirty years of interviews to paint a prize-winning portrait.
In this incisive biography, essential reading for every film fan, he puts the spotlight on the life of this onetime sexual cowboy who, at 75 in 2005, continues to create and change the movies.
It’s a searching study that will make your day.
'I'm just a kid,'
-- Clint Eastwood, aged 75 on May 31, 2005, as he accepted one of the four Oscars for 'Million Dollar Baby.'
Being Clint Eastwood is a delicate act but he's a master at it. Experience, you could argue.
When he won the evening of February 27 at the 2005 Oscars at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood with 'Million Dollar Baby', the movie presented with the Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, his co-producers were up on stage with him.
The filmmakers were accepting the award for Best Film and 'Million Dollar Baby' had been over many long, long hurdles to get made. With such movies we only see the result and, in this case, the glory.
The Oscar broadcast producers are extremely aware of television time and when winners go on for too long the orchestra is instructed to blast out 'wrap up' music.
Clint's co-producer Tom Rosenberg, who had taken a big financial risk in support of the film, was speaking as the music swelled to drown him out.
If you get out your video of the 77th annual Academy Awards you'll hear that whisper through the gravel, which is Eastwood's voice, telling Rosenberg:
'Don't let 'em run you off.'
Rosenberg didn't, he'd joined the 'good guys.'
Clint Eastwood has never been 'run off.'
He's always been his own man.
It's summed up in a singular, grown-up attitude which he explained a few years ago:
'I've always had the theory that actors who beg their audiences to like them are much worse off than actors who just say:
' "If you don't like this don't let the door hit you in the ass......" '
THE NUMBERS GAME
'Life? It's all improvisation,'-- Clint Eastwood, 2003.
Just a number?
Clint Eastwood was 75 on May 31,2005.
Yes, elderly by the calendar, no, by the attitude.
'I'm just a kid, I've still got a lot of stuff to do,' he said a few weeks earlier his hands weighed down by the couple of Oscars he clasped like workout weights.
You need a little more than daily exercise to be able to deftly handle the Academy Awards, to deal with fame adroitly.
Yet, by the look of Clint Eastwood, he could bench-press many more fistfuls of gold-plated 13 1/2-inch tall statuettes which undergo a remarkable metamorphis when placed in the right hands.
Which he might do in 2006 with his film version of 'Flags of Our Fathers', the hugely praised account by James Bradley detailing the battle of Iwo Jima in World War Two.
He's only going to direct and co-produce that film, not act in it. It should be released in cinemas before his 76th birthday. Yes, he's still 'got stuff to do.'
Clint, the man renowned for being cool and laconic, slow and easy, liberal with his attitude and judgements, is always in action. Watch his face, his sparkling, bright green eyes especially, and his interest is everywhere. He's his own software programme. He gathers all around him and then logs on his singular inquisitiveness.
Every book, documentary, news event, man, woman, child, local event and turn in the road is an opportunity to tell a story and most surely to write a song or a movie soundtrack.
It is, as he always says, all about improvisation.
Life, he also insists, is where you are constantly adjusting to everything.
So, as far as he's concerned,numbers, even intimidating ones, don't comprise a large part of the equation.
But at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on February 27,2005, they came into play like the lottery.
Clint and 'Million Dollar Baby' which he called his 'humble movie' were in contention for top honours. The competition, the main opposition, was high, first class flying and both biographical pictures, Martin Scorsese's big budget Howard Hughes saga 'The Aviator' and Helen Mirren's husband, the admirable Taylor Hackford's 'Ray', the story of music giant Ray Charles; also in the running at the annual cavalcade of self-acclaim were Mike Leigh's 'Vera Drake' and Alexander Payne's amusing, with a hint of boldness, wine-soaked 'Sideways'.
The 5,808 Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences voters made Clint's day. At 74, he became the oldest director to earn the top honour as Best Director. He'd previously won the Best Director trophy for 'Unforgiven' in 1992.
Numbers? Interesting ones. With television viewers turning off worldwide, the Oscar producers wanted a younger, hipper image which was why Chris Rock appeared as the host of the 77th annual Awards. Hip? As it turned out some of the big winners might be candidates for hip replacements.
Eastwood directed his first film three years before Hilary Swank, who was named Best Actress for 'Million Dollar Baby', was born.
Clint displayed his much matured cool, his elan, when he was named Best Director. The slightly less veteran Martin Scorsese, then 62, lost his fifth nomination for the award in what had been the 2005 Oscars most hotly contested and watched conflict. It was a victory of a small, intimate character piece, over 'The Aviator' which true to the extraordinary life and legend of Howard Hughes was a super-sized, $110 million dollar extravaganza of Hollywood film making.
Clint thanked his mother Ruth , then 96, for her 'genes' and pointed out:
'I'm happy to be here and still working.'
He then expressed his gratitude to a long list of veteran collaborators, including production designer Henry Bumstead, aged 90 in 2005, known as 'Bummy', winner of two Oscars, for 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'The Sting', whom he described as a member of 'our crack geriatrics team.'
Who, to take the vernacular of 'Million Dollar Baby, were in Clint's corner. The contest between front-runners Scorsese and Eastwood proved to be the evening's only true nail-biter. The well-respected men embody different strains of Hollywood film making:
Scorsese, the diminutive, fast-talking Italian-New Yorker, was an enfant terrible of the 1970s who spearheaded one of the greatest periods in American film with such intensely personal, super-macho stories as 'Taxi Driver' and 'Raging Bull.' More than thirty years later, when most of his auteur comrades had faded from the scene (with the entertaining exception of Steven Spielberg), Scorsese devotes himself to visually flamboyant historical pageants like 'Gangs of New York' and 'The Aviator' which both featured Leonardo DiCaprio.
In the other corner was 'Dirty Harry', the film star who also became a director-moviemaker in the 1970s with films like 'Play Misty for Me' and 'The Outlaw Josey Wales.' At the time, Eastwood was largely derided by critics as either a crypto-fascist or a dud; arguably because of the single-minded 'The New Yorker' critic Pauline Kael who attacked the original 'Dirty Harry' for its 'fascist medievalism' and 'remarkably single-minded attack on liberal values.'
This critical contempt of the five Magnum .44 driven Dirty Harry Callahan furious movies only dissipated, and not in all circles, with 1992's Oscar bonanza 'Unforgiven.'
Eastwood, still angered by what he saw as Kael's bigotry, says of the series, films that created their own genre:' I was playing a part. I'm an actor playing a role and if somebody thinks I'm supposed to be that guy, then great. You have to put yourself in the roles, and if you put yourself into them positively enough, strongly enough, people believe you are this person. It's a fantasy. But it's a fantasy the audience wants to believe.'
Of the now dead Kael he was asked in if she did him real damage. He softly replied:'No, no. I'm still here. And she's not.
'Kael was saying I was a product of the Nixon years - that I represented Nixon. But I was doing very well as an actor long before Nixon became President. And I was doing well after Nixon. And somebody else said, "Well, he's an actor of the '80s." But the '90s and onwards have been some of my best years, so I don't know where all these experts come from.
'I just went ahead and did my own thing. '
Since' Unforgiven' he has told his stories tersely, with spare economy and increasingly lean budgets. In Scotland's canny capital Edinburgh, they'd build this fast and frugal man a monument. Clint, who is at his happiest at the piano and loves the blues, wrote and played their jazzy, melancholic scores. In the 21st Century, he is a Hollywood legend, one of the most consistent top attractions in the history of the movies, and on the marquee with Clark Gable and Gary Cooper and John Wayne and Paul Newman in terms of star longevity.
Clint won this particular Oscar contest. Scorsese is not giving up, a cinematic rematch is on the way. In 2006 when 'Flags of Our Fathers' will be in contention, so will he with 'The Departed' an Irish gangster story starring DiCaprio, who seems to have taken Robert DiNiro's place in his repertory company, and the non-retiring, in every sense, Jack Nicholson.
Nicholson? He's a number too.
In the early 1990s he and Clint were playing golf together and they talked about retirement. Eastwood recalls:
'Jack said he was going to do just one more movie, "The Crossing Guard" and that would be his last. I said I would do "In the Line of Fire" and " A Perfect World" and that would be it.
'Well, he went on to act in about ten more movies, and I went on to act in or direct six more.
'They keep saying yes to you so, you keep on going.'
Yet, 'Million Dollar Baby' which many prominent people rate as Clint Eastwood's greatest work, was a film the powers-that-be in Hollywood were not too keen to say 'yes' to. It was one of the hardest 'sells' of Clint's career and this baby was nearly never born.
Especially as an Eastwood film.
At an early stage in the film's development, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2005's Governor of California and a job you could have got a bet on Clint getting a couple of decades ago, was considered for the role of the boxing trainer played by Eastwood; Sandra Bullock was once the favourite for Swank's part as a boxer in search of a mentor.
In another incarnations it was to be an HBO TV mini-series or an independent film directed by Clint's friend Anjelica Huston.
Then, Hollywood happenstance. It happens. 'Million Dollar Baby' proves it along with so many other things. Life, even the movies' version of it, can be changed by serendipity. In this case, both at the same time.
Jerry Boyd, a Hemingway want-to-be was one of life's rejects. His three wives had thrown him out, publishers didn't want his stories, written as Francis Xavier Toole, and he was scuffling a living working in a Los Angeles boxing gym. And writing his short stories. His 'Rope Burns' collection was finally published in 2000 when he was nearly seventy years old.
Then a dead man gave him a little luck. But just a little. The influential Hollywood producer Al Ruddy cast late actor Al Lettieri as Virgil 'The Turk' Sollozo in 'The Godfather' in 1972. Ruddy was asked by Anjelica Huston to meet Boyd with an interest in his short stories.
Jerry Boyd was a friend of Lettieri's and when he met Al Ruddy he mentioned the name.
' I said: "Let's go and have a drink at the Havana Club," ', said Ruddy explaining:' He said: " I can't, I'm in Alcoholics Anonymous." I said:" So, you'll have a Coke and I'll have a drink. " Needless to say, we both drank until 5am in the morning.'
But Huston had moved on to work on a project with Mrs Hollywood, Julia Roberts. Nevertheless, Ruddy made Boyd's dream true and bought the rights to his stories, a month before Boyd died from a heart attack in September, 2002.
The project went ahead which is where Paul Haggis a creator of the television series 'Walker, Texas Ranger' came in. He told Ruddy we would write a movie script from the story -- if he could direct the film.
The script, two of Boyd's stories adapted for 'Million Dollar Baby', was then shown to Lakeshore Entertainment who were enthusiastic. Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman were set up as the stars. Al Ruddy then showed the script to his old friend Clint who said he had all but retired from acting. Nevertheless, he read the script as a favour to Ruddy and liked it; he just was concerned how it might be directed.
He'd sworn he would never star and direct a film at the same time again but asked Ruddy if he could direct. Haggis, who was nominated at the Oscars for his adapted screenplay, said:
'It was a tough ten minutes for me. I decided,of course, I would let him direct.
'How often do you get to work with Clint Eastwood?'
But it was no first round knockout. Warner Brothers, Clint's longtime studio home, initially declined to participate in the film, worried that boxing movies weren't commercially viable. They thought the script 'too dark' and the comparatively modest budget of $30 million 'too high.' The rejection came despite the Clint-directed 'Mystic River' being one of 2003's best-reviewed films and a box-office hit for the studio. Tom Rosenberg's Lakeshore Entertainment agreed to bankroll 'Million Dollar Baby' and, after other studios passed, Warner Brothers relented and agreed to share the film's cost.
Unlike most movies that are put through endless rewrites, Clint filmed the first and only draft of Paul Haggis' script in thirty seven days, working in and around the vibrant downtown area of Los Angeles to tell the story of cantankerous -- are there any other sort? -- boxing trainer Frankie Dunn.
And 'Million Dollar Baby.' Dunn runs a haven for hopefuls and puts up with the hopeless. Morgan Freeman as former boxer Eddie 'Scrap Iron' Dupris helps him with the job which suddenly includes the fortunes of Hilary Swank's Maggie Fitzgerald. Maggie wants to fight her way out of her destiny of dire straits with self-justifying success in the ever more popular discipline of women's boxing.
So far, a boxing movie with a twist in that the contender is a woman. But there's more to it than that. Which is why Eastwood got involved:
'I'm at an age in life when I'm not trying to do things that I did years ago. I've tried to shoot my persona down so many times. 'I'm looking for different stories, stories to go with the maturing of the years. I probably would have retired years ago if I hadn't found interesting things to do. '
This was interesting. And it got more so as the Oscars for 2005 approached. There had been 'Golden Globe' awards and many other critical and endorsing honours but then Clint was accused of being a soft-hearted left-wing sympathiser.
Hey, this was the man who at the height of anti-Vietnam protest supposedly supported President Richard Nixon. He also backed Ronald Reagan, who borrowed his fellow actor's 'make my day' catchphrase for a colourful standoff with the U.S. Congress in 1983. Around the same time, Eastwood 'phoned President Reagan to lobby for White House support to send a team of mercenaries into Laos in search of long-missing POWs. Even after Reagan refused, Clint was said to have helped to fund two missions.
Left-wing extremist? Yes, according to high profile right-wing commentators who attacked 'Baby' for spreading 'liberal propaganda' behind the smokescreen of a sports drama. Their argument was the film's downbeat conclusion, an apparent endorsement of mercy killing. Not to Clint:
'I never thought about the political side of this when making this film. How people feel about that is up to them. I'm not a
pro-euthanasia person and this is a story about a giant dilemma and
how one person had to face that.'
Later, Clint said of the controversy:' I've had them work me over before. ' Of the honours: 'It's very nice.
'But I just do what I feel like I should be doing and whether you are nominated for something has never been the motivating force for me. It's in the eye of the beholder, and once you finish a film, in a way, it doesn't belong to you any more, it belongs to the audience to interpret it in the way they feel like interpreting it, and that goes for whoever is nominating whatever. You can't make movies thinking about that.'
He calls where he is in life 'the back nine' and he does enjoy his golf. Although he qualifies:
' I like playing golf but I don't want to have to play golf.
'I like work. I'm involved. That challenges me.I like playing golf as an avocation - but while I'm good at it, I'm not talented at it. And I keep getting offered things. There's always a new hurdle.
'I love the spirit of acting, I love to watch actors, I love to direct them. I probably, in my mind somewhere, could have retired from acting a long time ago if somebody had said, "OK, that's what you should do." But then, you know, there's always some fool out there who wants you. '
He also likes doing his business deals with the help of his agent/ business manager Leonard Hirshan who first began representing him in 1961. in 2005, these many years later, they were both happy with a scheme to use Clint's image on gambling machines to be set-up in Las Vegas. The name?
'They wanted to make one called "A Fistful of Dollars" which is a great title for a slot machine. And then there's " A Few Dollars More."
'You get the picture.
'They already got a Marilyn and a Bogart.
'Maybe I'm the only one alive, though.'
Back Cover of The Paperback
Clint Eastwood is a true living legend. For over forty years he has dominated Hollywood and his success both in front of and behind the camera has assured his place in the pantheon of Hollywood greats alongside Marlon Brando, John Wayne and Robert De Niro.
Born the son of a steel worker in 1930, Clint Eastwood's drive for success led him to his first break on the TV series Rawhide in 1959. He quickly established himself as a household favourite on the show, but broke from television in 1964 with A Fistful of Dollars, where his steely gaze and silent, strong screen presence made the low-budget production a surprise box office smash.
His performance in the seminal Dirty Harry in 1971 cemented his reputation as an electrifying talent and he has continued to make some of the most unforgettable and controversial cinema Hollywood has ever seen - his Oscar for directing Unforgiven proving that he is as effective behind the camera as he is in front of it.
Clint: The Biography of Cinema's Greatest Ever Star reveals the man behind the myth. Best-selling author Douglas Thompson draws on thirty years of interviews to provide the last word on the Hollywood legend. In this superb biography, essential reading for every film fan, he charts Clint's progress from jobbing actor to his recent Oscar winning success with Mi/lion Dollar Baby, and from onetime sexual cowboy to respected family man, who, at the age of 77, continues to shape the movies.
More about Clint Eastwood
The Sexual Cowboy
The Good, The Bad and The Raunchy
Moive Acclaim That's Making Big Clint's Day
Read Douglas Thompson's
interview with Clint- Eastwood
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