Clint Eastwood: A Cowboy On Screen And In The Director's Chair

Entertainment | June 29, 2019

Clint Eastwood as the Man With No Name in 'For A Few Dollars More' (1965). Source: IMDB

As "Dirty" Harry Callahan, Josey Wales, and "The Man With No Name," Clint Eastwood established himself as one of the great screen badasses of the '60s and '70s. But there was far more to the former Rawhide actor than anyone could have predicted. Within a couple of years of leaving TV, he'd established himself as a box-office draw, then in 1971 embarked on his career as a director. Eastwood makes movies like he acts -- efficiently. And the quality of the work is evident from the four Oscars on his mantelpiece (two for Best Director, two Best Picture).

Clint Eastwood. Even his name sounds like a punch in the face. The original man’s man who’s short on words but never lacking in gravitas detailed his survival of a plane crash as, “So we went swimming” -- he was in the Army at the time, and the plane is still down there. He also became the mayor of a small California town, partly to bring ice cream shops back. (Who bans ice cream?) Did you know he's been writing and playing music for his movie soundtracks since 1969? Eastwood may be closing in on 90 but he’ll still whoop your butt, thanks to a twice a day training regimen. 

So You Want To Be A Cowboy

Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates in Rawhide. (pixabay.com)

In the ‘50s, Eastwood found some bit parts in movies but worked primarily digging swimming pools. However, in 1958, while visiting a friend on the CBS lot, an executive needed a cowboy and spotted Clint and asked if he was an actor. Next thing you know, Clint Eastwood is playing Rowdy Yates for eight seasons on Rawhide

Don’t Mess With The Poncho

No One Has Pulled Off The Poncho Like Eastwood (spotern.com)

After a successful run on Rawhide, Eastwood found the character that would make him a movie star and the embodiment of the tough, silent cowboy: The Man With No Name. Amazingly, the director, Sergio Leone, didn’t think much of Eastwood at the time. Eric Fleming (Eastwood's Rawhide co-star), Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, and Richard Harrison all turned down the part before someone pitched Eastwood for the lead.

Even then, Leone declined, thinking Eastwood was more fit for background work. Eventually, Leone came around and Eastwood made that poncho look cooler than any other poncho before or since. Reportedly, he wore the same poncho for all three movies -- A Fistful Of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (1966) -- and never washed it.  

It’s For Somebody, Just Not Me

The Baddest Man Without A Name (Creativescreenwriting.com)

Clint Eastwood stands the test of time as one of the greatest western stars of all time -- perhaps second only to John Wayne. Eastwood's sudden rise to headliner status put him in high demand -- in fact, he could have played both Superman and James Bond as well. Reportedly, Eastwood turned down both roles for similar reasoning: "I was offered pretty good money to do James Bond if I would take on the role. But to me, well, that was somebody else’s gig. That’s Sean [Connery]’s deal. It didn’t feel right for me to be doing it."

In regard to turning down Superman, “This was when they first started to think about making it. I was like, Superman? Nah, nah, that’s not for me. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s for somebody, but not me." As Eastwood's Harry Callahan character would later say in Magnum Force: A man's got to know his limitations. 

Not Just A Pretty Face

Eastwood Working with Bradley Cooper on 'American Sniper' (decider.com)

Eastwood’s rugged good looks certainly helped him get his start in Hollywood, but his longevity is due to more than just his pretty face. The four-time Academy Award winner has also directed many critically acclaimed box office hits. Just like his classic growl and unforgettable squint, the man directs the way he wants and he’ll be damned if anyone tells him otherwise. 

His first directorial effort was the 1971 thriller Play Misty For Me, in which he also starred. He's pulled double-duty frequently in his career, directing and starring in High Plains Drifter (1973), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), Pale Rider (1985), and Heartbreak Ridge (1986), to name just a few. In 1993, Eastwood's Unforgiven won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Eastwood won Best Director. In 2005, he won the same two awards for Million Dollar Baby

As a director, the man of few words is known to be a man of few takes. In a profession notable for blowing budgets and schedules, Eastwood brings his films in on time and within the budget. He addressed his methods in an interview with Mike Goodridge for the book Film Craft: Directing:

I have a reputation for always going with the first or second take. Of course, I don’t always get it in one or two takes. It’s more that I want to get the feeling that we’re moving. You have to keep the crew and the production going at a businesslike pace so they get the feeling they are part of something that’s actually moving forward.

Eastwood On Set

Eastwood And DiCaprio, two icons (chronicle.com)

Armie Hammer described his experience on the film, J. Edgar, “There would be takes that we did where I was under the impression we were shooting a rehearsal." He eschews many other director tropes as well. He doesn’t yell "action" and he doesn’t say "cut." He also doesn’t accept notes from studio executives or producers. 

The Original Man's Man

Eastwood Doing It His Way (NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 07: Actor Tom Hanks and director Clint Eastwood on the set of "Sully" on October 7, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Bobby Bank/GC Images)

According to Esquire, when Warner Bros. asked him to tone down the racial innuendo of the movie, Gran Torino, Eastwood responded, "Take it or leave it." And if studios ask him to make changes based on screen testing responses, he says, “If they're so interested in the opinion of a grocery-store clerk in Reseda, let them hire him to make the movie." The original man’s man, is still very much The Man. 

Tags: Clint Eastwood | Directors | Dirty Harry | Rare Facts And Stories About History | Rawhide | Spaghetti Western | What Did He Do?...

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Kellar Ellsworth


Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!