Clint Eastwood was born in San Francisco, California in 1930 to a middle-class family who repeatedly moved home to follow their father, as he often changed cities and jobs in the years after the Great Depression. Eastwood did not have a brilliant school career at all and as far as a particular interest in acting is known. During the Korean War, which began in 1950, he ended up in the army but not in Korea because he became a swimming instructor. Without having studied acting, in the first half of the fifties he tried to exploit his appearance and his stature of over one meter and ninety to be an actor. It started with Revenge of the monster, sequel to the best known – and certainly best – The monster of the black lagoon and continued alternating roles of not great importance between cinema and television.
In 1959, not yet thirty years old, he got the leading role in Prairie men, a western (but very clean and gentle) tv series in which he starred for more than 200 episodes: he was chosen because “he looked cowboy,” they said. In 1964, when the series was still airing, Sergio Leone – who in Italy had directed “for food reasons” The Colossus of Rhodes – he wanted him to be a gunslinger in a western that wanted to shoot in Spain, because someone had pointed out to him that “young and lanky” actor.
Eastwood accepted the offer and for Leone interpreted the laconic and mysterious nameless man protagonist of For a bunch of dollars, and then of For a Few Dollars More and then of The good, the bad and the ugly. The western spaghetti of the dollar trilogy. Especially in America those films at the beginning were not noticed much by critics, but they were successful and made Eastwood a character. Always with the same hat and always with the same poncho, and without even varying the expressions of his face, Eastwood’s face became the face of those new Italian westerns.
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Leone also admitted that Eastwood was out of the box, and therefore perfect for those roles. He spoke of it as a “block of marble”, and two other sentences are rather well known on the same theme. The first is: “I needed more of a mask than an actor, and Eastwood at that time had only two expressions: with a hat and without a hat”. The second, which is said to have been a response to Eastwood’s request, after the first film, not to always have to keep the cigar in his mouth, is: “Clint, we can’t cut the cigar out. He is the protagonist! ».
Eastwood did not act for any other Leone film, than comparing it to De Niro, the protagonist of Once upon a time in Americahe said, “Bobby is an actor first. Clint, first of all, is a star. Bobby is suffering, Clint yawns. ‘ Eastwood’s position on why he didn’t make other films with Leone is this, quoted by Paolo Mereghetti on Corriere della Sera: «I like stories. He has gone towards more grandiose epic films, I towards smaller films, towards more personal stories ». It does not mean, however, that the two did not continue to respect each other and speak well about each other.
After the three films for Leone, and after acting (without cigar, poncho or hat) in an episode of Witches by Vittorio De Sica, Eastwood, now known even if not properly appreciated by critics, returned to acting in the United States. He made the western movie Hang him higher, the war movie Where eagles dare and, above all, he starred in five films by Don Siegel who, after Leone, was undoubtedly the second most important director of his life.
Between 1969 and 1979 Eastwood starred for Siegel in five films: The man with the leather tie, Vultures are hungry, The good night of the soldier Jonathan, Inspector Callaghan: the Scorpio case is yours! is Escape from Alcatraz. Thanks to Siegel, Eastwood showed he knew how to do other than the cowboy, and in particular it was then for five films (only the first directed by Siegel) the inspector Harry Callaghan, the one who after a shooting shoots the gun – maybe unloaded – against a thief who is trying to grab one in turn, and says to him: “Get the math well, should you risk it?”
Even changing the setting and clothing, Eastwood continued to play tough roles, often intent on handling some weapon: in A 44 Magnum for Inspector Callaghan is A 20 gauge for the specialist guns are even in the title.
The third most important director in Clint Eastwood’s history was Clint Eastwood. A little over forty years old, in 1971, Eastwood directed himself in the yellow Shiver in the night, in 1973 in The nameless stranger (a western, again) and in 1975 he chose himself as the protagonist for Murder on the Eiger, a James Bond movie that says he ended up choosing himself after Paul Newman’s rejection.
The eighties were certainly not his best years, but in 1988 he liked it very much Bird, a film about the black jazz musician Charlie Parker (of which he was already a big admirer as a boy) and in which, for understandable reasons, he was not a protagonist. In 1992 he directed what there is little doubt is his best western: The ruthless, which won four Oscars (including best film and best direction) and which ends with a dedication «to Sergio and Don».
It’s always a matter of taste, but in the race for the best-and-with Eastwood movies, the only one that probably stands up to The ruthless is Million Dollar Baby, released in 2004 and also awarded four Oscars (including best film and best direction).
With just a couple of exceptions (the detective In the center of the viewfinder and the baseball movie Back in the game) it’s almost thirty years that Eastwood has only acted in films that he directs. And when as a director he chooses the roles to be played in, Eastwood spans much more than he did who made him act in the sixties and seventies: he had fun in Space Cowboys and gave himself a romantic role in The bridges of Madison County.
Other films that have made Eastwood one of the most famous and appreciated contemporary directors are Mystic River is Gran Torino. But several critics also liked the pairing Flags of Our Fathers is Letters from Iwo Jima (which tell the same story, but seen first by the Americans and then by the Japanese). More recently, Eastwood has often devoted himself to biographical films: Invictus is J. Edgar, but also American Sniper, Sully is Richard Jewell. He liked it much less, always on Eastwood’s film about the “American heroes”, 15:17 – Attack on the train, in which the protagonists are – in the role of themselves – the three Americans who, on vacation in Europe, in 2015 stopped a terrorist on a train.
What is not cinema
Outside the cinema, Eastwood has long been clearly sided with the Republicans (and does not agree with those who claim that these positions are now seen a lot in his films too). His most recent stance, however, was in favor of Michael Bloomberg, a moderate candidate with the Democratic Party who later retired with poor results. When it comes to Eastwood and politics, however, the most quoted – and made fun of – event is the 2012 speech in which, during the Republican Party convention, he made a monologue of about 12 minutes addressing an empty chair and imagining himself a dialogue with the then President Barack Obama.
As well as director, actor and well-known Republican supporter (at least until Bloomberg) Clint Eastwood was also the title of a famous Gorillaz song and the name Marty McFly chooses to give himself, in the old West where he ends in the third Back to the Future. Ah, and the mayor of the small, wealthy town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, in Monterey County, on the Californian coast, in the late 1980s.