On-screen, he’s been known as the Man with No Name, Blondie, Dirty Harry, and an all around tough guy. Off-screen, he’s known as a ladies’ man, health nut, golfer, chair whisperer, and political activist. Clint Eastwood wears many hats (especially cowboy hats), but lately his career as an acclaimed director of over 30 films is the one that garners the most attention. His most recent project, American Sniper, receives a wide release this Friday and makes him a prime candidate for the latest installment of Eventful’s Director Series.
Eastwood’s first on-screen role was on NBC’s Rawhide, which would lead to his roles in Sergio’s Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, which led to many other westerns and war epics. In 1967, Eastwood and Irving Leonard established their own production company, Malpaso Productions, with profits from the Dollars trilogy. However, it was one of his lesser-known films, Play Misty for Me, which gave Eastwood the break he had been hoping for. Eastwood was given the opportunity to direct the film and given the creative control he had longed for. Co-starring with Jessica Walters (Arrested Development, Archer), Eastwood played a radio DJ who becomes the dangerous fixation of a delusional listener. The film was praised by critics, as was Eastwood’s directorial debut.
Even since those early days, Eastwood was well known for his relaxed, yet demanding, directorial style. The director took a dislike to anything that would slow down the production schedule; including storyboarding and lengthy rehearsing on the part of actors. Many who have worked with Eastwood know that he likes to get the scene done in one take and expects the upmost professionalism from his actors. At the same time he prefers the first, raw impression an actor gives, showing disdain for the refinement process of multiple takes. He takes the same approach to scripts, feeling that bombarding the audience with too much expository information leaves them little time to use their imagination and immerse themselves in the film.
Eastwood continued to direct some of his most popular films like High Plains Drifter. When production became too meticulous and slow on The Outlaw Josey Wales, Eastwood had director Philip Kaufman fired and replaced himself as director (this prompted the Directors Guild of America to pass the “Clint Eastwood Rule”). The 1982 fighter jet action film, Firefox, marked the first occasion that Eastwood served as producer, director, and star of a film. Throughout the 70s and 80s, Eastwood directed over a dozen of the explosive, shoot ‘em up action films that have become the pillars of his career (excluding most of the Dirty Harry films). However, it wasn’t until the 90s – at the age of 62 — that the former lifeguard reached a new cinematic plateau.
From its inception, Unforgiven was a passion project for Eastwood. It had been developed in 1976, but Eastwood held tight to until he was old enough to play the antagonist William Munny, intending it to be his final Western role. He also chose to direct the film, which featured a noir-ish feel of darkness and shadows for which he had become known. Appropriate, because although Unforgiven contained much of the action featured in his previous westerns, the film was a dark tale of honor, courage, and a sense of duty in the Old West. After years of waiting to make the film, Eastwood was showered with praise from critics; and his first ever Best Director Academy Award.
Eastwood directed a string of hit films before he was once again recognized by the Academy; including The Bridges of Madison County, Absolute Power, and Space Cowboys. It was 2003’s Mystic River that garnered the director another Oscar, and for good reason. The hauntingly talented cast consisting of Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, and Kevin Bacon accentuated the tale of a neighborhood unable to escape the demons of its past. It wasn’t long before Eastwood had another hit on his hands; a year to be exact, when he debuted Million Dollar Baby. Eastwood also co-starred in this one as a crotchety boxing trainer reluctant to train a waitress (Hillary Swank) for professional bouts, and the heartbreak he experiences at her downfall. He was nominated for his next film, Letters From Iwo Jima, which portrayed the infamous WWII battle from the Japanese perspective, but lost. When his films Changeling and Gran Turino were completely ignored by the Academy, there was an outcry from critics and Academy Members concerning the snub.
Hopefully Eastwood’s American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper, doesn’t experience the same ignorance. Critics have already praised Cooper’s performance and Eastwood’s signature, steady direction, and Eastwood has quite the reputation for making powerful war dramas. Tune into the Eventful Blog on Friday to find out more about Eastwood’s latest film.