Maverick Men in the Media: Clint Eastwood

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Aug 30, 2021

Who is he? “Clinton Eastwood Jr., 6'3", and now 91 years old, has contributed to over 50 films over his career as actor, director, producer, and composer. He rose to international fame in a series of Spaghetti Westerns during the mid-1960s, and as antihero cop Harry Callahan in the five Dirty Harry films throughout the 1970s and 1980s. These roles, among others, have made Eastwood an enduring cultural icon of masculinity.

His accolades include four Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, three César Awards, and an AFI Life Achievement Award. At age 74, Eastwood became the oldest of eighteen directors to have directed two or more Best Picture winners.

The Dirty Harry movies, the first of 5 in 1971, center on a hard-edged San Francisco police inspector named Harry Callahan who is determined to stop a psychotic killer and other criminals by any means. Dirty Harry has been described as being arguably Eastwood’s most memorable character.

His most well-known western, The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Eastwood plays Josey Wales, a pro-Confederate guerrilla who refuses to surrender his arms after the American Civil War and is chased across the old southwest by a group of enforcers. The movie was widely acclaimed, with many critics and viewers seeing Eastwood’s role as an iconic one that related to America’s ancestral past and the destiny of the nation after the American Civil War.

Eastwood also starred in the well-known Escape from Alcatraz (1979), which was based on the true story of Frank Lee Morris who, along with two others, escaped from the notorious Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in 1962. The film was a major success and praised as “cool, cinematic grace”.

In his last western, Eastwood directed and starred in as an aging ex-gunfighter long past his prime in Unforgiven. Scripts existed for the film as early as 1976 under titles such as The Cut-Whore Killings and The William Munny Killings, but Eastwood delayed the project because he wanted to wait until he was old enough to play his character and to savor it as the last of his western films. Unforgiven was a major commercial and critical success; it was praised as “the finest classical western to come along since perhaps John Ford’s 1956 The Searchers.” The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards, and won four, including Best Picture and Best Director for Eastwood. In June 2008 Unforgiven was ranked as the fourth-best American western, behind Shane, High Noon, and The Searchers in the American Film Institute’s “AFI’s 10 Top 10” list.

Other memorable movies include Heartbreak Ridge (1986), Space Cowboys (2000), Mystic River (2003), Million Dollar Baby (2004), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), Changeling (2008), Gran Torino (2008), J. Edgar (2011), Trouble with the Curve (2012), and Richard Jewell (2014).

Eastwood also composed the film scores of Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers, Grace Is Gone, Changeling, Hereafter, J. Edgar, and the original piano compositions for In the Line of Fire.

What makes his characters and him a Maverick Man?

  • His Dirty Harry character has been credited with inventing the “loose-cannon cop” genre

  • Author Eric Lichtenfeld argues that Eastwood’s role as Dirty Harry established the “first true archetype” of the action film genre.

  • He was offered the role of James Bond, after Sean Connery bowed out, but turned it down because he believed the character should be played by an English actor.

  • “The roles that Eastwood has played, and the films that he has directed, cannot be disentangled from the nature of the American culture of the last quarter century, its fantasies and its realities.” ~ Edward Gallafent, commenting on Eastwood’s impact on film from the 1970s to 1990s

  • “Clint is a true artist in every respect. Despite his years of being at the top of his game and the legendary movies he has made, he always made us feel comfortable and valued on the set, treating us as equals. ~ Tim Robbins, on working with Eastwood (Alcatraz).

  • His directing style lays out a film’s plot to provide the audience with necessary details, but not, in his words, “so much that it insults their intelligence.”

  • “No star is more the hero to his audience: a symbol of simple solutions, law & order, and rebellion against bureaucracy.” ~ Patrick McGilligan

  • “He’s an original and provocative director, grappling with all of the most significant ethical issues of our time: war, vengeance, the role of law, relations between the sexes, the meaning of friendship, and indeed with what it means to lead an ethical life as a good man in late modernity.” ~ Drucilla Cornell Clint Eastwood and Issues of American Masculinity

  • He often insisted on doing all his own climbing and stunts.

  • He holds onto your gaze one split-second longer than protocol requires before passing on to the next pair of eyes.

  • He doesn’t forget names, repeats yours as he is introduced.

  • He will blush when applauded, laugh when roasted.

Our favorite Clint Eastwood movie quote:

“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 you, punk?”  from Dirty Harry

Our favorite Clint Eastwood quotes:

“It’s always appealing to play a character that has to overcome himself as well as an obstacle. It makes the drama so much deeper.”

“You have to feel confident. If you don’t, then you’re going to be hesitant and defensive, and there’ll be a lot of things working against you.”

“If I was not a dreamer, I would have achieved nothing.”

“As you get older, you’re not afraid of doubt. Doubt isn’t running the show. You take out all the self-agonizing.”

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