Though he’s famous for playing The Man with No Name in a string of Westerns, Clint Eastwood has certainly made a name for himself in his decades-spanning career as an acclaimed actor and Academy Award Wining director. While maintaining an illustrious reputation in Hollywood, Eastwood has also kept up a classic man’s man persona that is rarely seen on film anymore. Want some of that old feeling back? Well then, read these 42 sharp shooting facts about Clint Eastwood.
42. Big Brother
Born to Clinton Eastwood Sr. and Ruth Wood in San Francisco, California, Clint Eastwood has one younger sister, Jeanne Bernhardt.
His nickname in the hospital was “Samson” because he weighed a whopping 11 pounds, 6 ounces.
40. Deep Roots
Eastwood is descended from William Bradford, an illustrious Mayflower passenger and the eventual Plymouth colony governor.
When he was growing up, Eastwood’s family lived in a nice area, had a swimming pool, and belonged to a country club in Piedmont, California. Eastwood was all set to attend the prestigious Piedmont High School, but after he rode his bike through the school’s sports field and destroyed the turf, the school politely requested he not enrol, which is rich-people speak for “hell no you’re not getting in.”
38. The Opposite of Skipping a Grade
Turned away from Piedmont High, Eastwood attended Oakland Technical High School instead, but didn’t fare much better. He was held back due to shoddy academics, and although he was pretty much set to graduate in January 1949, there are conflicting reports as to whether or not he actually did.
37. Degree in Airplanes
As one former classmate put it, “Clint graduated from the airplane shop. I think that was his major.” According to other classmates and friends, Eastwood began having so much fun outside of school, he likely didn’t graduate.
Eastwood worked variously as a lumberjack, a forest firefighter, and a steelworker in states like Oregon and Texas after finishing high school (one way or another).
35. Do You Feel a Draft?
Eastwood claims he attempted to enrol in Seattle University, but was stopped from the process because he was drafted into the United States Army for the Korean War.
34. Serving His Country
When he was drafted during the Korean war, he was sent to Fort Ord in California for basic training. However, he never saw fighting, and actually spent his time as a swimming instructor and as a bouncer for a club.
33. Leaving on a Jet Plane
Eastwood’s films are often about heroic survival in the face of incredible odds, and he doesn’t just talk the talk: Eastwood himself has been in some near death experiences. When coming back to Fort Ord from Seattle, Eastwood hitched a ride on a Douglas AD Bomber, an old plane from World War II. That plan? Not the best one. As Eastwood recalled, “Everything went wrong. Radios went out. Oxygen ran out. And finally we ran out of fuel up around Point Reyes, California, and went in the ocean. So we went swimming. It was late October, November. Very cold water. [I] found out many years later that it was a white shark breeding ground, but I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have just died.” He and the pilot had to swim 3.2 km (2 mi) to reach safety.
32. Amateur Hour
Eastwood got his big break when he met Chuck Hill at Fort Ord; Hill had contacts in Hollywood, and eventually brought Eastwood to Universal Studios. The studio was appropriately impressed with the gunslinger’s 6’4” frame, but was less than enthused about his acting ability. One exec remarked, “He was quite amateurish. He didn’t know which way to turn or which way to go or do anything.”
31. Pocket Change
When the studio first signed Eastwood in April 1954, he made $100 per week.
When Eastwood started working for them, Universal hated his stiff acting and his habit of talking through his teeth when he said his lines—even though this became something like his trademark.
29. Held Back Again
These dissatisfactions with Eastwood’s acting lasted quite a while: in 1959, he and Burt Reynolds, who was also contracted with Universal, were both fired from the studio. Eastwood, according to Reynolds, “was fired because his Adam’s apple stuck out too far. He talked too slow. And he had a chipped tooth and he wouldn’t get it fixed.” Reynolds, for his part, was fired because he couldn’t act. Still, he took it in stride and instead told Eastwood, “You know, you are really screwed, because I can learn how to act. You can’t get rid of that Adam’s apple.” Reynolds then joked, “And it’s held him back. It’s held him back.”
28. Low Point
While struggling to make it as an actor, Eastwood made what he considers to be the worst film in his career: the 1958 Western Ambush at Cimarron Pass.
27. Getting Rowdy
Though it’s now no longer near the high point of his career, he finally got his big break starring in the hit TV Western series Rawhide from 1959-1965, which took only three weeks to become one of the top 20 TV shows airing at the time. Eastwood played the young, coltish good guy Rowdy, a role he was never very comfortable portraying.
In 1963, Eastwood got a call to be a part a Western called A Fistful of Dollars, directed by a then-unknown Sergio Leone. The film would be the first in what is now called “the Dollars trilogy,” the third of which, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, is one of the most iconic Westerns of all time. But at the time he was hired for A Fistful of Dollars, Eastwood just wanted to escape his Rawhide image. As he later said, “In Rawhide I did get awfully tired of playing the conventional white hat. The hero who kisses old ladies and dogs and was kind to everybody. I decided it was time to be an anti-hero.”
25. Yojim-who? I Don’t Know Him
A Fistful of Dollars is an unofficial remake of the legendary Akira Kurosawa’s samurai film Yojimbo, and Yojimbo’s production company actually successfully sued Leone’s production.
24. Bringing It All Back Home
To be fair to Leone, Yojimbo itself is widely considered to be an adaptation of renowned mystery author Dashiell Hammet’s 1929 novel Red Harvest, and as Leone claimed, “Kurosawa’s Yojimbo was inspired by an American novel of the série noire so I was really taking the story back home again.”
23. What an Honor
France is pretty into Eastwood, and films of his that have flopped in America have had a second life across the pond. In 2007, France even awarded him a Legion of Honor medal, the highest French order of merit; it was established in 1802 by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte.
22. Just Say No
Though Eastwood’s Man with No Name is continually smoking cigarillos—and looks damn good doing so—Eastwood actually doesn’t smoke, and hated the cigarettes while filming the Dollars trilogy because they nauseated him. On the set of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, he used to tell the director Sergio Leone, who liked shooting multiple takes, “You’d better get it this time, because I’m going to throw up.”
21. Back to the Future
Although The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the third film in the trilogy, it’s actually a prequel: we see the Man with No Name come into possession of his famous poncho in the film.
20. Smells Like Cigarillos
Eastwood never washed that iconic poncho; as he explains, “If you washed it, it would fall apart.” He even still owns it.
19. Gun Ban
One of Eastwood’s other quintessential roles, as detective Harry Callahan in 1971’s Dirty Harry, came about because Frank Sinatra, the studio’s first choice, had a strange problem: he said he had a “hand issue” and couldn’t hold a gun, which, if you’ve seen the film, is kind of a big deal. As Eastwood said, “That sounded like a pretty lame excuse,” but he was more than happy to fill in.
18. True Crime Inspiration
Dirty Harry’s villain, Scorpio, was modelled after the Zodiac Killer, who had just wreaked havoc in the Bay Area, where the film is also set.
17. Dirty Inspiration
Dirty Harry inspired a copycat crime: In the film, Scorpio kidnaps a girl, buries her alive, and demands ransom money from the police. In 2009, it came out that a 1981 abduction of a young girl happened because the kidnapping couple got the idea after watching Dirty Harry.
16. Too Manly for Me
Although Sinatra dropped out of the film, several high profile names also passed on Dirty Harry. Even The Duke himself, John Wayne, felt that the character was too violent, and Steve McQueen was sick of doing cop movies after filming Bullitt.
15. Neither Shaken Nor Stirred
Eastwood himself has turned down some truly gargantuan roles throughout his lengthy career: he nixed paying James Bond after Sean Connery left the post, and he rejected the offer to play Superman himself, citing that it just wasn’t for him.
14. It’s a Jungle out There
Other role refusals had more concrete reasons: Eastwood disappointed Francis Ford Coppola when he turned down playing Martin Sheen’s character in Apocalypse Now because he didn’t really feel like spending 16 weeks in the jungle shooting. Can’t blame him for that one.
13. I Scream, You Scream
Eastwood has gone above and beyond his civic duty many times, but perhaps the epitome of this was his tenure as the mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea in California from 1986 to 1988. Annoyed that his plans for a building weren’t approved by the municipality, he ran for mayor and won 72.5% of the vote. One of his landmark decisions was to remove the ban on selling and eating ice cream on the streets of Carmel. Another one for the white hats.
12. We’ll Do It Live
Perhaps going back to his days smoking gross cigarette after gross cigarette while Sergio Leone shot take after take, Eastwood tends to be a one-shot director. In fact, every aspect of his directing style is, well, direct: He eschews storyboarding, rehearsing, and tweaking scripts after they’re done. Once, when Matt Damon asked for another take, Eastwood sniped back, “Why? So you can waste everybody’s time?”
11. Getting Lucky
Eastwood’s famous line in Dirty Harry is one of the most misquoted in film history, up there with “Luke, I am your father.” Harry doesn’t say, “Do you feel lucky, punk?” while he looks down at the suspect through the barrel of the gun. He says, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?” Not as quotable, though.
Scripts existed for Unforgiven, the 1992 Western Eastwood both directed and starred in, as early as 1976, but Eastwood sat on the script for almost 20 years because he wanted to be old enough to play the lead role and have the film be the last of his Westerns.
9. Not Bad for His Age
When Million Dollar Baby won the Best Picture Oscar in 2004, Eastwood, then 74, became the oldest of the only 18 directors to have directed two or more Best Picture winters.
8. Empty Seat
In August 2012, Eastwood gave a now rather infamous speech at the Republic National Convention. As a part of the talk, Eastwood spoke to an empty chair that was said to represent President Barack Obama.
7. Off on the Right Foot
Eastwood’s production company, Malpaso, comes from his agent’s (not great) advice to him that doing the Dollars trilogy was a “bad step,” which is a phrase that translates to “Malpaso” in Spanish.
Although Eastwood often appears in the films he directs, including Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, and Unforgiven, he has also directed films in which he does not appear, like American Sniper, Mystic River, and Letters from Iwo Jima.
5. “At Least”
Eastwood himself has been rather unforthcoming about the amount of children he has. When asked on 60 Minutes in 1997 about the official number, he only replied, “I have a few.” Later, in 2009, David Letterman asked, “You have seven, seven children?” Eastwood’s reply? “At least.”
4. What’s Behind Door Number 2?
When he signed on to be in A Fistful of Dollars, in addition to his $15,000 salary, Eastwood was also given a Mercedes.
3. Taking the Reins
His directorial debut was in the psychological thriller Play Misty For Me in 1971.
2. Sowing Wild Oats
There is no definitive tally of the amount of children Eastwood has fathered, and his first confirmed child, Kimber Eastwood, was actually kept a secret from the public at large for over two decades, until the National Enquirer ran an exposé on her existence in 1989 (she was born in 1964). At the time of her birth, Eastwood was married to a woman who was not Kimber’s mother.
Not much is known about the Man with No Name, the character Eastwood plays throughout the Dollars trilogy. He wears an iconic poncho, smokes a lot, and rarely speaks. He was never given an official name in the films (hence the moniker), but goes by “Joe,” “Manco” and “Blondie” at various points. He goes by “Blondie” because of his hair, and “Manco” because, except for shooting, he does everything with his left hand; “Manco” is Spanish for “one-armed.”