As Dirty Harry, The Man With No Name, and an angry old grump who wants people off his lawn, Clint Eastwood has evoked a grizzled macho-ism on screen for decades. His many memorable roles and time spent behind the camera as a director placed Eastwood solidly into the history books of Hollywood. While manly men have emerged from movies, Eastwood has something macho stars like Burt Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or even John Wayne couldn't match. He's extremely stubborn about doing things his own way, and because he's created such a legacy for himself, he can get away with it. In the audience's mind, Eastwood will always be a tough guy. Interestingly enough, he's had enough macho experiences off-screen to make his screen persona legit.
Eastwood came up through Hollywood slowly, earning his first role in Revenge of the Creature before finally finding his big break with the 1959 television series, Rawhide. In 1964, he accepted a role in Sergio Leone's Italian western A Fistful of Dollars, and its international success made him a star. In the 1970s, Eastwood began turning his attention to directing, and eventually found even more success and critical acclaim behind the camera. While Eastwood's macho-ism has morphed as he aged, he will always be one of Hollywood's most famous manly men, with his characteristic squint and gravelly voice inspiring fans for years to come. What's behind the man audiences see on screen, however, is just as macho.
He Survived A Plane Crash In The Pacific OceanPhoto: Space Cowboys/Warner Bros.
Having been drafted into the Army during the Korean War, Eastwood took advantage of the fact he could get free military airplane rides. "In those days, you could wear your uniform and get a free flight," he said. Traveling from Seattle to Monterey in 1951, 21-year-old Eastwood found himself the only passenger in Douglas AD bomber. Unfortunately, the trip did not go smoothly. "Everything went wrong," he remembered. "Radios went out, oxygen ran out and they finally... The pilot flew it around for quite a while, and we ran out of fuel up around Point Reyes, California. And went in the ocean." Although everyone escaped the water landing alive, they had to swim more than a mile to the shore.
To make matters worse, the water was frigid since the incident happened in late fall, and there were potentially dangerous creatures in the water. "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, just had apoplexy or something," Eastwood said. Throughout the experience, Eastwood knew perishing was a possibility, but he decided to focus on the positives he could identify. "I just thought in the back of my mind... Well some people have made [it] through these things so maybe we'll have a luck and when we hit the water," he recalled. "And the water felt much more comfortable because in the air the sound of the engine not running was very disconcerting."
He Did His Own Stunts In The Climbing Film 'The Eiger Sanction'
According to Eastwood's long-time stunt double Buddy Van Horn, Eastwood was always eager to complete his own stunts. "He's a pretty physical guy and likes to do his own stunts," Van Horn said. "Some of the things he does were pretty easy to get banged up. I've tried to talk him out of it sometimes but not very successfully most of the time." One film in which Eastwood did many of his own stunts was The Eiger Sanction, a film which required several intense mountain climbing sequences. While training turned out to be extremely difficult for Eastwood, he forced himself to be successful. "Then he reacted characteristically - he got pissed off," remembered climbing advisor Mike Hoover. "He pulled in his chin and gritted his teeth and with absolutely no technique at all, just blood and guts, he moosed his way up."
After one crew member who was an experienced climber perished after being struck by a falling rock, Eastwood considered shutting down production. Others working on the film, including several climbers, urged him to continue so the fallen climber's passing and the work he had completed would not be meaningless. Continuing on, however, required Eastwood to complete one of the most dangerous stunts in the film; dangling over an abyss, cutting his line, and falling. In order to make it look like his character cut his line and fell to his doom, Eastwood had to cut the rope he dangled from while trusting his safety line would keep him safe. Of course, the actor would only fall a few feet and movie magic would fill in the rest, but for Eastwood, the stunt was psychologically difficult. "I could see this pasture way down below, and I could hear the cowbells ringing," he remembered. "And I thought, 'Why am I not sitting out there with those cows sunbathing?'"
He Saved A Man's Life From ChokingPhoto: Dirty Harry/Warner Bros.
An avid golfer, Eastwood owns a golf club in Carmel, CA, and can often be spotted at tournaments. In 2014, he attended the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and added another notch to his macho belt. At a party for volunteers, he saw tournament director Steve John choking on what he later discovered was a piece of cheese. "I looked in his eyes and saw that look of panic people have when they see their life passing before their eyes," Eastwood remembered. "It looked bad."
He performed the Heimlich Maneuver on John without stopping to think. "I was looking at him and couldn't breathe," John said. "He recognized it immediately and saved my life." In addition to being grateful of Eastwood's selfless act, John also expressed amazement at the actor-director's strength. "I can't believe I'm 202 pounds and he threw me up in the air three times," John recalled.
He Jumped Off A Bridge In 'Dirty Harry' And Rode On The Hood Of A Car For 'Magnum Force'Photo: Magnum Force/Warner Bros.
In addition to completing all his own mountain climbing stunts for The Eiger Sanction, Eastwood did many of his own stunts in other films as well. For The Gauntlet, Eastwood chased a helicopter on a motorcycle. In Magnum Force, he rode on an out-of-control car by riding on the hood. Audiences can clearly see it is Eastwood himself jumping off a trestle bridge and onto the top of a moving bus below in Dirty Harry.
Not to say the actor wasn't aware of the danger of these stunts, but rather he wanted viewers to not feel cheated by someone else doing his work. According to stunt double Buddy Van Horn, however, Eastwood was willing to let him complete a stunt if the possibility of getting hurt was too great. "I think a lot of the actors like to do certain things to a point you can let 'em do it safely - that's fine," Van Horn said "There have been times when I've tried to talk people out of doing things, most of the time I’m successful. The times with Clint when he got a few bumps and bruises I didn't think he needed."