As the belived 88-year-old actor/director releases another film, avowed fanselects 10 of his favourites
ACTOR, director, Oscar winner, mayor and lifelong Republican supporter are some of the faces of Clint Eastwood — an individual surely deserving of the label, ‘American legend’.
Whatever about his politics, there’s no denying his unique cinematic vision expressed in a half century career encompassing 70 acting roles, and 37 as director.
In a CV that encompasses genres ranging across cop thrillers, elegiac Westerns, sporting dramas, war chronicles and a period romance, the 88-year-old former lumberjack continues to defy time’s hourglass with his latest, The Mule, currently in cinemas.
PLAY MISTY FOR ME, 1971
Eastwood’s first foray as director saw him cast as a Californian radio disc jockey who finds himself stalked by an obsessive and deranged fan with whom he had a one-night stand. A tense thriller played against the soundtrack of the Eroll Garner jazz standard, he demonstrated an early aptitude for sustained tension and dramatic pacing.
THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES 1976
With his early career background as ‘the man with no name’ in the ‘spaghetti Westerns’ of Sergio Leone, Eastwood’s confidence both in front and behind the camera found grim expression in this American Civil War revenge thriller. Adapted from a novel by white supremacist supporter Forrest Carter, he played a Confederate renegade delivering a savage retribution for the cold-blooded murder of his wife and family.
The film was particularly praised by Native Americans for its clear avoidance of stereotypical ‘cowboys and Indians’ portrayal.
PALE RIDER, 1985
With a title drawn from the Book of Revelation – “I looked and beheld a pale horse, and the name of the rider upon him was Death” – Eastwood plays the almost silent Preacher, coming to the aid of impoverished settlers in their fight against the powerful mining industry.
Coming nine years after Josey Wales and seven years before Unforgiven, it became the biggest box office Western of the 1980s.
Rightly considered Eastwood’s masterpiece, this brutal tale of the Old West saw him on magisterial form as a former gunslinger lured out of self-imposed retirement to avenge the disfigurement of a prostitute. Eastwood kept the script under wraps for over a decade until he considered himself mature enough to properly play the grizzled Bill Munny.
A big Oscar winner, it gave Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman and Richard Harris superb roles in a film thoroughly deserving of ‘classic’. The final screen credit reads, ‘Dedicated to Sergio and Don’ — a reference to Eastwood’s directorial mentors, Sergio Leone and Don Siegel.
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, 1995
The mega-selling romance tale by Robert James Waller seemed an odd choice for Eastwood, but one where he demonstrated a ‘less is more’ style that captivated audiences.
Meryl Streep fought off Cher, Anjelica Huston and Susan Sarandon to play the lonely Iowa housewife who embarks on a four-day affair with a National Geographic photographer — and lit up the screen with a chemistry that showed mature love in a way rarely seen on screen.
While the studio bosses wanted a younger actress, it was Eastwood’s mother, Ruth, who kept pushing Streep as perfect the role of Francesca.
MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, 1997
Eastwood’s lifelong love of jazz found ripe expression in this under-rated adaptation of the popular novel based around shady dealings amongst the upper class echelons of Savannah, Georgia. A well realised Southern Gothic set to the tunes of Johnny Mercer, it starred Spacey, Cusack, Jude Law and the scene-stealing Lady Chablis as herself. Eastwood even lends his husky vocals to a smoky version of ‘Accentuate the Positive’ on the soundtrack.
MILLION DOLLAR BABY, 2004
This epic boxing tale swept the Oscars with Swank as the working class debutant fighter mentored by Eastwood’s grizzled, worldly-wise trainer. Acclaimed as ‘a female Rocky’, it delved into deeper themes of ambition, success and redemption.
Another Oscar sweep for the actor-director, it delivered one of the most dramatic and heart-breaking endings even seen on screen. At 74, Eastwood became the oldest individual to win the Best Director award.
At 78, Eastwood proved age was just a number directing Jolie in this true-life crime drama about a single mother in 1920s Los Angeles whose nine-year-old son disappears. Months later, the LA cops return her boy — which she claims is an imposter, and is sent to a psychiatric unit to restrain her outcry. With echoes of Chinatown and LA Confidential in its depiction of political and police corruption, it brought Jolie a deserved Oscar nomination.
Opting to transfer from his standard US locations to South Africa, Eastwood put a neat cinematic gloss on Nelson Mandela’s clever usage of the 1995 Rugby World Cup as a means of welding together opposing sides in the divisive aftermath of Apartheid. Freeman, who was Mandela’s own suggestion, brought a stately wisdom to the role, while Damon excelled as rugby captain Francois Pienaar.
AMERICAN SNIPER, 2014
On paper it seemed an unlikely box office blockbuster, but instead turned out to be one of Eastwood’s biggesthits. Cooper as the emotionally damaged US Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle, opened the public’s eyes to the long-term effects of PTSD, making it the highest earning war film of all time. The actor claimed to have never held a gun prior to filming. The real-life Kyle was always adamant that “if anyone tells my story, it must be Clint Eastwood.”