The untold truth of Clint Eastwood

Throughout a Hollywood career spanning from the 1950s to the present, Clint Eastwood managed to carve out dual careers as both an A-list movie star and Oscar-winning director. According to Biography.com, Eastwood was born in San Francisco in 1930, and held a series of blue-collar jobs before being drafted into the U.S. Army. Discharged in 1953, Eastwood headed to L.A. to pursue a career in showbiz. Despite having no professional acting experience, he was signed to a contract with Universal Pictures. Small roles followed until he was cast as cowboy Rowdy Yates in hit TV western Rawhide, which ran from 1958 until 1965.

From there, Eastwood starred in a trio of gritty, Italian-produced "spaghetti Westerns" that became surprise hits, suddenly giving him cache in Hollywood. The 1970s saw Eastwood establish himself as one of the big screen's most beloved stars while also flexing his muscles behind the camera; since making his directorial debut with 1971's Play Misty for Me, noted The Numbers, Eastwood-directed films have brought in more than $3.3 billion at the box office.

Clint Eastwood may be a Hollywood icon, yet there's much his fans may not know about the multitalented actor, director, musician, and entrepreneur. So go ahead — make your day by exploring the untold truth of Clint Eastwood. 

Clint Eastwood was fired because his Adam's apple was too big

When Clint Eastwood was hired by Universal as a contract player, he became friendly with another young actor who had been signed around the same time: Burt Reynolds. While both men would go on to become huge stars in the years that followed, Reynolds revealed in an interview with Larry King Live that they were both fired by Universal during the same year. 

As Reynolds explained, the studio axed Eastwood "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." When Eastwood asked Reynolds why he had been fired, the future Smokey and the Bandit star explained he was told it was because he couldn't act. "I said to Clint, you know, you are really screwed, because I can learn how to act," quipped Reynolds. "You can't get rid of that Adam's apple."

The next time that Clint Eastwood worked for Universal, revealed Reynolds, he was paid "a million dollars" — substantially more than the $75 a week he was reportedly paid while under contract.

He wore the same poncho in all his spaghetti Westerns — and it's never been washed

Clint Eastwood was still starring in TV's Rawhide when he flew overseas during the show's hiatus to star in a low-budget Western shot in Italy. The film, A Fistful of Dollars, reported Box Office Mojo, raked in more than $14 million. Given the budget was a reported $100,000, the film's surprise success led to Eastwood starring in two more spaghetti Westerns from director Sergio Leone, with Clint Eastwood's poncho-clad gunslinger — a.k.a. the Man With No Name — also headlining For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Discussing the trilogy in an interview with Feature Story, Clint Eastwood confirmed a rumor that he wore the same poncho in all three movies — and that it had never been washed. "If you washed it, it would fall apart," Eastwood said with a laugh. "Yeah, I still have that poncho."

Asked if he'd ever had the poncho laundered, he admitted he had not. "No. It was folded up after The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and it hasn't been unfolded yet," he explained.

Clint Eastwood composes and performs music for his movies

Not only has Clint Eastwood starred in and directed his own movies, he's also been known to compose and perform music for many of his films. As Den of Geek pointed out, Eastwood has written numerous musical pieces for his movies, including Honkytonk Man, City Heat, Heartbreak Ridge, A Perfect World, The Bridges Of Madison County, Qui, Absolute Power, True Crime, Space Cowboys, In The Line Of Fire, and the song that plays during the closing credits of Gran Torino.

In addition, Clint Eastwood also composed the full musical scores for several of his films, including Mystic RiverThe ChangelingMillion Dollar Baby, and Flags of Our Fathers. In a 2003 profile in The New Yorker, Eastwood explained how he used Mystic River's trio of actors — Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, and Kevin Bacon — as musical inspiration. "They all formed this triangle, so I started writing a triad, playing with that on a piano," he said. "And all of a sudden I developed this theme based on this triad, which is nothing terribly complicated, but to me — in a movie, the music shouldn't be terribly complicated. It should be supporting, not overriding."

He released an album of cowboy songs

Back when he was still playing Rowdy Yates on TV western Rawhide, Clint Eastwood went into a recording studio to lend his voice to a collection of cowboy songs. Produced as a merchandising tie-in with the TV show, Rawhide's Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites was released in 1963.

Along with such cowpoke classics as "Don't Fence Me In" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," the collection included the original song "Rowdy," a musical homage to his cattle-driving Rawhide character. "Head 'em up, move 'em out, always on the run," he sings in one verse. "Got to make a few more miles before the setting sun."

The album was not the only time Clint Eastwood dipped his toe in country music. Eastwood teamed up with R&B legend Ray Charles for the single "Beers to You" from his film Any Which Way You Can and partnered with country star Merle Haggard for "Bar Room Buddies," from the soundtrack to Bronco Billy. In addition, Eastwood was joined by singer Marty Robbins for "In the Jailhouse Now" for his film Honkytonk Man, in which he played an alcoholic country singer dying from tuberculosis.

Clint Eastwood was cast in Dirty Harry because Frank Sinatra couldn't hold a gun

Even more iconic than Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name was Detective Harry Callahan, the loose-cannon cop first introduced in Dirty Harry. It may seem impossible to picture any other actor in the role — which Eastwood reprised in four sequels — yet he was not the original choice for Dirty Harry"I guess they tried to get a lot of people for it," Eastwood said in an interview with MTV News. "They tried Frank Sinatra and Robert Mitchum and Steve McQueen. Then they finally ended up with Frank Sinatra."

Eastwood was working on completing post-production of his directorial debut, Play Misty for Me, when he received a call asking if he still had any interest in Dirty Harry. "I said, 'What happened to Frank Sinatra?' And they said, 'Frank Sinatra's got some problem with his hand and he can't hold a gun.' That sounded like a pretty lame excuse, but it didn't matter to me," said Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood agreed to join the project, but had one condition; since his initial discussions, the script had undergone several rewrites that left him unimpressed. "I said, 'I'm only interested in the original script,'" Eastwood declared.

Clint Eastwood has made millions

Being a top movie star and director with a streak of big-screen hits extending from the 1960s to the present fattened Clint Eastwood's bank account. According to Celebrity Net Worth, as of 2020 he was worth an estimated $375 million. 

This represents a big jump from his early days on television, when he started off earning a measly $700 per week for Rawhide, according to Clint Eastwood: A Biography. Meanwhile, Eastwood told Deseret News he was paid just $15,000 for the movie that made him a star, A Fistful of Dollars. In the years that followed, Eastwood has not been one to rest on his laurels; since making his directorial debut with 1971's Play Misty for Me, Clint Eastwood has directed roughly a film a year; his 2019 movie Richard Jewell marked his 41st. 

In addition to acting and directing, for 27 years he was co-owner of the Hog's Breath Inn in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, until closing it down in 1999. An avid golfer, Eastwood also owns Carmel's Tehàma Golf Club. "A lot of people buy stuff for investments," Eastwood told Architectural Digest of his 18-hole course. "I only buy something I really love. I figure if I love it, I'll always take care of it."

He ran for mayor of a California town to overturn an ice cream law

Stars such as Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger have shifted from showbiz to politics, and in 1986 Clint Eastwood likewise threw his hat into the political arena to successfully run for mayor of Carmel, California. His campaign was not fueled by political ambition, however, but by a grudge.

According to UPI, Eastwood's mayoral bid came after a two-year legal battle with Carmel's council, which had blocked his plans to construct a building by citing outdated and often ridiculous ordinances that Eastwood believed were halting progress. "They want it to be like it was in the '20s," griped Eastwood. "Well, it can't be. Of course we need to control growth, but some of the things they've done are silly."

One of Mayor Eastwood's first official acts was a symbolic one, reported the Los Angeles Times: altering an ordinance that the city had previously used to deny granting a permit to an ice cream parlor. "I hope to never read about the ice cream cones again," Eastwood joked during a council meeting, according to the Los Angeles Times. When his two-year term ended, reported the Washington Post, Clint Eastwood declined to seek re-election.

Clint Eastwood turned down 007 and Superman

Clint Eastwood has played his share of memorable characters during the course of his lengthy Hollywood career, but he passed on two big ones: Superman and James Bond.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times (as reported by the Telegraph), Eastwood revealed he was offered "pretty good money" to play 007 in what turned out to be George Lazenby's sole outing as Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. "This was after Sean Connery left," Eastwood explained. "My lawyer represented Cubby Broccoli [producer of the Bond movies] and he came and said, 'They would love to have you.' But to me, well, that was somebody else's gig. That's Sean's deal. It didn't feel right for me to be doing it."

As for the Man of Steel, Clint Eastwood — who was in his late 40s when the Christopher Reeve-starring Superman hit theatres in 1978 — felt he was too old for the role. "This was when they first started to think about making it," Eastwood said, admitting that putting on tights and a cape to play a comic-book superhero just wasn't his thing. "I was like, 'Superman? Nah, nah, that's not for me.' Not that there's anything wrong with it. It's for somebody, but not me."

Clint Eastwood is a literal life saver

While Clint Eastwood may have turned down the chance to play a superhero, in 2014 he demonstrated his own real-life heroism. "Clint saved my life," Steve John, CEO of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, told the Carmel Pine Cone. During an event ahead of the golf tournament, he explained, John was chatting with VIPs and enjoying some hors d'oeuvres when a piece of cheese became wedged in his throat. He began to choke. 

"Clint came right up behind me, and he knew exactly what to do," said John, revealing that Eastwood gave him the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging the cheese and rescuing John from choking to death. 

"I looked in his eyes and saw that look of panic people have when they see their life passing before their eyes," Clint Eastwood told the newspaper, explaining why he sprang into action when he did. "It looked bad." According to Eastwood, he gave John "three good jolts, and that got it out. And then I made him drink a big glass of water with a bunch of lemon squeezed in it."

He survived a plane crash by swimming through shark-infested waters

When Eastwood was serving in the U.S. Army, he also wound up saving a life — his own. As he told The Hollywood Reporter, he was flying on a military plane when it crashed into the ocean off the coast of Point Reyes, California after the World War II-era bomber ran out of fuel. "What was going through my mind was just a stark fear, a stark terror," Eastwood admitted. 

Luckily, Eastwood — who worked as a swimming instructor during his stint in the army — was a strong swimmer. "I could see the Marin County coast from a distance. I don't know how far it was — it seemed like 50 miles, but it was probably a mile or two," Eastwood continued, telling THR that day had started turning into night as they swam. "It was quite a way into nightfall before we reached it."

What Clint Eastwood didn't know while making the arduous journey to shore was that they were swimming through an area where sharks had been known to breed. Looking back, Eastwood admitted he was "glad I didn't know that at the time or I'd have just died."

He'll overreact if someone takes his parking space

One day in 1989, Clint Eastwood drove into Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles, where his Malpaso Productions is headquartered. When he arrived, he was perturbed to see a Nissan Maxima sitting in his parking spot. According to the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, reported Deseret News, the ticked-off star allegedly rammed the car with his truck, reportedly "so angry that he had to be restrained after threatening to smash the windows of [the] car with a hammer." The owner of the car, Stacy McLaughlin, took Eastwood to court, filing a $100,000 lawsuit. Eastwood's lawyers offered an interesting defense: he hadn't intentionally rammed the car, he was simply parking his vehicle in his rightful spot; was it his fault there happened to be an unauthorized car in his parking spot?

Two years later, Associated Press reported that the judge in the case ruled in Clint Eastwood's favor. Eastwood paid $960 to repair the damage to McLaughlin's car, but her claim for $100,000 in punitive damages was dismissed. ″The judge ironically agreed that what Eastwood did was wrong and illegal, but was not egregious enough for punitive damages,″ said McLaughlin's lawyer, Gary Silverman, of the verdict.

Clint Eastwood has three honorary doctorates

While his friends may call him Clint, in academic circles he's known as Dr. Clint Eastwood. That's because the actor is the recipient of not one but three honorary degrees. In 2006, he received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of the Pacific. Not coincidentally, reported Reuters, Eastwood had been on the board of the university's Brubeck Institute (named for jazz pianist Dave Brubeck) since it was founded in 2000.

In 2007, Eastwood was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. "Clint Eastwood is an icon of film and television, inspiring audiences around the globe," said Elizabeth M. Daly, dean of USC's School of Cinematic Arts. "His work on both sides of the camera exemplifies the creativity and dedication that we strive to instill in our students." During the commencement ceremony, reported Variety, Eastwood was also presented with the school's inaugural Honorary Alumni Award.

Also in 2007, Eastwood received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Boston's Berklee College of Music, with Paste magazine reporting that he accepted the doctorate during that year's edition of the Monterey Jazz Festival.

He practices transcendental meditation

A little-known fact about Clint Eastwood is that he's a follower of the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, known for popularizing transcendental meditation, or TM. While Eastwood rarely discussed his interest in TM, in 2011 he recorded a video for the David Lynch Foundation, an organization founded by Twin Peaks director David Lynch to teach TM to schoolchildren. "I've been using it for almost 40 years now," Eastwood says in the video, "and I think it's a great tool for anyone to have, and to be able to utilize as a tool for stress." 

Added Eastwood: "I think that it is a great system to use in life in general — otherwise why would I have been doing it all these years? Almost half of my life."

Clint Eastwood also opened up about TM in an interview with GQ, revealing that he tries to meditate "twice a day." While working on a movie, Eastwood admitted that he becomes downright "religious" about ensuring he works meditation into his schedule. "I believe in whatever self-help you can give yourself," he explained. "So meditation with me was just a self-reliant thing."

Why Tom Hanks says Clint Eastwood 'treats actors like horses'

Clint Eastwood directed his fellow Oscar-winner Tom Hanks in the 2016 film Sully, with Hanks portraying airline pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger in the story of his emergency landing in the Hudson River after both engines of the jet he was piloting failed after flying through a flock of birds. As Hanks revealed during a 2016 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, shooting a Clint Eastwood movie was unlike any filmmaking experience he'd ever had before.

"He treats his actors like horses," Hanks declared, explaining the reason hearkened back to Eastwood's years working on Rawhide. Whenever a director on the TV Western would loudly yell "Action," Hanks said, "all the horses [the actors] were on would bolt." As a result, added Hanks, "when you're in a Clint Eastwood movie you don't even know the camera's rolling, and you hear, over your shoulder, [imitating Eastwood in a raspy whisper], 'All right, go ahead.' And sometimes you're doing some pretty hot stuff and you just keep doing it until you hear him say, 'That's enough of that.'"

Despite his own star status, Hanks admitted he found Eastwood's directing style to be "intimidating as hell."