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In the introduction to Rope Burns, Toole writes about "the magic of winning and losing in a mans game, where men will battle with their minds and bodies and hearts into and beyond exhaustion, past their second wind, through cracked ribs and swollen livers, ruptured kidneys and detached retinas." He might just as soon have been talking about making movies. "I think Im on a track of doing pictures nobody wants to do, that theyre all afraid of," chuckles Eastwood. "I guess its the era we live in, where theyre doing remakes of Dukes of Hazzard and other old television shows. I must say, Im not a negative person, but sometimes I wonder what kind of movies people are going to be making 10 years from now if they follow this trajectory. When I grew up there was such a variety of movies being made. You could go see Sergeant York or Sitting Pretty or Sullivans Travels dozens of pictures, not to mention all the great B movies. Now, theyre looking for whatever the last hit was. If its The Incredibles, they want The Double Incredibles. My theory is they ought to corral writers into writers buildings like they used to and start out with fresh material."
Asked to pinpoint the appeal of Eastwoods films, the noted French film critic, publicist and distributor Pierre Rissient, who has known Eastwood personally since the 1960s and has worked on the promotional campaigns for a number of his films, says, "Its their classicism. His pictures stand the test of time because they dont try to be trendy or modernist. He just makes the films, in the tradition of the great storytellers of the 30s and 40s." Clint Eastwood is now something of a classic himself, a cultural icon as chiseled into our collective consciousness as any of the faces on Mount Rushmore. Yet such was not always the case. A $75-a-week contract player at Universal in the 1950s, Eastwood floundered in bit parts in pictures like Revenge of the Creature and Francis in the Navy. Then, in 1959, he landed a supporting role in the Rawhide television series, where he would remain until the shows 1966 cancellation excepting one summer production hiatus when Eastwood, frustrated by the one-dimensionality of his character on the show, made the impulsive decision that would lay the groundwork for the rest of his career. Not speaking a word of Italian, and for a salary of only $15,000, he boarded a plane to Rome to play the lead role in a "spaghetti Western" with the working title The Mysterious Stranger. That film, of course, turned out to be Sergio Leones A Fistful of Dollars, the international success of which (coupled with that of its two celebrated sequels, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) helped give Eastwood a second shot in Hollywood pictures one he wasnt about to squander.
Director and former film critic Curtis Hanson has recalled how, upon paying a visit to the production of Coogans Bluff (1968) the first of Eastwoods five collaborations with director Don Siegel he was struck by Eastwoods habit of remaining on the set in between setups and even during the filming of scenes he wasnt in. Already, just two years before forming Malpaso and three before directing (at Siegels urging) his own debut feature, Play Misty for Me, Clint was an eager student and a tireless observer. No matter a business that religiously favors the present moment, Clint seemed to be planning for the future, as though, well before employing it as the ad line for his 1988 Charlie Parker biopic, Bird, he already had in mind F. Scott Fitzgeralds epigram "There are no second acts in American lives." "At that stage of life, you dont know what old is," Eastwood says. "When I was starting to do Play Misty, I thought, In a few years, when Im 45, Ill be old, because Im 40 now. I had no idea Id still be working at this age. Great guys who I admired Billy Wilder, for example, nobody was hiring him in his late 60s, and heres a man who lived to be 95! You never know, either you go out of touch with reality or people just get tired of hiring you, figure theres some young, 25-year-old guy who can do it better. I think youve got to always expand on what youre doing. Youve got to stay open-minded."