Born Clinton Eastwood, Jr. in San Francisco on May 31, he was the older of two children whose family traveled across Northern California during the Great Depression. He took up competitive swimming and basketball during high school. After graduation, he worked as a lumberjack and forest fighter in Oregon, and a steelworker in Seattle. Drafted into the Army during the war in Korea, Eastwood was sent to Ft. Ord in California for basic training. He lucked into a job as a swimming instructor and remained at Ft. Ord. He worked nights and weekends as a bouncer at the NCO club.
On a trip home to Seattle to visit his parents and girlfriend, Eastwood caught a ride aboard a Navy plane at Moffett Field. On the ride back aboard a Navy torpedo bomber, the plane developed engine trouble and was forced to make a water landing off San Francisco. Eastwood was forced to swim over a mile through the tide to shore. It was while on duty at Ft. Ord that Eastwood met fellow soldiers and actors Martin Milner (“Route 66”), David Janssen (“The Fugitive”), and Richard Long (“The Big Valley”). After his discharge in 1953, Eastwood attended L.A. City College and studied drama under the GI Bill.
Eastwood went to Hollywood, where he got his start in a string of B-movies. For eight years, Eastwood played Rowdy Yates in the popular TV Western series Rawhide, before emerging as a leading man in a string of low-budget “spaghetti” Westerns directed by Sergio Leone: Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). All three were successful, but Eastwood made his real breakthrough with 1971’s smash hit Dirty Harry, directed by Don Siegel. Though he was not the first choice to play the film’s title role–Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman all reportedly declined the part–Eastwood made it his own, turning the blunt, cynical Dirty Harry into an iconic figure in American film.
In 1971, Eastwood directed his first film, the thriller Play Misty For Me (1971), and also appeared in the leading role. His next important project, and one of his most famous, was a series of violent action movies portraying Harry Callahan, a contentious San Francisco cop. The Dirty Harry series proved immensely popular with the public and included five films over a period of 17 years, including Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983) and The Dead Pool (1988).
During this period, Eastwood also took detours into comedic roles, appearing in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (alongside Jeff Bridges) and Every Which Way but Loose (alongside an orangutan), and, in a more serious and notable appearance, starred as real-life escapee Frank Lee Morris in Escape from Alcatraz (1979).
In 1986, Eastwood ran for mayor of Carmel in Northern California, one of America’s richest communities. It was reported that his decision for running was due to a series of clashes he had had with the council because they refused planning permission to renovate his restaurant, the Hog’s Hearth. Once elected (he won with three quarters of the votes), he promised to take two years out of making films, to concentrate on his new role as mayor. Like many politicians, he didn’t live up to his promises, and went ahead and did two poorly received films: ‘Heartbreak Ridge’ (1986) and ‘The Dead Pool’ (1988).
During this period, Eastwood had two further children, this time with former air stewardess, Jacelyn Reeves. Scott Eastwood was born in 1986 and Kathryn Eastwood in 1988. He then had one more child out of wedlock in 1992, with actress Frances Fisher. Their daughter is called Francesca-Fisher-Eastwood. In 1992, he hit the jackpot when he starred in, directed and produced the darkly unconventional Western Unforgiven. The film won four Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor (Gene Hackman), Best Film Editing, Best Director and Best Picture, both for Eastwood. He also found box-office success as a late-in-life action and romantic hero, in In the Line of Fire (1993) and The Bridges of Madison County (1995), respectively.
Eastwood indulged his love of jazz music in when he went on to direct the Charlie Parker biopic Bird (1988), for which he won wide critical acclaim. He also earned accolades for directing and producing the 1992 western Unforgiven, which won the Academy Award for best picture and earned Eastwood the Oscar for best director. Eastwood starred in the film as aging gunslinger William Munny. The following year, he directed and starred in A Perfect World, and went on to star in and direct 1995’s The Bridges of Madison County (with Meryl Streep) and 1997’s Absolute Power. He directed (but did not appear in) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997); and produced, directed and starred in the 1999 thriller True Crime.
Subsequent films were credible, but nothing really stuck out. Among them were the moderately well-received Absolute Power (1997) and Space Cowboys (2000), and the badly received True Crime (1999) and Blood Work (2002). But Eastwood surprised yet again, returning to the top of the A-list with the hugely successful Million Dollar Baby (2004), which earned him an Oscar for Best Director and a Best Actor nomination for the second time. Behind the camera, Clint had big successes directing the multi-award-winning films Mystic River (2003), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), and Changeling (2008) which starred Angelina Jolie. Eastwood’s next starring vehicle, Gran Torino (2008), gave him a $30 million opening weekend, proving his box office appeal has not waned with old age.
Eastwood has managed to keep his extremely convoluted personal life secretive for the most part and never discusses his families with the media. He had a long time relationship with frequent co-star Locke and has eight children by six other women, although he has only been married twice. Clint Eastwood lives in Los Angeles and owns homes in Monterey, Northern California, Idaho and Hawaii.