Clint Eastwood is a curiously enduring icon of masculinity thanks to his fame-cementing roles as the good cop with a bad attitude Harry Calahan in the Dirty Harry movies and as the man with no name in Sergio Leone's Dollar's trilogy of films known as the spaghetti westerns.
Yet, his story is an intriguing one from his complex love life to his time in the military as well as his rise to becoming one of the world's most famous faces.
A Star is Born
Born in May, 1930, Clinton Eastwood Jnr would move about a lot as a child as his father worked various jobs up and down the West Coast.
Intriguingly, his high-school records remain highly confidential and legally guarded, but it is thought Eastwood never actually graduated.
Long Before Hollywood
Eastwood worked at a number of jobs, including lifeguard, paper carrier, grocery clerk, forest firefighter, and golf caddy and Eastwood himself said he tried to enroll in Seattle University before being drafted into the military at the outbreak of the Korean War in 1951.
A lifeguard at Fort Ord, California, he would work as a bouncer in the evenings to make ends meet.
After spending a weekend away from his base to see a girlfriend, Eastwood hitched a ride with a fellow serviceman who was flying back to Seattle.
He was a passenger on a Douglas AD bomber that ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean near Point Reyes. Using a life raft, he and the pilot swam 2 miles (3.2 km) to safety.
Life Changing Moment
In an interview by The Telegraph, Eastwood recounted the trauma.
“It was stormy, and we went down off of Point Reyes, California, in the Pacific. I found myself in the water swimming a few miles towards the shore. I remember thinking, ‘Well, 21 is not as long as a person wants to live.’”
“We went down at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon,” he continued.
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. Then it got dark. It was quite a way into nightfall before we reached it.”
Knowing The Right People
Despite this, he managed to make it back to where he was stationed, and it was here where he would meet Chuck Hill, who was stationed at Fort Ord and had contacts in Hollywood.
An enterprising assistant, he spotted Eastwood and invited him to meet a director.
Working His Way Up
This led Eastwood on a journey to which his stature was admired, but he industry players recommended her get acting lessons.
Eastwood was initially criticized for his stiff manner and delivering his lines through his teeth, but these would later become a lifelong trademark of his.
Making his first formal audition in 1954 for a role he would be rejected for, Eastwood would make uncredited or small appearances in film and television but struggled to make ends meet throughout the mid and late fifties.
In 1958, Eastwood was cast as Rowdy Yates for the CBS hour-long western series Rawhide, the breakthrough in his career he had long been searching for.
Icon In The Making
As Rawhide began to wind down in the early 60s due to dwindling viewing figures, Eastwood's co-star on the show, Eric Fleming, rejected an offer to star in an Italian-made western called A Fistful of Dollars, to be directed in a remote region of Spain by the then relatively unknown Sergio Leone.
Richard Harrison suggested Eastwood to Leone because Harrison knew Eastwood could play a cowboy. Eastwood took on the role, and it would land him fame and great acclaim.
A Change of Direction
Eastwood said of the role: "I wanted to play it with an economy of words and create this whole feeling through attitude and movement. It was just the kind of character I had envisioned for a long time, keep to the mystery and allude to what happened in the past. It came about after the frustration of doing Rawhide for so long. "
"I felt the less he said, the stronger he became, and the more he grew in the imagination of the audience."
Complex Love Life
Clint Eastwood’s first marriage was to one Maggie Johnson who he met through a blind date.
The pair were married for 31 years, but it wasn't all plain sailing. Eastwood would have several long-term relationships and go on to marry Dina Ruiz (pictured) in 1996 until their divorce in 2014.
While he was engaged to Maggie, Eastwood had an affair with another woman and allegedly got the woman pregnant. The resulting child was given up for adoption.
Then in 1972, he met Sandra Locke whom with he engaged in a 14-year affair with.
A Dark Secret
But even when dating Sandra openly, after his divorce from Maggie, Eastwood was apparently unfaithful to her and had two children (Scott and Kathryn) with flight stewardess Jacklyn Reeves.
Locke clearly had a bone to pick with Clint Eastwood, and even went so far as to claim that Eastwood forced her to terminate two of the pregnancies he caused her, as well as forcing her to become sterile in a tell-all book.
Moving Behind The Camera
Beginning with the thriller Play Misty for Me, Eastwood has directed over 30 films, including Westerns, action films, and dramas. He is one of few top Hollywood actors to have also become a critically and commercially successful director.
Despite not appearing in a film since 2014, he continues to direct and won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture for Million Dollar Baby.
Still working today, Eastwood has a film he directed coming out in 2018, and his production company continues to make movies as well.
Here's to many more years of Clint's oeuvre.