Ridin' High: Eastwood shared the cover of Time magazine in 1978 with his friend and fellow superstar Burt Reynolds, who were acclaimed as the two biggest boxoffice stars in the world.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Clint Eastwood is now an icon of international cinema but back in the late 1970s he was "merely" a superstar, devoid of the kind of critical praise that he now routinely enjoys. It was in 1979 that my co-author Boris Zmijeswky and I approached a publisher with a book titled "The Films of Clint Eastwood", the first attempt to analyze his films on a one-by-one basis. (If I ever looked through it today, it would probably strike me as awful, but, hey, we all had to start somewhere, I was just out of college and eager to write a book.) The publisher immediately agreed but when the transcript was handed in the editor voiced concerns to me. He said that, while everyone enjoyed Eastwood's movies, I was perhaps according him more credit than he deserved as an actor and director. When I told him that I felt Eastwood had the potential to become a world-class director, he chuckled in a patronizing sort of way. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who felt that there was more to the "Eastwood Mystique" than a cool, soft-spoken, hard-hitting action hero. Writer Robert Ward, who penned some masterful portrayals of iconic actors of the era through excellent interviews, also made no apologies for his admiration for Eastwood's talents. In those days there were precious few of us and Eastwood was happy to accommodate journalists who were serious about discussing his work. When Ward interviewed Eastwood in 1977 for Crawdaddy magazine, Eastwood's latest crime thriller "The Gauntlet" had just been released. Ward spent two hours interviewing Eastwood- then had to spend two more unexpectedly (for reasons you will discover when you to read the interview, now republished on the Daily Beast web site titled "When It Became Cool to Like Clint Eastwood".) What emerges is a portrait of Eastwood at a time when he was the biggest star in the world, yet still devoid of the opportunities he would get later to showcase his talents as director. Of his acting abilities, it had been said- not initially without some truth- that he attended "The Mount Rushmore Acting Academy". However, as the years passed, Eastwood- like all actors- became more competent and interesting in terms of expressing emotion on screen. Ironically, Ward interviewed Eastwood when "The Gauntlet" was under-performing in comparison to his other action flicks. No wonder- it's arguably the worst film of his career, at least in the era since he became a major star But Eastwood kept growing as a director and actor and some triumphs, small and large, loomed before him beginning in the late 1980s with "Bird". Even those of us who defended his work and looked prophetic for our early support of him could not envision the length and breadth of his career- and he's still going strong. Click here to go back and time and read Ward's excellent interview; one that has not been equaled since in terms of getting to the personal side of the man behind the myth.