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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Success of movie cowboy Eastwood
Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood is promoting his movie Mystic River
Clint Eastwood, who is visiting the Oxford Union to discuss his Oscar-tipped film Mystic River and his political career, has been in the movie business for nearly half a century.

The film, a thriller about three friends united by a history of child abuse and violence, sees Eastwood's return to the top of his directing game.

A father of seven children, Eastwood is one of Hollywood's most enduring actors, with an image that does not always fit in with the "perfect ideal" of a movie star.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, he is not interested in stopping the ageing process with plastic surgery, saying he is comfortable enough in himself not to have to massage his ego by trying to look younger.

But his craggy face and refusal to conform have made him one of the most successful actors and directors of his generation.

He has managed to maintain credibility, largely by controlling much of his later career by either directing and/or producing his own films.

Lucky break

It was his role as the "man with no name" in the Fist Full of Dollars trilogy that propelled him to iconic status, with the enduring image of him with a poncho and cigar going down in movie history.

Eastwood, 73, started out much like any struggling actor with bit parts in B-movies including Tarantula and Never Say Goodbye in 1955.

It was his casting in the TV western series Rawhide in 1959 that really kick-started his career after a television executive recognised the cowboy in him.

He played Rowdy Yates until the show ended in 1966, making Eastwood a household name.

Movie success beckoned in the most unlikeliest of places when Eastwood travelled to Italy during a break in filming Rawhide to star in the western Fist Full of Dollars.

Clint Eastwood
Cowboy movies made a star of Eastwood
He went on to star in two sequels, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, dubbing his own voice for their eventual American releases.

Meaty rolls began to flood in for Eastwood including Where Eagles Dare, Coogan's Bluff and Kelly's Heroes.

In 1971 he decided acting was not enough, and began directing himself in films such as Play Misty for Me and The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Comedy talents

The same year saw Eastwood take on another of his signature characters as the loose cannon cop Dirty Harry, playing Inspector Harry Callahan in four movies.

The usually serious Eastwood then turned his talents to comedy, starring opposite an orangutan called Clyde in Every Which Way But Loose.

Not content with acting and directing, in 1986 Eastwood decided to run for the position of mayor in his adopted home town of Carmel, California, wiping out the opposition with nearly 73% of the votes.

His prime motivation for going into office was to sweep away unnecessary bureaucracy and build relationships between businesses and the community.

But he was only mayor for two years, opting not to run for a second term, believing he had fulfilled his campaign promises.

During his political career he worked on just a handful of personal film projects, including a biopic of Charlie Parker.

Leaving office meant he was then back in the movie business full-time.

Eastwood's star took a bit of a dip with Pink Cadillac and The Rookie failing to wow the critics.

Clint Eastwood and wife Dina Ruiz
The star is married to Dina Ruiz
But he returned stronger than ever directing and starring in Unforgiven, resurrecting the unfashionable western genre that had made his name.

The movie won a best picture Oscar in 1992 as well as the best director Academy Award for Eastwood.


The actor's career in 1990s was hit and miss with In the Line of Fire proving a blockbuster hit while A Perfect World was not so well-received.

The Bridges of Madison County, which he directed and starred opposite Meryl Streep, marked a change in direction, appealing to a more female audience than his macho westerns and thrillers.

Recently Eastwood has starred and directed in the mainstream Space Cowboys and thriller Blood Work, neither of which have set the movie world alight.

But there is already a buzz surrounding his latest directorial outing Mystic River, a thriller starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon, although Eastwood has left himself out of the cast this time.

It was nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, missing out to Gus Vant Sant for Elephant, and critics are already talking about Oscar nominations for both cast and director.

Clint Eastwood speaks at Oxford Union
09 Oct 03  |  Entertainment
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