Clint Eastwood's father's death had 'profound impact' on legend: 'Like a ton of bricks'


The Enforcer: Clint Eastwood stars in 1976 trailer

Today, acting legend Clint Eastwood stars alongside Telly Savalas in the World War 2 action adventure flick Kelly’s Heroes, which airs from 3.55pm on ITV4. The 1970 film follows a German officer, who while carrying some gold bars falls into the hands of a corrupt US platoon. Kelly, played by Eastwood, and his sergeant Big Joe enlist a team to attempt to find the remaining gold from a bank behind enemy lines. Kelly’s Heroes remains a firm favourite with viewers, and was voted in at number 34 on Channel 4’s 100 Great War Films of All Time. It also boasts an impressive 78 percent positive rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.

Following its release, Roger Greenspun, of the New York Times, described among the action sequences its highlights , which he noted were “good clean scary fun”. However, it soon goes “terribly wrong” leading to the deaths of many soldiers, which demonstrates the “balance altering to the horrors of war”.

He added: “To acknowledge its deaths the film has no resources above the conventional antagonistic ironies and comradely pieties of most war movies. And since its subject is not war, but burglary masquerading as war, the easy acceptance of the masquerade—which is apparently quite beyond the film’s control—becomes a denial of moral perception that depresses the mind and bewilders the imagination”.

By the early Seventies, Eastwood was already a huge Hollywood star, having become a household name as a result of his spell as The Man with No Name in the spaghetti western trilogy, which included the films A Fistful of Dollars, A Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

But the same year that Kelly’s Heroes was released represented a huge personal challenge for Eastwood, who saw his father suffer a fatal heart attack at the age of just 64.

Why Clint Eastwood worked so hard in later life laid bare: 'Only bad thing ever happened to him'

Why Clint Eastwood worked so hard in later life laid bare: ‘Only bad thing ever happened to him’ (Image: GETTY)

Clint Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy

Clint Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy (Image: GETTY)

Fritz Manes, a long-term collaborator with Eastwood and film producer, described the star’s father’s death as “the only bad thing that ever happened to him in his life”, in Patrick McGilligan’s 2015 book Clint: The Life and Legend.

The news of his father’s death had a “profound impact” on Eastwood’s life, and as a result he made a vow to become “more productive, working with greater speed and efficiency on set, and adopted an even more rigorous health regimen”.

Eastwood recalled his father’s death, Outsider magazine reported last year, discussing how it him him “like a ton of bricks” but saw the legend focus even more on his own health, become stricter with what he ate and how he lived.

The now 92-year-old said: “Stay away from carbohydrates, especially rich desserts. Keep a scale in your bathroom. Get proper rest. Try to be optimistic. Eat fruits and raw vegetables. Take vitamins. Skip beverages loaded with sugars. Avoid alcohol in excess.”

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Clint Eastwood clutching two Academy Awards

Clint Eastwood clutching two Academy Awards (Image: GETTY)

What surprised Eastwood most was that his own grandfather had lived until he too was 92, and so for his father to be gone at a relatively young age knocked him significantly.

Eastwood’s son, Scott, also discussed the family history, while noting how his father was a “machine about food and exercise”. In a 2017 Men’s Health article, he added: “[Eastwood] showed me how to lift when I was 14 or 15 — the bench press and other basics. He made it clear it was more important to do the moves correctly than to put on more plates.”

To help his longevity with age, Eastwood also “takes long walks” and “still golfs”. A source told Closer that he also “looks forward to a good meal, reading, getting scripts… he’s very comfortable with his daily routine”.

But one thing Eastwood reportedly hated was smoking, a habit his father had enjoyed for much of his life. The Academy Award winner was a lifelong non-smoker, and despised scenes where he had to smoke, including in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

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Clint Eastwood spoke passionately about his father

Clint Eastwood spoke passionately about his father (Image: GETTY)

In one encounter with the film’s director Sergio Leone, Eastwood lashed out after being forced to do a scene one too many times while smoking a cigar. According to McGilligan’s book, Eastwood raged: “You better get it this time because I’m going to throw up.”

Though the director and actor fell out, both spoke sincerely about their time on set together, and while Eastwood wasn’t the first choice to play The Man with No Name, Leone was happy with his eventual casting.

Leone told McGilligan: “At that time, I needed a mask rather than an actor. And Eastwood had only two facial expressions: one with the hat and one without it.”

Eastwood also discussed his enthusiasm for the project, noting how he wished to play the lead role with “an economy of words and create this whole feeling through attitude and movement”.

He continued: “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.”

Eastwood added: “I felt the less he said, the stronger he became and the more he grew in the imagination of the audience.”

Kelly’s Heroes airs at 3.55pm on ITV4 today.


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