Make Your Day: 7-Up of Clint Eastwood’s Best

Clint Eastwood proves a double threat as actor and director (NBC Universal)

He started out on the TV show “Rawhide,” but Clint Eastwood had to travel to Europe to make it as the Man with No Name in the Sergio Leone spaghetti western trilogy “A Fistful of Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Eastwood’s stateside breakthrough would come as hard-nosed cop inspector Harry Callahan in the “Dirty Harry” series, then turned director with the thriller “Play Misty for Me.” He earned a pair of Best Director/Best Picture Oscars for his 1992 film “Unforgiven” and the 2004 “Million Dollar Baby,” earning his only two Best Actor nominations in each (along with a Best Supporting Actor win for Gene Hackman in the former and a Best Actress win for Hilary Swank in the latter). Streampix offers a half-dozen Eastwood movies, including four he directed (“Mystic River,” “Absolute Power,” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “The Eiger Sanction”), two of which he also starred in. This month, Streampix highlights seven of Clint Eastwood’s greatest hits as a director, actor and influence.

Mystic River”: Clint Eastwood received a Best Director nomination for this Oscar-nominated 2003 adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s emotional drama about three childhood friends in blue-collar Boston who become entwined in solving the murder of one of their daughters. Eastwood proved masterful coaxing award-worthy performances from the uniformly superb cast, with Sean Penn and Tim Robbins winning Academy Awards as Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively. The supporting ensemble included Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Best Supporting Actress nominee Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney and Emmy Rossum.

Absolute Power”: Clint Eastwood both directed and starred in this 1997 political thriller as a master jewl thief who witnesses the killing of a woman by Secret Service agents, with a screenplay by William Goldman based on David Baldacci’s novel of the same name. The film also starred Gene Hackman as the murderous President (shades of “House of Cards”), Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Judy Davis and Scott Glenn, as well as the last screen appearance of E.G. Marshall. Look also for appearances by “24” POTUS Dennis Haysbert and “Six Feet Under” patriarch Richard Jenkins. Who knew just 15 years after directing this film about a venally corrupt White House, Eastwood would be front and center at the Republican convention talking to a chair?

Letters from Iwo Jima”: This 2006 war film was Clint Eastwood’s Japanese companion piece to his earlier “Flags of Our Fathers,” which told the story of the same battle from the American point of view. The movie flashes back to 1944, where Japanese soldiers were building subterranean tunnels under the island to prepare for the U.S. invasion. The largely Japanese cast includes Ken Watanabe as the General in command who discovers that the fleet assigned to protect them has been destroyed. Although the movie is set in Japan, it was filmed in Barstow and Bakersfield, California. The film itself earned a total of four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Eastwood’s fourth as Best Director (he lost to Martin Scorsese for “The Departed”) and Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis for Best Original Screenplay, winning only the Best Sound Editing category.

Dirty Harry”: Clint Eastwood had his breakout role in an American movie as Inspector Harry Callahan in pal Don Siegel’s 1971 crime thriller, followed by four sequels, one of which (1983’s “Sudden Impact,” Eastwood directed himself). In the movie, Callahan tracks down the serial killer who calls himself “Scorpio” (Andy Robinson), with a ransom note sent to the city demanding $100,000 with the promise he’ll commit a murder if his demand is refused (hard to believe, but that was once a princely sum). The movie’s most well-known scene involves Eastwood confronting a bank robber, challenging him to remember how many shots he’s fired from his .44 Magnum with one of his series of unforgettable catch phrase alongside “Make my day”: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question. ‘Do I feel lucky’? Well, do ya punk?” With that, Eastwood became an unlikely cultural hero as the face of the law-and-order Republican right in the midst of an America quickly embracing its inner counter-culture.

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The Eiger Sanction”: Eastwood directed and starred in this 1975 action thriller based on the Trevanian novel of the same name, about a retired government assassin (niftily named “Hemlock”) who performs officially approved killings or “sanctions.” He also has a reputation as one of the world’s stop mountaineers and a collector of masterpiece paintings. The director of his secret government agency C2 is an albino ex-Nazi Dr. Strangelove type confined to semi-darkness and kept alive by blood transfusions. The movie has a number of exotic locations, including Eastwood’s adopted hometown of Carmel, the Swiss Alps, Arizona’s Monument Valley and Utah’s Zion National Park. The mountain scenes cost the production the life of a 27-year-old Scottish climber, David Knowles, a body double and photographer, who was killed during a rock fall. Eastwood lived out his boyhood fantasy of climbing mountains and did all his own stunts during the filming.

The Dead Pool”: This 1988 thriller, directed by Buddy Van Horn, featured Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character in the fifth and final film in the series, set once again in San Francisco. The plot centers around the manipulation of a dead pool game by a serial killer, who goes head to head with Harry’s confrontational tactics. The suppor4ting cast includes Liam Neeson and Patricia Clarkson, with a relative newcomer named Jim Carrey in his first non-comedy role as a rock singer found dead in his trailer outside a meatpacking plant during the filming of a slasher film.  Check out the uncredited cameo appearance by rockers Guns N’ Roses at the Carrey character Johnny Squares’ funeral, and a later scene with Slash firing a harpoon gun through a window and getting berated by Neeson’s snuff film director Peter Swan. The band’s “Welcome to the Jungle” serves as the theme song to Swan’s movie within the movie, lip-synched by Carrey’s character.

Charley Varrick”: Not technically an Eastwood movie—he’s neither in it nor directs it—but his main inspiration as a filmmaker, Don Siegel, directed this 1973 crime flick starring Walter Matthau as a bank robber in trouble with the big-league racketeers whose payroll he unwittingly heisted. The film stars Siegel regulars like Joe Don Baker and Andy Robinson, who played the serial killer Scorpio in “Dirty Harry.” Matthew earned a Best Actor nod from British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards. The movie was one of the Kinks leader Ray Davies’ favorites, as revealed in his autobiography, “X-Ray,” while guitarist Rory Gallagher named one of his songs, “Last of the Independents,” after the motto of Varrick’s company, which Siegel wanted to call the film.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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