The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of Clint Eastwood’s Life

Clint Eastwood may be in his late 80’s but the actor-director shows no signs of slowing down. It’s seemingly the only way he has lived his life, from a rough start in Hollywood to a string of extramarital affairs. Most people are familiar with his career as a Western star as much as they are with his directorial work, like Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. But did you know that Eastwood was once in the Army and survived a plane wreck? Or how about the fact that he once held public office? Probably not. From his career rise to his messy personal life, this is Clint Eastwood’s life story.

It’s lucky he survived that accident in the Army otherwise, he wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale.

Clint Wasn’t A Very Good Student

Actor Clint Eastwood drinks a cup of coffee at home on June 1, 1956 in Los Angeles, California.
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Clinton Eastwood Jr. was born on May 31, 1930, and raised in the Bay Area city of Piedmont, California. He was held back when he attended Piedmont Middle School and didn’t do much better when he went on to Piedmont High School.

In fact, he was kicked out for vandalism and other infractions. He eventually transferred to Oakland Technical High School, where he focused on fixing cars and other modes of transportation. He was reportedly slated to graduate in 1949, though it was never confirmed that he actually did.

He Was Drafted During The Korean War

clint eastwood was drafted to the us army during korean war

Eastwood was drafted into the United States Army in 1951 during the Korean War. He was sent to Fort Ord in the Monterey Peninsula for basic training but never ended up getting deployed out to combat.

As a result, Eastwood spent a majority of his military career working as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at Fort Ord. In order to make ends meet, he picked up a second job as a bouncer at the NCO club on nights and weekends. Despite the fact that he never went out to combat, Eastwood still has a harrowing tale from his service days.

The Ride Of His Life

Clint Eastwood as American fighter pilot steals a sophisticated Russian jet in a scene from the film 'Firefox', 1982.
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In 1951, Eastwood was returning to his post after visiting Seattle. He decided to hitch a ride aboard a Navy torpedo bomber. The short ride back swiftly turned into disaster as the rear door would not remain shut, while the navigation systems and intercoms weren’t working correctly.

In addition to the oxygen system being inoperable at that point, the plane’s engine started experiencing problems. This forced the pilot to make an emergency water landing but instead, they ended up crash-diving into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Francisco.

It’s A Good Thing He Was A Swim Instructor

Actor Clint Eastwood takes a swim on June 5, 1956 in Los Angeles, California.
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Eastwood was ejected in the middle of the ocean and had no choice but to swim his way back to shore – which looked almost 50 miles away. In recent years, Eastwood has spoken of the fear he felt in those moments, especially when he crashed.

"So we went swimming. it was late October, November. Very cold water. [I] found out many years later that it was a white shark breeding ground, but I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have just died," he recalled in an interview.

He Left The Military And Moved To Los Angeles

Actor Clint Eastwood lies on a towel and looks over his sunglasses at home on June 1, 1956 in Los Angeles, California.
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It was during his military service that Eastwood became acquainted with fellow veteran-turned-actors Richard Long, Martin Milner, and David Janssen. Despite this association, Eastwood didn’t really try for a career as an actor until he met Chuck Hill, who was also stationed in Fort Ord and had contacts in Hollywood.

After retiring from the Army, Eastwood moved down to Los Angeles in 1952. There, he became reacquainted with Hill, who introduced him to people in the industry and even snuck him onto a Universal set. But getting a contract wasn’t as easy as Eastwood thought.

Eastwood started at the bottom of Hollywood ranks before he eventually landed his big break…

Eastwood Was A Total Amateur In Hollywood

American actor Clint Eastwood leans against a kitchen counter, bare-chested, while speaking on the telephone from his home.
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When he first started out in Los Angeles, Eastwood worked nights at a Signal Oil gas station. During the day, he managed an apartment building in Beverly Hills, where he also lived. Eastwood managed to lock down an audition through his connections but wasn’t very impressive as an actor.

The fact that Eastwood was tall and handsome was enough to get him his first audition with director Arthur Lubin. Though Lubin thought Eastwood was an amateur, he encouraged the wannabe actor to keep trying. Eastwood then enrolled in drama classes at Los Angeles City College.

His Trademark Acting Style Was Criticized At First

Actor Clint Eastwood checks his gun at home on June 1, 1956 in Los Angeles, California.
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In 1954, Eastwood signed a contract with Universal for $100 a week. But even with a contract, directors weren’t impressed by Eastwood’s stiff manner and the way he delivered lines through his teeth (which would eventually become his trademark).

He was rejected at many auditions and was finally given a minor role in 1955’s Revenge of the Creature. This was followed by bit parts and uncredited roles in films like Francis in the Navy, Tarantula, Never Say Goodbye, and Star in the Dust. Eastwood paid his dues in taking on small roles and it wasn’t long before he got his big break.

Eastwood Was Cast As Rowdy On Rawhide

Clint Eastwood, US actor, wearing a fine check shirt and blue neck scarf in a publicity portrait issued for the US television series, 'Rawhide', USA, circa 1960.
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By 1958, Eastwood scored his biggest role yet when he was cast in the CBS western series, Rawhide. Eastwood played Rowdy Yates, second in command to trail boss Gil Favor, played by Eric Fleming. Yates was a young and impetuous character and Eastwood wasn’t entirely comfortable playing the part since he was almost 30.

Regardless, he worked 12-hour days for six days a week until Rawhide was canceled in 1966. At that time, Eastwood attempted directing when he made trailers for the show but producers still wouldn’t let him direct an episode.

It was only smooth sailing from there and while his Hollywood career took off, politics would eventually start calling his name…

The Moment Eastwood Became An International Star

Clint Eastwood, US actor, smoking a cigar, wearing a brown hat and poncho, taking aim with a rifle in a publicity portrait issued for the film, 'A Fistful of Dollars', Spain, 1964.
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In 1963, Eastwood traveled to Spain to film A Fistful of Dollars by a then-unknown Italian director named Sergio Leone. Eastwood portrayed the “Man with No Name,” a role that was previously rejected by many actors including James Coburn, Charles Bronson, and Eric Fleming.

The film was a hit in Italy and Eastwood was hired to star in the subsequent films For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. By the time the Dollars trilogy debuted in the U.S. in 1967, Eastwood was an international star despite his acting getting lambasted by American critics.

A Bad Step To Some, A Huge Leap For Eastwood

Clint Eastwood at the Albany Hotel on Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham, 5th June 1967.
Staff/Birmingham Post and Mail Archive/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Using money from the Dollars trilogy, Eastwood established his own production company called Malpaso Productions in 1967. He named it after the Malpaso Creek located south of his home in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

Malpaso in English means "bad step" and ironically, Eastwood’s agent had previously warned him that starring in Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns was going to be a bad step for his career. It obviously didn’t work out that way. Thankfully, Eastwood followed his gut in taking on the Man with No Name, something he wanted to do to shed his Rawhide image.

1971 Was A Good Year For Clint

American actor Clint Eastwood as Inspector Harry Callahan of the San Francisco Police Department in the film 'Dirty Harry', 1971.
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A turning point in Eastwood’s career was 1971’s Play Misty for Me. In what was his directorial debut, Eastwood played a disc jockey named Dave who gets involved with a crazed fan named Evelyn, played by Jessica Walter.

That same year, Eastwood starred in Dirty Harry as San Francisco police officer Harry Callahan. It became one of Eastwood’s most memorable roles and spawned the archetype of the “loose-cannon cop.” Critics were finally praising Eastwood’s performance. Meanwhile, Dirty Harry found phenomenal success, grossing $22 million in U.S. and Canadian box offices.

He Was Once The Mayor Of His Town

Clint Eastwood proudly holds up a t-shirt proclaiming him as the mayor of Carmel, California, during his acceptance speech on April 9, 1986.
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Outside of Hollywood, Clint Eastwood enjoyed a brief stint as the mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. After the actor felt disrespected when his request to build was denied by the city council, he decided to run for mayor in 1986 and won by a landslide.

Over his two-year term, Eastwood built parking lots, opened a library, and even repealed a law that prevented residents from eating ice cream cones on public streets. Unfortunately, Eastwood’s celebrity caused an increase in tourism, which many of Carmel’s residents weren’t happy about. He donated his monthly mayoral salary to a local youth center and didn’t seek re-election.

As for family life, Eastwood seemingly has too many children to count. We’re about to break it down.

Eastwood’s First Marriage Bore Two Children

American actor Clint Eastwood with his first wife Maggie Johnson at their home in the Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California, circa 1960.
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Shortly after his move to Los Angeles, Eastwood met secretary Maggie Johnson on a blind date. They married in December 1953 and the marriage would turn out to face a number of problems. Eastwood took on quite a few affairs as an up-and-coming actor, leading everyone to believe that he and Johnson had an open marriage.

Regardless, he and Johnson still had two children together: Kyle, born in 1968 and Alison, born in 1972. Despite this, it was clear that the marriage wasn’t built to last and Johnson filed for divorce in 1984.

Eastwood Pulled This Stunt During His First Marriage

Cannes Film Festival 1953. Actress Roxanne Tunis.
WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Kyle and Alison are Eastwood’s first legitimate children, meaning there were others who came before them. While married to Johnson, Eastwood had an affair with Roxanne Tunis, who was a stunt woman on Rawhide. The affair actually resulted in a daughter named Kimber, who was born in 1964.

Johnson allegedly didn’t know about Kimber throughout her marriage to Eastwood, despite the rumors that ran rampant throughout Hollywood. In fact, Kimber’s existence didn’t even publicly come to light until the National Enquirer broke a story in 1989. Kimber isn’t Eastwood’s only illegitimate daughter, either.

Eastwood Had A Domestic Partnership

American actress Sondra Locke with actor and director Clint Eastwood on the set of his movie The Outlaw Josey Wales
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Part of what led to the deterioration of Eastwood’s first marriage was his relationship with actress Sondra Locke. They initially met in 1972 but didn’t start a relationship until three years later while they filmed The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Eastwood and Locke soon moved in together, despite the fact that she was still married to her first husband, sculptor Gordon Anderson, who was reported to be gay. In fact, Locke would remain married to Anderson until her death in 2018 because unsurprisingly, her relationship with Eastwood wasn’t without its own problems either.

Locke Didn’t Have Children To Accommodate Their Lifestyle

Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke during Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke Sighting at Adriano's Restaurant - January 14, 1982
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke would go on to star together in The Gauntlet, Every Which Way But Loose, Bronco Billy, Any Which Way You Can, and Sudden Impact. While living together, Locke and Eastwood never had any children with each other.

Instead, Locke had two abortions before getting a tubal ligation in the late ’70s. According to Locke’s autobiography, Eastwood told her that parenthood didn’t fit into their lifestyle. Meanwhile, Locke was completely oblivious to what Eastwood was up to when he wasn’t home. It wasn’t long before the relationship turned sour.

It doesn’t seem like Eastwood was cut out for relationships but that didn’t stop him from finally walking down the aisle again in 1996…

Things Turned Ugly With Locke

Actor Clint Eastwood and actress Sondra Locke attend the premiere party for 'Firefox' on June 14, 1982 at the Pierre Hotel in New York City.
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Eastwood and Locke ended things in 1989 after she found out that he had fathered two children with another woman in the last few years of their relationship. Indeed, Eastwood continued to have affairs, one of which was with a flight attendant named Jacelyn Reeves. Reeves gave birth to two of his kids, Scott, born in 1986 and Kathryn, born in 1988.

Eastwood and Locke’s post-breakup litigation lasted almost a decade. In her autobiography, Lock claims that not only did Eastwood “force” her to have those abortions while fathering other children, but he also sabotaged her directorial career.

The First Time, Eastwood Was Around For The Birth

Clint Eastwood and Frances Fisher
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By 1990, Eastwood moved in with actress Frances Fisher. The two met on the set of Pink Cadillac and later co-starred together in Unforgiven. “I was so naive,” Fisher would later recall of the relationship. “I simply felt that this was it, the big one. I had no idea that every woman he meets probably feels as I did.”

Fisher gave birth to their daughter, Francesca Eastwood, in 1993. It was the first time Eastwood was present for one of his kid’s births but instead of helping Fisher, Eastwood was signing autographs for the nurses. They eventually ended things in 1995.

The Only Other Woman Who Married Him

Clint Eastwood and wife Dina Ruiz attends the UK Film Premiere of 'Invictus' at Odeon West End on January 31, 2010 in London, England.
Fred Duval/FilmMagic

By the time things ended with Fisher, Eastwood had already moved on to TV news anchor, Dina Ruiz. She first met Eastwood when she interviewed him in 1993 and she probably didn’t think that she would be the woman who’d become his second wife.

Eastwood married Ruiz in 1996 and had daughter Morgan that same year. They were featured on the E! reality series Mrs. Eastwood & Company that premiered in 2012. That must have been the beginning of the end as it was revealed shortly after that she and Eastwood have been living separately for some time. Ruiz filed for divorce in 2013.

He Officially Has Eight Children

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Considering the long string of affairs and trysts that Eastwood had throughout his career, the actor notoriously has an undetermined number of children. We already know about Kimber, Kyle, Alison, Scott, Kathryn, Francesca, and Morgan but these seven aren’t the only confirmed children of Clint Eastwood.

Laurie Eastwood was born before any of them. She was born in the ’50s, around the time Eastwood started dating Maggie Johnson. Laurie was given up for adoption when she was born but apparently, her birth mother never told Eastwood about it at the time.