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15 Facts About Clint Eastwood to Make Your Day

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Roy Jones/Evening Standard/Getty Images

Clinton Eastwood Jr. achieved fame and fortune as the personification of old-fashioned American male bravado playing a taciturn gunslinger in Sergio Leone's spaghetti Western Dollars trilogy in the 1960s. He kept on acting through the years and decades, jumping from genre to genre, as he also became an Academy Award-winning director and an outspoken political figure. Here are some facts about Eastwood, who turns 86 years old today, that may or may not make your day.

1. HE WAS A SWIMMING INSTRUCTOR IN THE U.S. ARMY.

After graduating high school, Eastwood has said he worked as a lumberjack and forest firefighter in Oregon, and a steelworker in Texas. He was drafted during the war in Korea and sent to Fort Ord on Monterey Bay in California for basic training. He was never deployed for combat; he stuck around as a swimming instructor, and spent his nights and weekends working as a bouncer at the NCO club.

2. HE SURVIVED AN EMERGENCY PLANE WATER LANDING.

Returning to Fort Ord from Seattle following a weekend leave in the fall of 1951, Eastwood ran into some trouble. “On the way back, they had one plane, a Douglas AD, sort of a torpedo bomber of the World War II vintage, and I thought I’d hitch on that," Eastwood recalled. “Everything went wrong. Radios went out. Oxygen ran out. And finally we ran out of fuel up around Point Reyes, California, and went in the ocean. 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.”

3. HE DESPERATELY WANTED TO PLAY CHARLES LINDBERGH IN THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS, SO HE WROTE BILLY WILDER A LETTER.

Letters of Note

Eastwood was still looking to make his movie debut on October 26, 1954 when he wrote a letter to Oscar-winning moviemaker Billy Wilder, thanking the director for taking the time to meet with him the previous week and warning him that the one video Universal could provide of him was a "difficult" interview where he was "not very good, even though I was given a contract on the strength of it. When the time comes for casting, I would appreciate so much your letting me talk with you rather than seeing this test, for I have improved in every way since that time. I feel the qualities you might be seeking can better be found in a personal interview." Wilder cast Jimmy Stewart in the role.

4. EASTWOOD WAS FIRED AS A CONTRACT PLAYER AT UNIVERSAL PICTURES BECAUSE OF HIS LOOKS.

Eastwood and Burt Reynolds were both contract players at Universal, and both were fired in 1959. According to Reynolds, Eastwood "was fired because his Adam's apple stuck out too far. He talked too slow. And he had a chipped tooth and he wouldn't get it fixed. And I said, 'Why are you firing me?' And they said, 'You can't act.' ... I said to Clint, 'You know, you are really screwed, because I can learn how to act. You can't get rid of that Adam's apple.'" Reynolds then added with a laugh: "And it's held him back. It's held him back."

5. HE HAS JAMES COBURN AND CHARLES BRONSON TO THANK FOR GETTING THE LEAD IN A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS.

James Coburn (The Great Escape) wanted $25,000 to star in the movie, which was more than the producers could afford. Charles Bronson might have taken the role if he didn't think the script was "just about the worst I'd ever seen." Eastwood agreed to star for $15,000.

6. HE NEVER WASHED THE MAN WITH NO NAME'S PONCHO.

YouTube

When asked whether it was true that he wore the same poncho in A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)—and never washed it—Eastwood said yes, and explained that, "If you washed it, it would fall apart." Eastwood still has the poncho, too.

7. THE NAME OF HIS PRODUCTION COMPANY COMES FROM HIS AGENT'S BAD ADVICE.

Eastwood's agent told him that appearing in Leone's trilogy would be a "bad step" for his career. "Bad step" in Spanish is Malpaso. Since Malpaso Creek is also a body of water located south of Carmel-of-the-Sea, California, where Eastwood makes his home, he named his company Malpaso Productions.

8. HE LANDED THE ROLE OF HARRY CALLAHAN BECAUSE FRANK SINATRA COULDN'T HOLD A GUN.

Robert Mitchum and Steve McQueen were in the running to play San Francisco detective Harry Callahan in Don Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971), but Sinatra was deemed their man. Then Eastwood received a phone call asking if he was still interested in starring in the movie. When he asked what happened to Sinatra, Eastwood was told that Sinatra had a hand issue and couldn't hold a gun. "That sounded like a pretty lame excuse," Eastwood admitted, "but it didn’t matter to me. I said, 'I’ll do it.'"

9. HE FILLED IN FOR CHARLTON HESTON AT THE 1973 OSCARS. AND IT WAS AWKWARD.

Charlton Heston was already running late to the 1973 Academy Awards when he got a flat tire on the way to the ceremony. So Eastwood was asked to fill in for him and read Heston's bit during the opening segment, which was full of references to Heston's films. To everybody's relief, Heston arrived to save Eastwood from having to finish the speech.

10. HE DID HIS OWN MOUNTAIN CLIMBING STUNTS FOR THE EIGER SANCTION.

For The Eiger Sanction (1975)—which Eastwood directed and starred in—he trained in Yosemite National Park, where he climbed the 1200-foot Lost Arrow Spire. But the Eiger's "White Spider" section was one of the most dangerous climbs in the world, so Eastwood and a crew of professional climbers were transported to a 12,000 foot elevation first, then lowered onto the rock face by tether lines. Sadly British rigger David Knowles, who had climbed the Eiger before, was killed in a rockslide on the second day of filming.

11. HE HAS PRACTICED TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION FOR MORE THAN 40 YEARS.

Eastwood first revealed, to the laughter of some in the studio audience, that he had been meditating for "three or four years" on a 1975 episode of The Merv Griffin Show, on which the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was also a guest. Eastwood credited his daily practice of transcendental meditation with helping him press on with filming The Eiger Sanction following Knowles' tragic death. In 2013, Eastwood told GQ that he has been meditating twice a day for the last 40 years, explaining that, "I believe in whatever self-help you can give yourself, whether you believe in Buddha or whatever. I used to be much more of an agnostic. I'm not really a person of an organized religion. But I'm now much more tolerant of people who are religious, because I can see why they got there. I can sympathize."

12. HE TURNED DOWN PLAYING JAMES BOND, SUPERMAN, AND JOHN MCCLANE.

After Sean Connery left the 007 franchise, Eastwood was offered the iconic role, but he declined. The president of Warner Bros. asked him to play Superman, but he declined that, too. "I was like, 'Superman? Nah, nah, that’s not for me,’" Eastwood explained. "Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s for somebody, but not me." Francis Ford Coppola asked him to play Martin Sheen's character in Apocalypse Now (1979), but he didn't want to go the Philippines for 16 weeks. Eastwood owned the movie rights to Nothing Lasts Forever, the book Die Hard (1988) was based on, with the intent to star in the film version.

13. HE WAS MAYOR OF CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, CALIFORNIA FROM 1986 TO 1988, AND BROUGHT ITS RESIDENTS ICE CREAM.

Eastwood felt disrespected by the seaside town's administration after his plan to build a small building was automatically rejected. He won an out-of-court settlement that allowed him to get it built anyway, but the incident motivated him to run for office. Eastwood got 72.5 percent of the vote over the two-term incumbent mayor Charlotte Townsend. During his term he made it easier to build or renovate property, got a tourist parking lot constructed, opened a library annex for children, and repealed a weird law on the books that prohibited the selling and eating of ice cream on public streets. Some residents didn't like all of the new tourists that arrived after he took office, and Eastwood didn't seek reelection.

14. AS A DIRECTOR, HE ONLY LIKES TO SHOOT ONE TAKE.

When Eastwood directs, he doesn't storyboard, rehearse, change the script after it's finished, or listen to test screening results. He doesn't say "action" because "even the horses get nervous." He says "Let's move on" instead of "Cut." When Matt Damon once asked him for a second take, Eastwood said, "Why, so you can waste everybody's time?" When Kevin Costner took his time coming out of his trailer during shooting on A Perfect World (1993), Eastwood just had an extra pretend to be Costner's character in a shot of him walking through a field, with the camera up close so his image was blurred. Costner was not happy.

15. HE OWNED THE COUNTRY'S LARGEST HARDWOOD TREE.

Eastwood was the proud owner of a blue gum eucalyptus, thought to be the largest hardwood in America in 2000. In 2002, the National Register of Big Trees announced that another blue gum eucalyptus 200 miles north of Carmel was nearly 49 feet around and 141 feet tall, and the new champion.

Less than two months after his tree was dethroned, Eastwood was sworn in as a state parks commissioner at the Big Basin Redwood State Park, California's oldest state park.

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The Curious Origins of 16 Common Phrases
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Our favorite basketball writer is ESPN's Zach Lowe. On his podcast, the conversation often takes detours into the origins of certain phrases. We compiled a list from Zach and added a few of our own, then sent them to language expert Arika Okrent. Where do these expressions come from anyway?

1. BY THE SAME TOKEN

Bus token? Game token? What kind of token is involved here? Token is a very old word, referring to something that’s a symbol or sign of something else. It could be a pat on the back as a token, or sign, of friendship, or a marked piece of lead that could be exchanged for money. It came to mean a fact or piece of evidence that could be used as proof. “By the same token” first meant, basically “those things you used to prove that can also be used to prove this.” It was later weakened into the expression that just says “these two things are somehow associated.”

2. GET ON A SOAPBOX

1944: A woman standing on a soapbox speaking into a mic
Express/Express/Getty Images

The soapbox that people mount when they “get on a soapbox” is actually a soap box, or rather, one of the big crates that used to hold shipments of soap in the late 1800s. Would-be motivators of crowds would use them to stand on as makeshift podiums to make proclamations, speeches, or sales pitches. The soap box then became a metaphor for spontaneous speech making or getting on a roll about a favorite topic.

3. TOMFOOLERY

The notion of Tom fool goes a long way. It was the term for a foolish person as long ago as the Middle Ages (Thomas fatuus in Latin). Much in the way the names in the expression Tom, Dick, and Harry are used to mean “some generic guys,” Tom fool was the generic fool, with the added implication that he was a particularly absurd one. So the word tomfoolery suggested an incidence of foolishness that went a bit beyond mere foolery.

4. GO BANANAS

chimp eating banana
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The expression “go bananas” is slang, and the origin is a bit harder to pin down. It became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as “go ape,” so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”

5. RUN OF THE MILL

If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special. But what does it have to do with milling? It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It’s the stuff that’s just been manufactured, before it’s been decorated or embellished. There were related phrases like “run of the mine,” for chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and “run of the kiln,” for bricks as they came out without being sorted for quality yet.

6. READ THE RIOT ACT

The Law's Delay: Reading The Riot Act 1820
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When you read someone the riot act you give a stern warning, but what is it that you would you have been reading? The Riot Act was a British law passed in 1714 to prevent riots. It went into effect only when read aloud by an official. If too many people were gathering and looking ready for trouble, an officer would let them know that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.

7. HANDS DOWN

Hands down comes from horse racing, where, if you’re way ahead of everyone else, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.

8. SILVER LINING

The silver lining is the optimistic part of what might otherwise be gloomy. The expression can be traced back directly to a line from Milton about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun behind the gloom. The idea became part of literature and part of the culture, giving us the proverb “every cloud has a silver lining” in the mid-1800s.

9. HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT

The expression “you’ve got your work cut out for you” comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we don’t use the expression that way. The image is more that your task is well defined and ready to be tackled, but all the difficult parts are yours to get to. That big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!

10. THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

A grapevine is a system of twisty tendrils going from cluster to cluster. The communication grapevine was first mentioned in 1850s, the telegraph era. Where the telegraph was a straight line of communication from one person to another, the “grapevine telegraph” was a message passed from person to person, with some likely twists along the way.

11. THE WHOLE SHEBANG

The earliest uses of shebang were during the Civil War era, referring to a hut, shed, or cluster of bushes where you’re staying. Some officers wrote home about “running the shebang,” meaning the encampment. The origin of the word is obscure, but because it also applied to a tavern or drinking place, it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle drinking establishment.

12. PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Pushing the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff brought the expression into wider use.

13. CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE

We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when their skills don’t even come close to being as good. In other words, that person isn’t even good enough to hold up a candle so that a talented person can see what they’re doing in order to work. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant, much less the artist.

14. THE ACID TEST

Most acids dissolve other metals much more quickly than gold, so using acid on a metallic substance became a way for gold prospectors to see if it contained gold. If you pass the acid test, you didn’t dissolve—you’re the real thing.

15. GO HAYWIRE

What kind of wire is haywire? Just what it says—a wire for baling hay. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold things together in a makeshift way, so a dumpy, patched-up place came to be referred to as “a hay-wire outfit.” It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself got easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the “messed up” sense of the word.

16. CALLED ON THE CARPET

Carpet used to mean a thick cloth that could be placed in a range of places: on the floor, on the bed, on a table. The floor carpet is the one we use most now, so the image most people associate with this phrase is one where a servant or employee is called from plainer, carpetless room to the fancier, carpeted part of the house. But it actually goes back to the tablecloth meaning. When there was an issue up for discussion by some kind of official council it was “on the carpet.”

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15 Facts About the Summer Solstice
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It's the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, so soak up some of those direct sunrays (safely, of course) and celebrate the start of summer with these solstice facts.

1. THIS YEAR IT'S JUNE 21.

June 21 date against a yellow background
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The summer solstice always occurs between June 20 and June 22, but because the calendar doesn't exactly reflect the Earth's rotation, the precise time shifts slightly each year. For 2018, the sun will reach its greatest height in the sky for the Northern Hemisphere on June 21 at 6:07 a.m. Eastern Time.

2. THE SUN WILL BE DIRECTLY OVERHEAD AT THE TROPIC OF CANCER.

A vintage mapped globe showing the Tropic of Cancer
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While the entire Northern Hemisphere will see its longest day of the year on the summer solstice, the sun is only directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees 27 minutes north latitude).

3. THE NAME COMES FROM THE FACT THAT THE SUN APPEARS TO STAND STILL.

Stonehenge at sunrise.
CARL DE SOUZA, AFP/Getty Images

The term "solstice" is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because the sun's relative position in the sky at noon does not appear to change much during the solstice and its surrounding days. The rest of the year, the Earth's tilt on its axis—roughly 23.5 degrees—causes the sun's path in the sky to rise and fall from one day to the next.

4. THE WORLD'S BIGGEST BONFIRE WAS PART OF A SOLSTICE CELEBRATION.

A large bonfire
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Celebrations have been held in conjunction with the solstice in cultures around the world for hundreds of years. Among these is Sankthans, or "Midsummer," which is celebrated on June 24 in Scandinavian countries. In 2016, the people of Ålesund, Norway, set a world record for the tallest bonfire with their 155.5-foot celebratory bonfire.

5. THE HOT WEATHER FOLLOWS THE SUN BY A FEW WEEKS.

Colorful picture of the sun hitting ocean waves.
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You may wonder why, if the solstice is the longest day of the year—and thus gets the most sunlight—the temperature usually doesn't reach its annual peak until a month or two later. It's because water, which makes up most of the Earth's surface, has a high specific heat, meaning it takes a while to both heat up and cool down. Because of this, the Earth's temperature takes about six weeks to catch up to the sun.

6. THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE GATHER AT STONEHENGE TO CELEBRATE.

Rollo Maughfling, the Archdruid of Glastonbury and Stonehenge, conducts a Solstice celebration service for revelers as they wait for the midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge on June 21, 2012, near Salisbury, England.
Rollo Maughfling, the Archdruid of Glastonbury and Stonehenge, conducts a Solstice celebration service for revelers as they wait for the midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge on June 21, 2012, near Salisbury, England.
Matt Cardy, Getty Images

People have long believed that Stonehenge was the site of ancient druid solstice celebrations because of the way the sun lines up with the stones on the winter and summer solstices. While there's no proven connection between Celtic solstice celebrations and Stonehenge, these days, thousands of modern pagans gather at the landmark to watch the sunrise on the solstice.

7. PAGANS CELEBRATE THE SOLSTICE WITH SYMBOLS OF FIRE AND WATER.

Arty image of fire and water colliding.
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In Paganism and Wicca, Midsummer is celebrated with a festival known as Litha. In ancient Europe, the festival involved rolling giant wheels lit on fire into bodies of water to symbolize the balance between fire and water.

8. IN ANCIENT EGYPT, THE SOLSTICE HERALDED THE NEW YEAR.

Stars in the night sky.
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In Ancient Egypt, the summer solstice preceded the appearance of the Sirius star, which the Egyptians believed was responsible for the annual flooding of the Nile that they relied upon for agriculture. Because of this, the Egyptian calendar was set so that the start of the year coincided with the appearance of Sirius, just after the solstice.

9. THE ANCIENT CHINESE HONORED THE YIN ON THE SOLSTICE.

Yin and yang symbol on textured sand.
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In ancient China, the summer solstice was the yin to the winter solstice's yang—literally. Throughout the year, the Chinese believed, the powers of yin and yang waxed and waned in reverse proportion to each other. At the summer solstice, the influence of yang was at its height, but the celebration centered on the impending switch to yin. At the winter solstice, the opposite switch was honored.

10. IN ALASKA, THE SOLSTICE IS CELEBRATED WITH A MIDNIGHT BASEBALL GAME.

Silhouette of a baseball player.
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Each year on the summer solstice, the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks celebrate their status as the most northerly baseball team on the planet with a game that starts at 10:00 p.m. and stretches well into the following morning—without the need for artificial light—known as the Midnight Sun Game. The tradition originated in 1906 and was taken over by the Goldpanners in their first year of existence, 1960.

11. THE EARTH IS ACTUALLY AT ITS FARTHEST FROM THE SUN DURING THE SOLSTICE.

The Earth tilted on its axis.
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You might think that because the solstice occurs in summer that it means the Earth is closest to the sun in its elliptical revolution. However, the Earth is actually closest to the sun when the Northern Hemisphere experiences winter and is farthest away during the summer solstice. The warmth of summer comes exclusively from the tilt of the Earth's axis, and not from how close it is to the sun at any given time. 

12. IRONICALLY, THE SOLSTICE MARKS A DARK TIME IN SCIENCE HISTORY.

Galileo working on a book.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Legend has it that it was on the summer solstice in 1633 that Galileo was forced to recant his declaration that the Earth revolves around the Sun; even with doing so, he still spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

13. AN ALTERNATIVE CALENDAR HAD AN EXTRA MONTH NAMED AFTER THE SOLSTICE.

Pages of a calendar
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In 1902, a British railway system employee named Moses B. Cotsworth attempted to institute a new calendar system that would standardize the months into even four-week segments. To do so, he needed to add an extra month to the year. The additional month was inserted between June and July and named Sol because the summer solstice would always fall during this time. Despite Cotsworth's traveling campaign to promote his new calendar, it failed to catch on.

14. IN ANCIENT GREECE, THE SOLSTICE FESTIVAL MARKED A TIME OF SOCIAL EQUALITY.

Ancient Greek sculpture in stone.
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The Greek festival of Kronia, which honored Cronus, the god of agriculture, coincided with the solstice. The festival was distinguished from other annual feasts and celebrations in that slaves and freemen participated in the festivities as equals.

15. ANCIENT ROME HONORED THE GODDESS VESTA ON THE SOLSTICE.

Roman statue of a vestal virgin
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In Rome, midsummer coincided with the festival of Vestalia, which honored Vesta, the Roman goddess who guarded virginity and was considered the patron of the domestic sphere. On the first day of this festival, married women were allowed to enter the temple of the Vestal virgins, from which they were barred the rest of the year.

A version of this list originally ran in 2015.

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