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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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6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (female writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), and Beery won for The Champ, which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. BEST SOUND EDITING // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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11 Haunting Facts About Beloved

Toni Morrison—who was born on February 18, 1931—made a name for herself with The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon, but it wasn’t until 1987’s Beloved, about a runaway slave haunted by the death of her infant daughter, that her legacy was secured. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was a key factor in the decision to award Morrison the Nobel Prize in 1993. All the awards aside, Beloved is a testament to the horrors of slavery, with its narrative of suffering and repressed memory and its dedication to the more than 60 million who died in bondage. Here are some notable facts about Morrison’s process and the novel’s legacy.

1. IT’S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

While compiling research for 1974's The Black Book, Morrison came across the story of Margaret Garner, a runaway slave from Kentucky who escaped with her husband and four children to Ohio in 1856. A posse caught up with Garner, who killed her youngest daughter and attempted to do the same to her other children rather than let them return to bondage. Once apprehended, her trial transfixed the nation. "She was very calm; she said, 'I’d do it again,'" Morrison told The Paris Review. "That was more than enough to fire my imagination."

2. MORRISON CAME UP WITH THE CHARACTER BELOVED AFTER SHE STARTED WRITING.

The book was originally going to be about the haunting of Sethe by her infant daughter, who she killed (just as Garner did) rather than allow her to return to slavery. A third of the way through writing, though, Morrison realized she needed a flesh-and-blood character who could judge Sethe’s decision. She needed the daughter to come back to life in another form (some interpret it as a grief-driven case of mistaken identity). As she told the National Endowment for the Arts’ NEA Magazine: "I thought the only person who was legitimate, who could decide whether [the killing] was a good thing or not, was the dead girl."

3. SHE WROTE THE ENDING EARLY IN THE WRITING PROCESS.

Morrison has said she likes to know the ending of her books early on, and to write them down once she does. With Beloved, she wrote the ending about a quarter of the way in. "You are forced into having a certain kind of language that will keep the reader asking questions," she told author Carolyn Denard in Toni Morrison: Conversations.

4. MORRISON BECAME FASCINATED WITH SMALL HISTORICAL DETAILS.

To help readers understand the particulars of slavery, Morrison carefully researched historical documents and artifacts. One particular item she became fascinated with: the "bit" that masters would put in slaves' mouths as punishment. She couldn’t find much in the way of pictures or descriptions, but she found enough to imagine the shame slaves would feel. In Beloved, Paul D. tells Sethe that a rooster smiled at him while he wore the bit, indicating that he felt lower than a barnyard animal.

5. SHE ONLY RECENTLY READ THE BOOK HERSELF.

In an appearance on The Colbert Report last year, Morrison said she finally got around to reading Beloved after almost 30 years. Her verdict: "It’s really good!"

6. THE BOOK INSPIRED READERS TO BUILD BENCHES.

When accepting an award from the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1988, Morrison observed that there is no suitable memorial to slavery, "no small bench by the road." Inspired by this line, the Toni Morrison Society started the Bench by the Road Project to remedy the issue. Since 2006, the project has placed 15 benches in locations significant to the history of slavery and the Civil Rights movement, including Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, which served as the point of entry for 40% of slaves brought to America.

7. WHEN BELOVED DIDN’T WIN THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN 1987, FELLOW WRITERS PROTESTED.

After the snub, 48 African-American writers, including Maya Angelou, John Edgar Wideman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., signed a letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review. "For all of America, for all of American letters," the letter addressing Morrison read, "you have advanced the moral and artistic standards by which we must measure the daring and the love of our national imagination and our collective intelligence as a people."

8. IT’S ONE OF THE MOST FREQUENTLY CHALLENGED BOOKS.

Between 2000 and 2009, Beloved ranked 26th on the American Library Association’s list of most banned/challenged books. A recent challenge in Fairfax County, Virginia, cited the novel as too intense for teenage readers, while another challenge in Michigan said the book was, incredibly, overly simplistic and pornographic. Thankfully, both challenges were denied.

9. MORRISON ALSO WROTE AN OPERA BASED ON GARNER’S LIFE.

Ten years ago, Morrison collaborated with Grammy-winning composer Richard Danielpour on Margaret Garner, an opera about the real-life inspiration behind Beloved. It opened in Detroit in 2005, and played in Charlotte, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York before closing in 2008.

10. MORRISON DID NOT WANT IT MADE INTO A MOVIE.

Although she publicly claims otherwise, according to a New York magazine story, Morrison told friends she didn’t want Beloved made into a movie. And she didn’t want Oprah Winfrey (who bought the film rights in 1988) to be in it. Nevertheless, the film came out in 1998 and was a total flop.

11. THERE'S AN ILLUSTRATED VERSION.

The Folio Society, a London-based company that creates fancy special editions of classic books, released the first-ever illustrated Beloved in 2015. Artist Joe Morse had to be personally approved by Morrison for the project. Check out a few of his hauntingly beautiful illustrations here.

This article originally appeared in 2015.

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