"There's a rebel lying deep in my soul," says iconic American actor Clint Eastwood. "Anytime anybody tells me the trend is such and such, I go the opposite direction. I hate the idea of trends. I hate imitation I got where I am by coming off the wall." It's a philosophy which seems to have worked wonders for Clint, taking him from a studio player to Oscar-winning director during his five decades in Hollywood.
Clinton Eastwood Jr was born on May 31, 1930, to parents Ruth and Clint Sr, and spent his early years moving around Depression-era California with his family as his father searched for work. After graduating from high school he took jobs as a logger, steel mill worker and truck driver to get by. Aged 19, he was drafted into the US army which forced him to curtail dreams of enrolling on a university music programme. After two years in the force Clint left and signed up for business courses at LA City College. But following the advice of friends he'd met in the army he decided to pursue his interest in acting. After a screen test at Universal Studios, he was contracted as a $75-a-week bit player.
Then, in the late Fifties, his big break came. A studio exec strolling down the hall at US TV network CBS, spotted the 6ft 4in hunk and asked, "Are you an actor?". The producer was looking for a rugged type to star in a cowboy programme for TV called Rawhide. Clint took the job, and stayed with the series for seven years.
In 1964, he starred in A Fist Full Of Dollars the first of a trio of "spaghetti" westerns he would go on to make. "I never considered myself a cowboy, because I wasn't," he says. "But I guess when I got into cowboy gear I looked enough like one to convince people that I was." The Italian productions, filmed over three years in Spain, made Clint an international star and became cinema classics.
The actor made his directorial debut with Play Misty For Me in 1971, the same year he made the transition from Western icon to all-American tough guy with the title role in Dirty Harry. Though he also made comedies he twice shared top billing with a cheeky orang-utan Clint spent 17 years playing the action series persona, turning "Go ahead, make my day" into a pop culture mantra.
Clint composed music for over half a dozen of his films and continued directing, expressing his love of jazz in 1988 with Bird, the critically-acclaimed biopic of musician Charlie Parker, which earned him a Golden Globe. During the Nineties he directed and starred in the romantic Bridges Of Madison County and Unforgiven, which earned him a Best Director and Best Picture gong as well as a Best Actor nomination in 1993. It's said that with over 20 films under his belt, no actor bar Woody Allen has directed more films than Clint.
"You have to trust your instincts," he says of acting and directing. "Without sounding like a pseudo-intellectual dipshit, it's my responsibility to be true to myself. If it works for me, it's right." He applied the same instincts to politics, serving a two-year term from age 55 as mayor of Carmel, California.
Beyond his image, Clint isn't exactly what he seems. Sure, the famous squint, the low, gravelly voice mark him as every man's tough guy, and he admits: "I don't like the wimp syndrome." But the man who drinks Perrier and loves jazz and old Joan Crawford flicks probably doesn't mean what you think. "The most gentle people in the world are macho males," he continues. "People who are confident in their masculinity don't have to kick in doors, mistreat women, or make fun of gays."
The actor's love life has been as complex as his career path, with two marriages his first, to Maggie Johnson in 1953, lasted 25 years and seven children by five different women. In addition to two children with Maggie, he also fathered a child by then-lover Roxanne Tunis in 1964, and had two children by Jacely Reeves in the Eighties. In the same decade his long-term relationship with frequent co-star Sondra Locke ended in a high-profile but unsuccessful palimony suit. In 1993, Clint had a daughter, Francesca, with Titanic actress Frances Fisher. Since 1996, Clint has been married to former TV newscaster Dina Ruiz, 35 years his junior, with whom he has a daughter Morgan, born the year the two wed.
Despite his broad repertoire, prolific directing efforts and 40-year-plus career, Clint reckons he's destined to be thought of as a gun-toting tough guy or cowboy. "Most people who'll remember me, if at all, will remember me as an action guy," he admits. "There's nothing wrong with that. But a certain group will remember me for the other films, the ones where I took a few chances. At least, I like to think so."
Given the fact he took home both the best director and best picture Academy Awards for 2004's Million Dollar Baby, it would seem his wishes may yet come true. A 2007 Golden Globe for his war drama Letters From Iwo Jima, named best foreign langauge film, cemented his status as one of the most respected directors in the business.