Clint Eastwood Agreed to a Major Pay Cut in His Directorial Debut

by Samantha Whidden

While he proved his work as a filmmaker for his directorial debut “Play Misty For Me,” Clint Eastwood reportedly agreed to a major pay cut for the film. 

While speaking to the Director Guild of America in 2006, Clint Eastwood reflected on the film and how he had communicated with Universal Pictures chief Lew Wasserman about directing it. “[Wasserman said], ]Yeah, you can do it, but not under the current deal you have,’” Eastwood explained. “You’ll be doing it for DGA minimum.”

Although he took the pay cut, Clint Eastwood wasn’t exactly heartbroken about it because he proved himself to be a top director before getting without the big salary. “To be honest, I would have been willing to pay them! So we did the film for under $1 million and it became a moderate little success. It was a great experience, and I had the bug after that.”

Clint Eastwood went on to discuss directing “High Plains Drifter” in 1973. “I’ve never had a plan, in my career as an actor or a director, of what I was going to do next or what type of things I was looking. Things would just pop up and I’d get a feeling about them.”

Clint Eastwood has notably directed more than 35 films since 1971. His most recent directed film was “Cry Macho” in 2021. Eastwood played the role of a one-time rodeo star and washed-up horse breed who takes a job to bring a man’s young son home and away from his alcoholic mother. While on the job, he finds redemption through teaching the boy what it means to be a “good” man. Along with Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam and Daniel V. Graulau starred in the film. 

Clint Eastwood Reveals How He learned to Direct Films 

As he continued speaking to the Directors Guild of America, Clint Eastwood shared exactly how he learned to direct films. “I think the advantage of being an actor is that you’re on sets all the time, so you kind of know what to do if you’ve been paying attention.”

Clint Eastwood also recalled being a contract player in 1954 and 1955 at Universal and how he would go to sets all the time and watch people direct. “ I’d wander through, as much as they’d let you. Usually, the bigger the director was, the stricter they were about not having people just hanging around. I wanted to watch the actors for one thing, but I also became very curious about the director’s participation.”

Although he didn’t get to work with very “Big A” directors, Clint Eastwood added that he went on sets where Alfred Hitchcock and Douglas Sirk would be working. “Then there were all the Rawhide years, which were great because you were working every day, not just coming in for two days’ work and then being off for six months. And we had some good directors come through who’d done movies that I’d seen in the theaters over the years: Stuart Heisler, Laszlo Benedek, Tay Garnett. People like that.”