Clint Eastwood Once Opened Up About His Near Death Experiences in the Ocean

by Craig Garrett

At age 92, Clint Eastwood is an absolute living legend of Hollywood, but two close calls in the ocean early in life nearly stopped him short. After a small part in 1956’s Revenge of the Creature, Eastwood became a household name on Rawhide. He played Rowdy Yates on the popular tv series before an Italian Western shot him to superstardom. After A Fistful Of Dollars, Eastwood set out on a path to an unrivaled film legacy as an actor and director.

However, film history could be much different. In a 2010 interview with The Virginian Pilot, Clint Eastwood mentioned an early near-death experience. When the actor was around 12 years old, he rode on his father’s shoulders as they went into the dangerous California surf. However, his father suddenly fell and dropped him into the waves. “I still remember the blue of the water,” Eastwood said at the time. Eastwood recalls being young made his verbal reaction pretty tame. “I hadn’t learned obscenities yet, but I remember it even today as being near death.” Luckily, Eastwood managed to return to the service. It was an experience he used to relate to his 2010 directorial effort, The Hereafter. In the film, the central characters are haunted by their own mortality.

Clint Eastwood had another close call in the ocean

The other close call was much more frightening. Clint Eastwood was in the Navy at the age of 21. He was going to Seattle to visit his parents. However, the plane he hitched a ride with decided not to cooperate. “We were in a Douglas AD bomber that ran out of fuel and crashed in the ocean near Point Reyes, California,” he recalled. His lack of experience in flying made the crash truly terrifying for the future star. “What was going through my mind was just a stark fear, a stark terror because first place, I didn’t know anything about aviation at that particular time I was just hopping a ride.”

The conditions were not ideal, Clint Eastwood told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. “So we went swimming, he joked. “It was a tough time of year in November. Very cold water.” Eastwood and the pilot swam three miles to the shore. Little did Eastwood know at the time, that other dangers lurked in the water. “[I] found out many years later that it was a white shark breeding ground,” he explained. “I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have just died, just had apoplexy or something,” he quipped.

Clint Eastwood has an interesting motivation helping him push through the experience. “The only thing I could think about was that there was someone sitting there by a fireplace, maybe having a beer, and I just wanted to get there. If you have time to think, you’ll usually survive.”