Clint Eastwood Once Rejected This ‘Dirty Harry’ Script as ‘Too Grim’

by Caitlin Berard

As any Clint Eastwood fan can attest, part of the allure of any Eastwood film is the grit and grime. Known for his ultra-masculine roles in some of the most iconic Westerns in Hollywood history, the Man With No Name is no stranger to action, violence, and themes that err on the dark side.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the Western icon isn’t without his limits. And one Dirty Harry pitch was so dark, so gruesome, that even Clint Eastwood turned it down.

The titular character in the Dirty Harry franchise is the quintessential morally-ambiguous cop character. It’s a popular trope across both film and television, but “Dirty” Harry Callahan is, and will always be, the pinnacle.

Callahan is notorious for his violent, bordering on ruthless, approach to apprehending criminals. He’s a lone wolf, and though he always has a partner, their appearances are short-lived, as they’re typically killed off at some point along the way.

The franchise is made up of five films: Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), and The Dead Pool (1988). There was almost a sixth, but Clint Eastwood turned it down. Incredibly, the script was “too grim” for his taste.

What could possibly be included in a script to make a grizzled action veteran like Clint Eastwood shake his head? Luckily, we don’t have to guess, because the film was created after all!

Clint Eastwood’s Rejected ‘Dirty Harry’ Script Became ‘Ricochet’

Rather than being a part of the Dirty Harry franchise, the film was released as a standalone project. The film debuted in 1991 with the title Ricochet and starred Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, and a number of other top Hollywood stars.

In an interview with Flashback Files earlier this year, writer, director, and avid Clint Eastwood fan, Fred Dekker, explained how the shift came to be. “First of all, I really like Dirty Harry and Magnum Force,” he said. “I’m a huge Eastwood fan. He’s one of my favorite movie stars.”

“I think that Dirty Harry character was lightning in a bottle,” Dekker continued. “Because after the first two, the rest of the moves just weren’t up to snuff. So, I thought I would write a spec script.”

“My producer Joel Silver claims to have sent it to Clint, but that doesn’t make any sense. Joel had his own production company. He could just make it himself, which he did. He said that Clint thought it was ‘too grim’ for him.”

Sadly, Ricochet wasn’t the smash hit the cast and crew hoped it would be. Those behind its creation, however, can take pride in the fact that the action thriller is every bit as dark and uncomfortable as Clint Eastwood said it was.