Here’s Why Clint Eastwood Always Wants to Use the First Take as a Director

by Taylor Cunningham

Despite being known for his acting chops, Clint Eastwood has earned a place amongst Hollywood’s greatest directors after leading three movies to Oscar wins. And like all of the legends in the craft, he has a personal philosophy that helps him create award-winning performances.

When Eastwood is at the helm, he prefers to use the first take from all the scenes. While many directors will keep shooting, the 92-year-old icon believes that the initial shot is the most natural and honest.

Some of his former stars have said that his process makes filming quick, efficient, and stress-free. Eastwood hires only the best so he can remain relatively hands-off and let the actors shine.

“Everyone directs movies differently,” he told Film Comment in 2005. “But the way I get that is just by doing it. Certain scenes I’ll rehearse if there are technical difficulties of lighting and camera. Fortunately, I have a camera crew that’s very well-oiled, so they pretty much know where I’m headed, without much explanation. And then, when we get to the point where I’m doing it, no one asks questions when I’m trying to get into the part.”

The reasoning behind his method is that in real life, people don’t get second chances at conversations. So, why would acting be any different? In his own words, “the objective is to make everything sound like the first time it’s said.”

Clint Eastwood Believes Actors Give Their Best Performance When They Only Have Once Chance

While taking that stance can be unpopular and can sometimes make actors feel nervous, Clint Eastwood claims it often brings out the best performances. If someone knows they’re only getting one chance, they’re going to give their best performance. It’s a risky gamble, but it usually works out in his favor.

“I know some people don’t like to do that. And if it doesn’t come out perfect the first time, you have to go onward and upward with it. But you’d be surprised with good performers how interesting something can be the first time they try it,” he continued.

Clint Eastwood admits that taking the relaxed approach took some time, but it came naturally. And after years of perfecting his style, he’s created 45 movies. He’s also earned three Best Picture and one Best Director Oscars while doing it. So it would seem that his first take style works perfectly.

“There are no rules. The rule is whatever it takes. There is no style for every scene. It’s whatever it takes to get there,” he added. “You have to understand the people. You have to set an atmosphere and a tone where everyone can feel extremely relaxed and there’s no tension to obstruct what you’re trying to do. And it’s amazing what good things will come out of it.”