Clint Eastwood: This Musical Western Convinced the Actor to Start Directing

by Matthew Wilson
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Clint Eastwood’s career as a director rivals that of his career as an actor. He directed many of the films he’s starred in as well as others. This musical western convinced Eastwood to pursue directing early in his career.

Sometimes a movie is so great it completely changes the life of an actor. Take a “Fistful of Dollars,” which gave Eastwood his big break. But we’re not talking about that Spaghetti western epic. Because sometimes, the opposite is also true. And a movie can be so terrible it can make an actor reevaluate his career. That’s exactly what happened when Eastwood starred in “Paint Your Wagon.”

In “Clint Eastwood: A Biography,” the actor condemned the film and his time on set. He said the western musical taught him “how not to make a movie.”

Released in 1969, the western starred Eastwood alongside Lee Marvin. For the film, the studio paid Eastwood $750,000 for the role. But in retrospect, he probably should have upped his price. Eastwood and Marvin played two men who set up a mining camp to look for gold. Eastwood’s character is both idealistic and romantic, a far cry from some of the roles that populated his career.

Clint Eastwood Becomes a Director

Likewise, the film required Eastwood to sing his own songs as well. Despite reaching No.1 at the box office, “Paint Your Wagon” was a critical failure. Several critics panned the film and Marvin’s performance. Likewise, Eastwood felt the production was an embarrassment, and he felt frustrated while on set. The actor realized that he could do a better job directing.

So, that’s what he did.

Two years later, Eastwood directed his first film “Play Misty for Me,” which he also starred in. The film was a departure for Eastwood as an actor. He played a radio jockey that becomes a target for an obsessed fan. Eastwood followed up that film as a director with a return to the western genre. He directed his first western “High Plains Drifter,” a classic among his various films.

Eastwood has been a director ever since. Even when he moved away from acting, Eastwood has continued to churn out films. In recent years, he has directed a film every one to two years. Some of his films include “Million Dollar Baby,” “Mystic River,” “Gran Torino,” “Unforgiven” and others. Eastwood chose to become a director to better his career as an actor. And he ended up becoming pretty talented at both. All thanks to a bad western musical.

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