On This Day: ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ Starring Clint Eastwood Premieres in Theaters in 1976

by Jon D. B.
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“The civilized are easy to sneak up on…” Relive Clint Eastwood’s timeless Western classic on the 45th anniversary of its theatrical release through this fascinating behind-the-scenes look.

It’s hard to believe in retrospect, but The Outlaw Josey Wales almost wasn’t directed by Clint Eastwood – a man now as synonymous with that title as he is “actor.”

Prolific Hollywood screenwriter and director Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff, Raiders of the Lost Ark) nearly took on both roles for the film. Many of Kaufman’s ideas for the picture didn’t sit well with Eastwood, however. Eastwood took the reigns as a result, and The Outlaw Josey Wales became what we know it as today: a Western masterpiece.

Fascinatingly, this would lead to the creation of what’s known as “The Eastwood Rule” in Tinseltown. Clint Eastwood didn’t just disagree with Kaufman – he fired him. The drama this unfurled led the Directors Guild of America had to create a specific clause (see: “The Eastwood Rule”) to prevent this from ever happening again.

All’s well that ends well, however. Wales tells the tale of one Josey Wales (Eastwood), a farmer by trade right up until the merciless slaughter of his wife and son by Union soldiers. This lands Wales firmly in the camp of Confederate-sympathizing guerilla fighters as he sets out to avenge his fallen family.

It’s a stance that films today more than likely wouldn’t take, as The Confederacy is anything but easy to sympathize with. Regardless, the Civil War comes to an end in The Outlaw Josey Wales as it did in history. And Josey is left the sole survivor of another Union slaughter.

Clint Eastwood and the ‘Self-Discovery’ of ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’

All this serves to set up Josey’s journey of self-discovery. We follow him as he and his wayward companions search for a quiet home and a restful life after so much turmoil. But Union bounty hunters will stop at nothing to prevent this.

Through it all, Wales’ budding, rocky, and incredibly insightful friendship with Lone Watie is an absolute highlight. Many of the film’s most iconic lines come courtesy of actor Chief Dan George. Chief George switches from stoic to tender to quirky on a dime, and helps cement Wales outing as a beyond-worthy venture.

https://youtu.be/hRwSjDcnCmI

His heritage lends itself fully to the tales Lone Watie has to tell. The actor was born to the Geswanouth Slahoot peoples from the lands preceding Vancouver, British Colombia. Chief Dan George is the son of a tribal chief himself. In fact, he is currently “the only Aboriginal actor in Canadian history to date with the right to use the title “Chief”, serving as leader of the Squamish First Nation of Burrard Inlet from 1951-63,” as IMDb cites.

Relive Watie’s iconic meeting with Clint Eastwood’s Josey Wales above, and wish The Outlaw a fond Happy 45th.

In 1996, the National Film Preservation Board, USA would select Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales for the National Film Registry, preserving it for all time.

Outsider.com