Clint Eastwood on the film that saved his love of Hollywood

The Enforcer: Clint Eastwood stars in 1976 trailer

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Celebrated British actress Judi Dench spoke candidly about her relationship with American superstar Clint Eastwood, describing him as “the most laidback man I have ever met” during a podcast with Louis Theroux. The pair worked together on the 2011 biographical film J. Edgar, with Eastwood taking up the role of director. During the broadcast Dench revealed what it was like working with Eastwood, who during a stellar career has earned four Academy Awards for exploits in the director’s chair, including two for Best Picture.

But Eastwood’s influence on screen may have changed altogether, had he not decided to take a leading role in one of his most celebrated films, Million Dollar Baby.

The film, which won Eastwood Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, as well as acting gongs for Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman, was released in 2004, and up until then the star felt his career may be then better suited to just being a director.

Since the Fifties, Eastwood had forged a fierce reputation as one of Tinsel Town’s most reliable, and sought after, actors, earning universal acclaim and commercial success through his roles in films such as the spaghetti western trilogy, Dirty Harry and Unforgiven.

But during an interview with Reuters in 2008, Eastwood noted that he nearly quit acting for good, until a job came up on Million Dollar Baby.

He said: “I think I started saying that back a few years ago, I said, ‘I don’t think I’ll act anymore, I’ll stay behind the camera,’ and then Million Dollar Baby came along and I liked that role. Now I’ve done Gran Torino.”

Other films Eastwood has starred in in recent times include a small role in American Sniper, as well as the sport film Trouble with the Curve.

During his acting career Eastwood experienced some lows, including in 1970, when he lost his father after he suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 64.

The impact of that loss was reflected on by Fritz Manes, a long-term collaborator with Eastwood and a film producer in his own right, who, in Patrick McGilligan’s 2015 book Clint: The Life and Legend, noted that it was “the only bad thing that ever happened to him in his life”.

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Speaking about his father’s death, Eastwood, now 92, said he decided to adopt a strict diet, and made sure his lifestyle was completely different to his chain-smoking father.

The star noted the “profound impact” his parents’ passing had had on him, bringing him to the realisation that he had to become “more productive, working with greater speed and efficiency on set, and adopted an even more rigorous health regimen”.

He said: “Stay away from carbohydrates, especially rich desserts. Keep a scale in your bathroom. Get proper rest. Try to be optimistic. Eat fruits and raw vegetables. Take vitamins. Skip beverages loaded with sugars. Avoid alcohol in excess.”

Eastwood was left in shock at how young his father was when he passed considering his grandfather also lived to the age of 92. Scott Eastwood, the actor’s son, reflected on this family history, revealing the extent to which his father was a “machine about food and exercise”.

In a 2017 Men’s Health article, he added: “[Eastwood] showed me how to lift when I was 14 or 15 — the bench press and other basics. He made it clear it was more important to do the moves correctly than to put on more plates.”

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More recently, Dench reflected on her working relationship with Eastwood during the newly released podcast series, Louis Theroux Interviews… on BBC Sounds. Speaking from her home in Surrey, Dench touched upon a number of subjects including Eastwood.

The 87-year-old spoke about her most notable films, though she did admit that there “are so many films that I’ve done that I’ve never seen,” and that it is often “irritating” to watch herself on screen.

She then spoke about Eastwood: “Clint Eastwood is the most laidback man I have ever met. You start at nine, you finish at four.”

Putting on an American accent to impersonate her J. Edgar director, Dench continued: “‘In your own time,’ that’s what he’d say. Then at the end of the scene, he says, ‘Stop.’ Not ‘cut’. And he didn’t shout it, either. Just that, ‘In your own time.’”

She then recalled another encounter between the two, adding: “‘Mr Eastwood, could we possibly do that again?’ ‘Why?’ ‘Sorry?’ ‘Why?’ ‘Well, because we’ve just done it once. Could we have another go?’ ‘No.’”

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