If fans of Clint Eastwood believe they know him from his movies or his publicity propaganda, then they're advised to think again. Millions of Eastwood fans falsely think that the on-screen Clint and the real-life Clint are one and the same. But that's not the case, according to the author, Patrick McGilligan. He presents Clinton Eastwood Junior --- the man, the actor, and the star --- as he is, not as he is portrayed to be. He effectively reveals the innermost Clint by imparting anecdotes, most of which are not flattering, from Eastwood's childhood, early adulthood, and the long years of success and stardom.
McGilligan begins by tracing Clint Eastwood's ancestry, stressing his good fortune in having an amalgamation of artistic flair and business shrewdness to go along with his inherited weak points. He was born big and beautiful. His childhood was ordinary. His penchant for chasing skirts began early and has lasted to date. His lack of belief in God is an interesting point, but one that McGilligan does not delve into much.
McGilligan reveals Clint Eastwood to be a fallible human being with phenomenal luck, good looks, sharp business acumen, and a deep-rooted thriftiness. He reveals the development of the future actor, who showed neither flair nor inclination for that profession until adulthood (Clint Eastwood achieved stardom comparatively late in life). According to the author, Clint Eastwood found the film industry to be the greatest escape from reality. How he eventually became a leading actor, then a star phenomenon, is described in detail in this book. McGilligan emphasizes how ironic it is that Clint Eastwood's very lack of expression and thin voice --- the despair of his acting coaches --- his non-acting, so to speak, became his forte, his trademark. What goes on behind the camera in the making of Eastwood's movies as well as the symbiotic relationship between Eastwood's production company, Malpaso, and Warner Brothers also are explored and unveiled.
More interesting are the possibly negative sides to Eastwood's personality. On the personal front, the highlights are his less-than-courageous attitude, his fear of confrontations, his extreme stinginess, his massive dislike of being upstaged, his manipulative treatment of the people in his life (including his paramours and children), his licentiousness, and his vengeful nature. On the star front this comprises of his deep obsession with remaining young and attractive to the audience, his compromise of perfection in favor of saving money, his fixation with being portrayed as "God's own gift to women" both on and off-screen, and his way of engineering scripts to his own advantage.
The tone of this 600+ page book seems at first to be overly critical. This book is not an "official" biography, but the author has done his research in detail, relying on everyone and everything but Clint Eastwood personally, so it is valid to presume that it is not that far from the truth. Towards the end of the book, the author himself expresses his surprise at the number of people whom he met that really hate Eastwood. Indeed, most people seem have to have a peculiar sort of love-hate relationship with Hollywood's uncrowned king of manipulation.
But as a French film critic put it and the author quotes --- "If you love the films, then nothing else matters."
Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas on August 19, 2002