It does not come as a surprise to learn that Clint Eastwood has a saddle in the back seat of his car. It seems totally appropriate that the actor who first found screen fame as the taciturn Man With No Name in Sergio Leone’s trilogy of spaghetti westerns and was last on horseback as the grizzled veteran gunslinger in the 1992 Oscar-winning Unforgiven should carry with him the trappings of his trade.
But no, he explains with a smile. The saddle is a birthday present for Frannie, his pony-riding nine-year-old daughter by actress Frances Fisher.
At first it is difficult to see Clint Eastwood, the latter-day Gary Cooper, as a devoted family man. Surely the heroic image, steely gaze and authoritative demeanour would preclude any close family ties'
Though known as a man of few words, the humourous and self-depreciating Eastwood makes it clear that his hard-boiled image, honed in nearly 60 films, is as fake as some of the film sets surrounding us on the Warner Bros lot in Burbank.
“We’re a great family,” he says. “We come from a lot of different directions but everybody loves each other and that is my greatest enjoyment.”
Eastwood, currently married to 36-year-old Dina Ruiz, has seven children, ranging in age from 38 to five, by five different women. “I try to spend as much time as I can with all my children and grandchildren and that is why I am not making as many movies anymore,” he says.
“Because I had children at an older age I have had to learn patience that I didn’t have in my earlier life when I was more ambitious.” His gait is a little slower and his craggy face has more wrinkles, but at the age of 72, Clint Eastwood still looks as good.
While many of his contemporaries have resorted to the Hollywood standby of cosmetics and plastic surgery in attempts to hold back the years, he has no intention of hiding his age or trying to recapture his lost looks.
“It’s too late for anything like that — the horse has left the barn,” he smiles.
“I have no choice but to look the way I am because they don’t make enough shoe polish for my hair and they don’t have a sander for my face. At some point you have to say ‘This is who I am’.”
He can still handle a gun and go shirtless, as he does in his new film Blood Work (Reuters picture above) but Eastwood has been wise enough to remake his image several times over the years. If the cowboy look propelled him into stardom in the mid-sixties, the 1971 role as the tough-as-nails cop Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry series cemented his status as an action hero.
As he has aged, he has branched out into more forgiving roles which allow him to use his age as a plot device.