Clinton "Clint" Eastwood Jr. does not embrace the moniker of "conservative," but his politics fall decidedly that way. He has publicly acknowledged his belief in limited government and limited spending and has called himself at times a "fiscal conservative" and at other times a "libertarian." He has been a registered Republican since 1951, saying his first vote was cast for Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was also publicly supportive of Republican Richard Nixon in 1968, Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Republican John McCain in 2008. Some speculate Eastwood's support for McCain led to his Academy Award snub in 2009.
Eastwood was born on May 31, 1930 in San Diego to Clint Sr. and Margaret Ruth (Runner) Eastwood. He attended Oakland Technical High School, graduating in 1948. He worked a variety of blue collar jobs as a lumberjack, gas station attendant, fireman, steel mill worker and as an aircraft manufacturer. In 1950, during the Korean War, he was drafted into the US Army Special Services, and had his first interaction with two actors, Martin Milner and David Janssen. He was aboard a military flight that crashed into the Pacific, and later testified about the incident. After his military service expired, he moved to Los Angeles.
Entrance into Hollywood:
Eastwood enrolled in LA City College to study business administration, but quickly dropped out. Still in touch with Milner and Janssen, Eastwood decided to try his hand at acting. His first break came in 1954, when a friend scored him a screen test. He landed a $75-a-week contract that included acting lessons, and his first role came in the B-movie in Revenge Of The Creature, which was directed by Jack Arnold and released in 1955. A series of other B-movie roles followed and then, in 1958, he earned a spot as Rowdy Yates on the hit TV-show Rawhide. The show ran for seven years and his role earned Eastwood minor fame.
Rise to Hollywood Stardom:
In the early 1960s, spaghetti western director Sergio Leone and his producers were having trouble casting the lead in a film about a family feud in Mexico. Producers had to cut actor James Coburn from the starring role for financial reasons, and actor Charles Bronson turned the film down because of its script. These hardships opened up the role to Eastwood, and he was cast as the "The Man With No Name" in the hit 1964 film, A Fistful of Dollars. Eastwood followed it up with For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, playing the same character throughout the trilogy. The role earned him massive fame.
For the next several years, Eastwood made his name playing tough-guy roles. His first directorial film was 1971's Play Misty for Me, which was overshadowed that year by one of Eastwood's most famous films, Dirty Harry, which would go on to become a franchise film series lasting well into the 1980s. During the 1970s and 1980s, Eastwood also played Philo Beddoe in Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can, starring as a wandering trucker with an orangutan named "Clyde" as a sidekick. Clyde stole the show, but the films were highly popular and further cemented Eastwood's status as a Hollywood film star.
Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California:
In 1985, Eastwood became embroiled in a dispute with his hometown's preservationist-dominated government, which automatically rejected his proposal to build a small building in downtown Carmel that would have improved the district. On Jan. 30, 1986, he announced his candidacy for mayor, a position that paid just $200 a month. Eastwood maintained he had no plans for higher office, but promised to make it easier to build or renovate properties (a promise he kept). Eastwood announced in 1987 that he would not run for a second term, and in 1988, he returned to film making with a new sense of purpose.
Academy Award Nominations & Victories in the 1990s:
Eastwood continued to act in and direct films during the 1980s, but in the 1990s, he began to earn critical acclaim and recognition as a serious filmmaker. His 1992 film Unforgiven, which he directed and in which he starred, became an instant classic and was nominated for nine Oscars. Eastwood won for Best Director and his co-star, Gene Hackman, won for Best Supporting Actor. The film also won Oscars for Best Film Editing and Best Original Screenplay. Toward the end of the 1990s, Eastwood began to direct more films and act in less.
Academy Award Nominations & Victories in the 2000s:
Eastwood's first directorial effort of the decade came in 2003, with the psychological crime drama Mystic River. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards and won two for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. The release of Million Dollar Baby in 2005, was one of Eastwood's highest grossing films, earning more than $200 million. Eastwood won for Best Director and was nominated for Best Actor. Eastwood's next two films, both about World War II, Flags of Our Fathers, which was nominated for two Oscars, and Letters from Iwo Jima, which won an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing.
Controversy Over His Most Recent Films:
In 2008, Eastwood directed Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie, which was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Actress, Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography. Conspicuously absent were any nominations for Eastwood's directing work. Eastwood also returned to the screen in January 2009, with Gran Torino, which he also directed. Although the film earned more money in one weekend than any of his other films ($30 million) and received wide critical acclaim, it was not nominated for any Academy Awards. There is wide Internet buzz that these slights are payback for his support of a Republican candidate in 2008.
Oscar Backlash in 2009:
In a year when the leading candidates for Best Actor are men who portrayed a gay city councilman and an evil Richard Nixon, it doesn't appear that there is any room for a conservative actor who plays a bigoted retiree who becomes a reluctant hero. Although it is vexing that Eastwood wasn't nominated for Best Director for Gran Torino, it is particularly disconcerting that he was snubbed by the Academy for Best Actor. Eastwood, whose acting ability is highly regarded in Hollywood, has -- inexplicably -- never won an Oscar in that category ... and it appears unlikely that he ever will. Eastwood announced in late 2008 that his appearance in Gran Torino would be his last performance as an actor on the silver screen.