I imagine that interviewing Clint Eastwood is no easy task, for although the respected actor and director may appear open and charming, relaxed and good-natured, with a disarming modesty and a facility to talk, Eastwood rarely, if ever, reveals anything about himself.
Norman Mailer discovered this when he interviewed Eastwood on the set of Sudden Impact. The paucity of quotable material saw Mailer cleverly pad out his article with an imaginary conversation between himself and a dinner guest discussing the actor’s merits.
I watched this documentary The Man With No Name when it first aired on the BBC back in 1977. I enjoyed it. I was an Eastwood fan, and had seen most of his movies and read all the film-tie-in books for Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, the Spaghetti Westerns, and so on. But a part of me was slightly disappointed that I had learned no more about Clint Eastwood than what I had already gleaned from the characters he played on the screen—those solitary men united by a belief that one individual can make a difference, even against the most preposterous of odds. It’s an American ideal, and certainly appealed to this young Scot, who had been raised on a culture of collective responsibility and shared endeavor.
Yet, there was something about Eastwood’s tales of filming and homespun wisdom I found unsatisfying.
“Just keep grinding, until the talent, the hard work, the effort to learn, and the good luck all come together at one time. And when they do, well, then you’re alright.”
Even then I’d seen enough people who had worked hard, had been more than willing, had put in the effort, and had never had the luck. Their fortune was poverty, violence and despair. Of course that had nothing to do with Eastwood. But still, I naively wanted him to be more open and give a little thought to some of the myths he was selling.
That said, The Man With No Name is an excellent documentary, with presenter, the writer and broadcaster Iain Johnstone getting great value from directors Sergio Leone and Don Seigel, actor Richard Burton and the critic Dilys Powell.
Bonus featurette: The Making of ‘The Gauntlet’ (1977)