Clint Eastwood is a legend and is known for directing and starring in classic Westerns. The actor became famous for his Spaghetti Western trilogy directed by Sergio Leone. After gaining stardom for starring in the Western TV show Rawhide, Eastwood went on to gain fame for his films and even turned to direct, winning two Oscars.
Apart from Westers, Clint Eastwood won great acclaim for his police procedural thriller franchise Dirty Harry. The actor starred in all five films of the franchise as Harry Callahan, the rules-bending police officer who hunts a serial killer named Scorpio. However, the iconic role was reportedly first offered to another Western superstar John Wayne, who reportedly regretted his decision to turn down the role.
Clint Eastwood Was Not The First Choice For Dirty Harry
Other than his stint as the ‘Man with no Name’ in Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, Clint Eastwood also starred in five films of the police procedural franchise Dirty Harry. The first film, Dirty Harry, was reportedly based on the Zodiac Killer, who was at large in San Francisco at the time.
Eastwood’s iconic portrayal of the no-nonsense, honest, but rebellious cop Harry Callahan has become a staple in the genre, with Eastwood himself playing similar roles later. The film’s iconic line, ‘Do you feel lucky, punk?’ has been referred to and has been parodied many times, most notably by Jim Carrey in The Mask.
Despite the legendary status of the films, Clint Eastwood was reportedly not the first actor to be considered for the role. According to Field and Stream, the role was first envisioned with Frank Sinatra in mind and he was even cast in the role. When Sinatra was attached to the film, director Irvin Kershner was also attached to helm the film. However, Sinatra had to leave the film as he had hurt his hand while filming The Manchurian Candidate. Kershner too reportedly left the project.
Other actors such as Steve McQueen, Burt Lancaster, and Robert Mitchum were all reportedly offered the role. However, many of the actors either turned it down due to the excessive violence depicted in the film at the time or because they misunderstood Harry Callahan’s character. Finally, Clint Eastwood was cast and the rest was history.
John Wayne Rejected Dirty Harry For A Bizarre Reason
Clint Eastwood gained immense glory from playing Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry franchise. The film first earned $36 million at the box office, rendering it a success as it was made at a budget of $4 million. Though the film initially received mixed reviews and controversy due to its apparent conservative messaging and depiction of violence, the film has since gained the status of a classic and has featured in many ‘Best of’ lists.
However, all the glory of the films could have been received by another star if he had not let his pride get the better of him. Star John Wayne was reportedly offered the role after Frank Sinatra dropped out. However, the Rio Bravo star reportedly rejected the role as he did not want a role that was first offered to Sinatra. Wayne said in the book John Wayne: The Man Behind The Myth,
“I turned it down for what seemed to me to be very good reasons. The first is that they offered it to Frank Sinatra first, but he’d hurt his hand and couldn’t do it. I don’t like being offered Sinatra’s rejections. Put that one down to pride.”
Wayne also mentioned that he had another reason to reject the role. He mentioned that he first felt that Harry Callahan was a rogue cop, who did not abide by the law and was corrupt. However, he was proven wrong after the film came out. John Wayne reportedly expressed regret over turning down the role later. He said,
“The second reason is that I thought Harry was a rogue cop. Put that down to narrow-mindedness because when I saw the picture I realized that Harry was the kind of part I’d played often enough; a guy who lives within the law but breaks the rules when he really has to in order to save others.”
John Wayne was considered to be one of the greatest stars of Hollywood and, like Clint Eastwood, was known for his roles in classic Westerns. His career might just have taken a similar trajectory to Clint Eastwood’s, had he not rejected Dirty Harry.