What Happened To Clint Eastwood’S Forgotten Leading Lady?


Sondra Locke received an Academy Award nomination for her screen acting debut in the 1968 drama film The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, in which she plays Mick Kelly, a teenage girl who befriends a deaf and mute man, played by Alan Arkin. Subsequent roles in the films A Reflection of Fear, The Second Coming of Suzanne, and Willard revealed Locke to be an adventurous young actress who possessed uncommon range and versatility.

However, Locke’s career and life were forever altered in 1975, when she was cast opposite Clint Eastwood in the 1976 Western film The Outlaw Josey Wales, in which she plays Laura Lee, the love interest of his titular character. The Outlaw Josey Wales marked the first of six Eastwood films in which the actress co-starred between 1976 and 1983, culminating in her featured role in the 1983 thriller Sudden Impact, the fourth installment in the Dirty Harry franchise.

The Outlaw Josey Wales also marked the beginning of a romantic relationship between the pair, who entered into a domestic partnership in October 1975 despite the fact that they were both technically married to other people. During this relationship, which ended bitterly in 1989, Eastwood fathered two children with other women, including Scott Eastwood. Following their split, Locke became a Hollywood pariah. Over the past 35 years, her legacy has been virtually erased from Eastwood’s and Hollywood’s history, as if she never existed.

Sondra Locke’s Relationship With Clint Eastwood Overshadowed Her Career

Besides Meryl Streep, who starred alongside Clint Eastwood in the 1995 romantic drama film The Bridges of Madison County, Sondra Locke is the only actress to receive star billing in an Eastwood film. She received her first starring credit alongside the actor in their second film, the 1977 action thriller The Gauntlet. In The Gauntlet, Locke, in what is arguably her best performance in an Eastwood film, plays Augustina “Gus” Mally, a foul-mouthed prostitute whom Eastwood’s character, Phoenix cop Ben Shockley, is assigned to escort from Las Vegas to Phoenix, where Mally is scheduled to testify in a mob trial.

As Locke’s profile was raised considerably by her relationship with Eastwood, so was her salary. Locke, who was paid less than $20,000 for The Outlaw Josey Wales, received six-figure salaries for the hit 1978 action comedy film Every Which Way But Loose and its 1980 sequel, Any Which Way You Can, plus a share of the profits. However, much like what happened to Mia Farrow with Woody Allen and Marsha Mason with Neil Simon, Locke, who was paid $350,000 for Sudden Impact, became so inextricably tied to the actor that she became increasingly viewed less as an actress and more as an appendage.

Over the course of her relationship with Eastwood, Locke, who was approximately 14 years his junior, only appeared in one theatrical film, the obscure 1977 horror Western film The Shadow of Chikara, without him, as he insisted that Locke only work with him. Moreover, his core audience never truly embraced the actress, who was increasingly dogged, along with Eastwood, by accusations of nepotism.


Locke Displayed Promising Film-Making Talent

While Sondra Locke never appeared in another film with Clint Eastwood after Sudden Impact, he nonetheless supported her directorial ambitions. Through his production company, Malpaso Productions, the actress made her feature directorial debut with the offbeat 1986 comedy-drama film Ratboy, in which she plays a window dresser who befriends a young man who is a half-human and half-rat. He secured an $8 million budget for Ratboy through Warner Bros. Pictures and provided her with the services of his Malpaso production team. Despite this, Ratboy was a box-office and critical disaster, which placed a strain on their relationship.

Locke acquitted herself far more ably with her second feature directorial outing, the 1990 thriller film Impulse, in which Theresa Russell stars as an undercover Hollywood police officer who specializes in posing as a prostitute and finds herself implicated in a drug and murder investigation after indulging her dangerous impulses.

However, while Impulse received some encouraging reviews, most notably from Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, Impulse, which had a budget of $9 million, was a box-office failure. Indeed, Locke’s impressive handling of Impulse was completely overshadowed by the end of her relationship with Eastwood, whom she filed a $70 million palimony lawsuit against in April 1989, when Impulse was in production after he had the locks changed on the Bel-Air house the couple had shared since 1980.

Hollywood Ghosted Locke Following Her Split from Eastwood

While Sondra Locke eventually reached a settlement with Clint Eastwood, she stated that the conflict led her to be effectively black-listed. The publication of her scathing 1997 autobiography, The Good, the Bad, and the Very Ugly: A Hollywood Journey, was virtually ignored by mainstream media outlets.

Following her split from Eastwood, Locke, who died on November 3, 2018, at the age of 74, made her next acting appearance alongside Dennis Hopper in the 1999 thriller film The Prophet’s Game and resumed her directorial career with the 1995 made-for-television film Death in Small Doses. She made her final screen appearance with a starring role opposite Keith Carradine in the 2017 romantic drama film Ray Meets Helen.

The news of her death was accompanied by cursory media coverage and tributes. At the 2019 Academy Awards ceremony, Locke was excluded from the In Memoriam segment. Meanwhile, Eastwood, whose 2018 crime drama film The Mule was released approximately six weeks after Locke’s death, didn’t comment on her death and hasn’t spoken of her publicly in over 25 years. The Outlaw Josey Wales is available to rent on Prime Video.