Whether you’re a purse-snatcher, a serial killer or just an overall punk, you don’t like “Dirty” Harry Callahan. To the rest of us, however, there’s no cinematic badass more beloved.
This past weekend, MTV News concluded its exhaustive survey to determine the Greatest Movie Badass of All Time, selecting
[movieperson id="78111"]Clint Eastwood’s[/movieperson] iconic San Francisco Police Department inspector as the king of all ass-kickers . And sure enough, when we sent a camera crew to tape the Oscar winner’s acceptance speech, he greeted them with a welcome that seemed to come from “Dirty” Harry himself.
“All right, thanks. You made a good choice,” growled the 78-year-old actor/director, once again channeling the badass. “Now get out — I told you to get out. Don’t hang around, goddamnit!”
But as Eastwood told our own Josh Horowitz recently, he nearly didn’t even land the role.
“I guess they tried to get a lot of people for it. They tried Frank Sinatra and Robert Mitchum and Steve McQueen. Then they finally ended up with Frank Sinatra,” Eastwood recalled of the early ’70s casting process for the original “Dirty Harry” film. “I was in postproduction [on 'Play Misty for Me'], and they called up and asked, ‘Are you still interested in “Dirty Harry”?’ I said, ‘What happened to Frank Sinatra?’ And they said, ‘Frank Sinatra’s got some problem with his hand and he can’t hold a gun.’
“That sounded like a pretty lame excuse,” our favorite badass actor said quite frankly. “But it didn’t matter to me.
“So I said, ‘I’ll do it,’ but since they had initially talked to me, there had been all these rewrites. I said, ‘I’m only interested in the original script.’ ” Looking back on the 1971 Don Siegel flick, he remembered, “[The rewrites had changed] everything. They had marine snipers coming on in the end. And I said, ‘No. This is losing the point of the whole story, of the guy chasing the killer down. It’s becoming an extravaganza that’s losing its character.’ They said, ‘OK, do what you want.’ So, we went and made it.”
Now, 38 years later, Eastwood’s battle to maintain the “character” of Harry Callahan has audiences still remembering him as the most badass of all movie characters. And as he recently revisited the film for a DVD-release celebration, Eastwood said he and his family are finding it as hard as the fans to resist Harry’s surly charms.
“I hadn’t seen it on the big screen in 37 years,” Eastwood marveled. “I once ran it about 10 years ago on LaserDisc for my wife, who had never seen it before. She said, ‘Now I get it!’ “
While talking about the attributes that made Harry so badass, Eastwood offered multiple observations. “I felt the character was a man of purpose. Once he decided on something, there were no side-movements away from it, no extraneous movements. He was a very determined soul.”
Eastwood triumphantly returned to the “Dirty” Harry persona recently with “[movie id="384597"]Gran Torino[/movie],” a film that casts him as a character named Walt Kowalski who is unmistakably cut from the same cloth — and, proving that their appetite for Eastwood badasses hasn’t diminished, audiences made “Torino” into Eastwood’s highest-grossing film of all time. “Here’s a guy who is so dogmatic that nothing is going to stop him when his mind is made up,” Eastwood said of Harry — and perhaps also of Walt.
But even as Eastwood heads into his ninth decade of life giving us great films like “Torino,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Changeling” and “Mystic River,” the question still remains: Will he ever bring cinema’s greatest badass back to the big screen, one last time?
“I’m 78 years old, and you’re pretty well drummed out of the police force by that age,” he laughed, allowing, “There could be a scenario. I suppose if some mythical writer came out of nowhere and it was the greatest thing on the planet, I’d certainly have to think about it. But it’s not like I’ve ever courted it.
“I feel like that was an era of my life, and I’ve gone on to other things,” Clint explained, perhaps closing the door forever on moviedom’s best badass. “I’m not sure about being Dirty Harry again — but who knows?”
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