“EASTWOOD AND ME” by Tony Piazza
“Good guy…that last one he shot was a good guy!”
Eleven words… my claim to celebrity status; my fifteen minutes of fame which if you took a stop watch and measured would run well under that length of time. And although I would have many small screen appearances later on in “The Streets of San Francisco”, these few words to this day still gets me the most attention. Why? Because CLINT EASTWOOD films are both well known and greatly admired not only in theU.S., but also to audiences around the world. Therefore to be associated with a Clint Eastwood movie usually guarantees that an actor (even a minor one) will receive instant and lasting recognition.
TCM ran a tribute to Clint Eastwood and it brought back memories of my experiences meeting and working with the man. He was very pleasant, soft spoken, down to earth, and charming with a subtle sense of humor. I met him first in 1971 when he was shooting “Dirty Harry”. I had gone down to North Beach (one of the film’s locations) to take a look at the “Harry” car which it was being arranged that I would purchase from Warner’s Transportation when the picture “wrapped”. It was to be my first car and owning a picture car drove by Clint Eastwood made it all the more exciting. He was very humble and polite when I met him, and I also remember being surprised at how tall he was- well over six feet. I subsequently went down to the set many times afterwards and brought high school friends and dates along. Needless to say I was very popular amongst my peers. I unfortunately didn’t get the car however- they needed it for a “pickup shot” on the Warner’s backlot and it got shipped back to Burbank, California.
My mother and Clint Eastwood (1973). She also worked as an “extra”
In 1973, three years after becoming an “extra” I reported on the set of “Magnum Force”- Dirty Harry’s second appearance on screen. I initially performed in the background in various roles-police officers mainly, but during one of the days that I had reported to work I was approached by the Assistant Director, Al Silvani who told me that my agent had suggested me for a small speaking role as a Cadet in the film. I was of course ecstatic. I was given the few pages of script that contained my line and rehearsed ever variation of that piece of dialogue (see above) than you could imagine. Finally the day came and I reported to the police firing range to do my scene in the picture. I was in good company – getting to hang out with ROBERT URICH, DAVID SOUL, TIM MATHESON, and KIP NIVEN all day (actually two days- it took that long to film!). They were a fun group… and I remember Urich doing impersonations of various celebrities like Ed Sullivan and etc. He kept us in stitches. TED POST was the director and I was able to cinch my bit in two takes. Of course Clint Eastwood, HAL HOLBROOK, and JOHN MITCHUM were also there. It was a memorable event.
The last time I got to work with Eastwood was in 1976 on his third outing as “Harry” in the “The Enforcer.” I was at the Hall of Justice – this time as an “extra”. Perhaps I was feeling shy- or maybe I figured he wouldn’t remember me because (after all) it had been three years since I last saw him- or I thought he was a big actor now and too busy for me- but in any case I felt uncomfortable to re-introduce myself and so didn’t bother to go up to him that day. However as they were setting up I happen to glance over in his direction and he made a point to single me out and nod a greeting of acknowledgement. I thought that was pretty cool-especially since now he was a bonafide mega star! But, you know in hind sight, I shouldn’t have been surprised- that is Clint Eastwood. He never saw himself as a “star”- he has always been unpretentious in that way. One incident to drive this point home occurred during the filming of “Dirty Harry”. My father worked in his usual capacity on that film and both he and Eastwood had the same birthday, May 31st. The crew decided to get a cake for my Dad and presented it to him at lunch. One problem- they forgot it was also Clint Eastwood’s birthday as well. Well, could you imagine what the results would have been if this happened to another big actor with a matching ego? Not Clint, he wished my Father a “Happy Birthday” and enjoyed some of his cake.
Hal Holbrook and my mother in-between shooting at the police range. She was in the audience.
Well, that’s my two cents for what its’ worth regarding my time spent with Clint Eastwood. Great memories of a great guy and certainly worth the honor TCM has given him. Of course, knowing him, he probably thought it was a lot to do about nothing.
Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel, “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” was released early 2012 and is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden. His non-fiction e-book “Bullitt Points” is an in depth look at the making of “Bullitt” from a person who was there. Look for it where fine books are sold, or at the link posted below. All profits goes to the Boys Republic charity.