If Clint Eastwood wasn’t already a star by Dirty Harry, the thriller movie would have certainly been the makings of him. As Harry Callahan, Westwood came to define a certain kind of uncouth but dedicated member of the force. It was perfect casting, and he only got it because Frank Sinatra hurt himself.
Sinatra was offered the part for the action movie Dirty Harry. Warner Bros actually greenlit production with Sinatra attached, and drafts were written to suit hiss wants for the story. Eastwood was in earlier discussions, when the script was considerably different. Fortune favoured the Western icon, though. As he remembers it, Sinatra got hurt, and he was top of the studio’s list.
“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’,” he told MTV News in 2009. “That sounded like a pretty lame excuse, but it didn’t matter to me. I said, ‘I’ll do it’.”
Eastwood had one condition: it had to be the version he read previously. He believed Dirty Harry was becoming a bit of a blockbuster, losing sight of the tight-knit cop drama movie at the core.
“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’,” he said, adding: “So they said, ‘OK, do what you want’. So we went and made it.”
What Eastwood and director Don Siegel made has become one the primo cop movies. A gritty, hard-boiled detective story about a rogue cop who’ll stop at nothing to apprehend a serial killer in San Francisco. Sinatra’s version would’ve also been great no doubt, but it wouldn’t have been the Dirty Harry we know and love, that’s for sure.