Clint Eastwood’s career has been long and storied, from the spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s, to Dirty Harry in the 1970s, to Oscar prestige in the 1990s and 2000s. But in a career that spans 65 years and includes over 70 acting performances and 40 feature films as director, there has to be the occasional Clint Eastwood movie that comes along that is well… a bit out of left-field. And co-starring with an orangutan who likes to regularly flip his middle finger certainly counts as an odd choice.
Between 1964 and 1966 Eastwood made three spaghetti Westerns with director Sergio Leone which have long been considered classics. He continued to ride high into the 70s, portraying San Francisco cop Dirty Harry in five thriller movies. And among all of this, Eastwood chose to star in Every Which Way but Loose in 1978, a comedy movie about a prize-fighter and his best buddy Clyde (who just happens to be an orangutan).
In 1990, Eastwood told Interview Magazine; “I’ve made problem pictures before and sometimes people tell you they’re a problem and other times they don’t. I have to assume that some Dirty Harry fans like different types of movies. Honkytonk Man (1982) was definitely a problem picture, and even with The Gauntlet (1977), people didn’t necessarily want me to play a dumb detective.”
“You have to lead the audience in different directions, otherwise they might dump you eventually,” he said. “Everybody – my agent, my lawyers – they said don’t do Every Which Way But Loose, and even once they saw it, one of the studio execs thought it was going to be a flop. I always thought it was kind of a hip script with the orangutan and stuff. Some people got it and some people didn’t, but the public seemed to enjoy it.”
The orangutan adventure movie went onto be the second-highest grossing film of 1978, so it turns out that Clint fans were prepared to see him in a different light. There was a slight dip in Eastwood’s career during the 80s, before he made Best Picture winner Unforgiven in 1992, and the rest as they say, is history.
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