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Director v. Actor: Which Role is Eastwood Better?

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Author Topic: Is Eastwood a Better Director than he is an Actor?  (Read 7307 times)
AKA23
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« on: April 26, 2012, 01:26:45 PM »

Our discussion in the "Best Actor" thread has gotten me thinking. A lot of people seem to believe that Clint Eastwood is a better director than he is an actor. If you had to choose one, on which side would you come down? Do you think he's a better actor or a better director? Please limit yourself to one. I know that he can do both. When answering this question, please answer it not with respect to whether you personally prefer Eastwood more in the role of an actor than a director, as I think that would be true for pretty much every Eastwood fan. What I am asking is, if you had to pick one, do you believe Eastwood has more talent and ability as a director, or as an actor, and why?

In addition, do you believe that it is true that Eastwood has a limited range as an actor? If so, why? If not, why do you think there is the perception out there that Eastwood doesn't have much talent as an actor? Discuss!
« Last Edit: April 26, 2012, 06:51:48 PM by AKA23 » Logged
Rawhide7
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« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2012, 08:18:21 PM »

These are some very good thought provoking questions AKA.  My first thought is acting would be my choice because of course I much prefer him acting than directing.  But like you said go by what you truly believe he is more talented at.    But these questions require some time and thought before answering them honestly like you want.  So I'm going to take some time to think it all through before answering these questions based on what I truly believe.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2012, 08:19:41 PM by Rawhide7 » Logged
Rawhide7
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« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2012, 09:42:11 PM »

Our discussion in the "Best Actor" thread has gotten me thinking. A lot of people seem to believe that Clint Eastwood is a better director than he is an actor. If you had to choose one, on which side would you come down? Do you think he's a better actor or a better director? Please limit yourself to one. I know that he can do both. When answering this question, please answer it not with respect to whether you personally prefer Eastwood more in the role of an actor than a director, as I think that would be true for pretty much every Eastwood fan. What I am asking is, if you had to pick one, do you believe Eastwood has more talent and ability as a director, or as an actor, and why?

In addition, do you believe that it is true that Eastwood has a limited range as an actor? If so, why? If not, why do you think there is the perception out there that Eastwood doesn't have much talent as an actor? Discuss!

I guess the main thing I'm grappling with is that Eastwood has acted in twice as many movies as he's directed.  And some of his best performances as an actor he also directed them.  And there's more of a sample on the acting side of things as oppose to directing.  So I'm still needing a little more time on this question AKA.  The other question I do think Eastwood has some what of a limited range as an actor but not extremely limited.  I mean we all know he is a big star in action macho style movies and also in drama type movies.  And I believe he can be a very good actor in varied roles.  But he defenetely would not be good in horror movies.  And really not great at comedy.  I mean I enjoyed the Every which way but loose and Any which way you can which are comedy movies.  But he really does'nt excel in comedy.  With that said he does have some serious type humor in him.  Like in some of his westerns and in the Dirty Harry movies he can be pretty funny but only in short spells.  I think the reason why some people think Clint does'nt have any acting talent is because there is a perception out there that action star actors arent very good actors because they go on being tough beating people up or shooting them down instead of really acting.  Like same goes with Arnold S and Stallone there not known as great actors but are tough guys and I guess people believe that the macho style actors can't act.  That's just my opinion only on what I think.  
« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 09:48:56 PM by Rawhide7 » Logged
Doug
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« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2012, 04:26:26 AM »

Quote
Is Eastwood a Better Director than he is an Actor?

Yes.
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2012, 09:48:23 AM »

Thanks for your analysis, Rawhide! Please do come on back and give us some more thoughts after you've had the time to think more about this question.

Yes.

Thanks for contributing to this thread, Doug. I'd love for you to expand on your answer, so that we can get a discussion going. You always have worthwhile things to say, and I am confident your answer here will be worthwhile. 
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Rawhide7
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« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2012, 01:55:11 PM »

While I'm still thinking about this question I would like to hear your view on your question AKA.
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AKA23
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« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2012, 09:20:01 AM »

While I'm still thinking about this question I would like to hear your view on your question AKA.

I didn't want to color this thread with my own perceptions because I wanted to get other people's thoughts before offering my own, but since you've specifically asked for my answer to this question, I'll give it to you. I think he's a much better director than he is an actor. Eastwood's range as an actor is somewhat limited. I don't think it's as limited as many believe it to be, but he is not an especially versatile actor. I don't think a credible argument can really be made that he belongs in the elite class as an actor. There are many actors who are his contemporaries who are much better actors than Eastwood. Gene Hackman and Anthony Hopkins are two that come to mind. I think his range as a director is also somewhat limited, but it is far more versatile than his range as an actor. Eastwood has directed a wide variety of different films, of varying scopes, and with rare exception, he has done so competently. Where I personally believe Eastwood lacks skills is in directing large-scale films. I personally believe he is much better at directing small, character-driven stories than large-scale productions. If you look at the films in his career that have been the best as a director, they are all small, character-driven pieces. "Unforgiven," "A Perfect World," "The Bridges of Madison County," "Mystic River," "Million Dollar Baby," "Letters from Iwo Jima," "Gran Torino." Contrast this with "Changeling," "Invictus," "Hereafter," and "J.Edgar." I think this weakness can be seen even within individual films themselves. The first part of "Space Cowboys," was much better than the parts where the characters were in space. Once the film moved from small and character-driven to the larger space mission the film became much weaker. I also couldn't see Eastwood directing "Harry Potter" or a James Bond film. Large scale, highly technical films are not his strong suit, though a case could be made that that could be due in part to a lack of interest in addition to any perceived lack of ability. Even given these weaknesses, I still think as a director Eastwood's record is pretty impressive.

Not only this, but Eastwood has directed 10 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Gene Hackman, Meryl Streep, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Marcia Gay Harden, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Matt Damon, and himself (in Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004)). Hackman, Penn, Robbins, Freeman and Swank won Oscars for their performances in one of Eastwood's movies.

For two consecutive years he directed two out of the four actors who won Oscars for their performances: Sean Penn (Best Actor) and Tim Robbins (Best Supporting Actor) in Mystic River (2003)) in 2004, and Hilary Swank (Best Actress) and Morgan Freeman (Best Supporting Actor) for Million Dollar Baby (2004)) in 2005. (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000142/bioZ)

He has been nominated as a Director 4 times, winning twice. In the entire history of the Academy Awards, only 14 other Directors have won two Best Director Oscars. Two have won three times, only one (John Ford) has won 4. If it weren't for "Return of the King" Eastwood would likely have won for "Mystic River too, so that would have been 3. "Mystic River" was the choice of the other nominated films that had the most critical support. I personally think Eastwood should have won for both "Mystic River" and "Letters from Iwo Jima," but the Academy felt differently. "Letters" is another reason that Eastwood really should be considered one of the best-directors of all time. He directed a film in Japanese with entirely Japanese actors about a subject which he knew absolutely nothing about, and he did it quickly, efficiently and at an extremely high level.

I honestly think any reasonable, objective observer of Eastwood's career would have to conclude that he is a better director than he is an actor. He is certainly one of the greatest screen stars in history, but popularity and abilities are two different things. I prefer movies he acts in to movies he only directs, but his record of accomplishment as a director far exceeds any accomplishments as an actor. His work as a director is more versatile, it is more highly regarded, it is more critically recognized, and it is of a much higher quality.    
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Rawhide7
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« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2012, 02:08:12 PM »

Those are some very good points AKA.  I'm still thinking this through a little bit more.  For me it's a little more closer and therefore I'm taking my time before adding my opinions.  His onscreen presence and likability to me is one of the best of all time.  Which I know doesn't have to do with acting ability but for me it is a small part of being a great actor.  I mean there are alot of really great actors out there with alot of ability and talent but may not have the likability, charm, and onscreen presence that Clint has.  And another thing Clint has is the fact that he makes his character seem very real and like he's really like that in real life.  Like you had mentioned before.  But he definitely has some what of a limited range as an actor but not too limited compared to some others.  And he does have a very good resume in the directing department.  And he even enjoys directing more so than acting.  Right now I'm going back and forth on this and for me it's closer than what some of you have said and feel about it but I'm just being honest on what my opinions are and how I feel about it.  And I just want to give my honest opinions on what I truly think and believe.  And everybody has different opinions and that makes for great discussion! O0  And this topic is a very good discussion topic AKA! O0
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« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2012, 06:23:21 AM »

This is really an apples and oranges type question, but I'll give it a shot.
I would go with the actor side of Clint. When he gets a role he can sink his teeth into, he really pulls it off.
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« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2012, 05:51:41 PM »

I don't think he showed as wide of a range of acting as some actors, but that may be because the roles he chose didn't require it; however, that's what I loved about him as a kid.  This may be totally off base to some who analyze things differently, but It seemed to me like a lot of his characters shared the same personality and were somewhat the same guy.  Sure, his characters may have different experiences and from different eras, but they were still somewhat the same guy.  For example, the stranger in High Plains Drifter could have been a western Harry, and Coogan had the same personality as well.  Again, couldn't Gunny Highway have been the same guy who kicked Popes butt at the beginning of The Eiger Sanction?  That is what I love about his characters.
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« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2012, 11:03:07 PM »

I cant imagine him doing one or the other, only both. But if I had to choose I would def say Actor. There is not one soul that can do what he does acting (Many have tried..ie; steven segal, etc LOL ).
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The Man With No Aim
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« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2012, 01:06:54 AM »

This is practically one of them trick questions. In the case of C E, it is my belief that after the original spaghetti westerns trilogy he obtained a degree of independence due to his stardom so that he substantially was able to direct himself even when there was an official director other than himself. As he acted in the role, his acting skills enabled him to recognize how to mold and modify the impersonation of his character the same way that an external separate director does.

Many actors do not have that special instinct, so never evolve to also officially be employed directing. Most need a director to explain to them how to fulfill the role and how to embody the character.  It is my perception of C E that he was born with the instincts of a director which he used to understand how to act and teach himself how to act. I am curious about whether he has ever commented about this and therefore whether I am right or completely wrong about his actor instincts and self direction.

So it is hard for me to clearly separate his acting talent from his directing talent. All I can do at this moment is to say that he has certainly used both skill sets in remarkably good success. 

Perhaps it is telling to consider that he has made quite good films that he has directed but not acted in. Proving the value of his directing ability. But how can one possibly weed out the influence of a separate director in films in which he has done a memorable acting performance? Because, I contend, he has been always directing himself to provide his best acting performance.

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« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2012, 07:31:37 PM »

This is practically one of them trick questions. In the case of C E, it is my belief that after the original spaghetti westerns trilogy he obtained a degree of independence due to his stardom so that he substantially was able to direct himself even when there was an official director other than himself. As he acted in the role, his acting skills enabled him to recognize how to mold and modify the impersonation of his character the same way that an external separate director does.

Many actors do not have that special instinct, so never evolve to also officially be employed directing. Most need a director to explain to them how to fulfill the role and how to embody the character.  It is my perception of C E that he was born with the instincts of a director which he used to understand how to act and teach himself how to act. I am curious about whether he has ever commented about this and therefore whether I am right or completely wrong about his actor instincts and self direction.

So it is hard for me to clearly separate his acting talent from his directing talent. All I can do at this moment is to say that he has certainly used both skill sets in remarkably good success. 

Perhaps it is telling to consider that he has made quite good films that he has directed but not acted in. Proving the value of his directing ability. But how can one possibly weed out the influence of a separate director in films in which he has done a memorable acting performance? Because, I contend, he has been always directing himself to provide his best acting performance.

Thanks for your contribution to this thread, Man With No Aim. I do agree with you that Eastwood has natural talent as a director. Even from the days of "Rawhide" Eastwood is reported to have been very interested in the filmmaking process, and wanted to learn as much as possible and be involved in every aspect of it. At the same time, I think I would disagree with you that other actors need a director or that they are always looking towards the director to know how to act in film. Perhaps this may be true with inexperienced actors, but I doubt very many of the great actors, if any, would not know what kind of performance to give without the director's guidance. I can't imagine someone like Anthony Hopkins, or Gene Hackman, being unclear about what kind of performance to give and needing the director's guidance to ensure a good performance. Can you? In this way, Eastwood seems to be similar to many other great actors, so I'm not sure that sheds light on which of the two roles he is most talented at performing. 
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« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2012, 08:52:07 PM »


I honestly think any reasonable, objective observer of Eastwood's career would have to conclude that he is a better director than he is an actor. He is certainly one of the greatest screen stars in history, but popularity and abilities are two different things. I prefer movies he acts in to movies he only directs, but his record of accomplishment as a director far exceeds any accomplishments as an actor. His work as a director is more versatile, it is more highly regarded, it is more critically recognized, and it is of a much higher quality.    



   Can't agree with you there, AKA. You're equating "ability" with "range," but they're not synonymous in my view...though I accept that they are in yours. Wish I had the new biography on him I thumbed through a few weeks ago, because he actually talks about playing variations on the same type character, as I recall, and his philosophy behind it. That he does so makes him no less great an actor, in my view, and requires as much skill (or more at times) as playing across a broader range. Either way, he either gets in "the zone" where he transcends Clint Eastwood the person or he doesn't. In my view, he's gotten there far too often and too consistently to not be considered among the top echelon of actors -- even if he misses the high mark occasionally, as all actors will if they work long enough, including Anthony Hopkins and Gene Hackman.

   As to whether he's a better actor or director, I can only reflect back to my most recent viewing of him as a director, Invictus, which, as good as it was (more than once choking me up), contained a couple of moments when I was taken out of the film a bit by thinking "That's kind of a curious directoral decision" -- something I can't really recall happening during the many acting roles of his I've watched recently. So by that standard I'd have to give him the edge as a better actor (though I don't really accept the premise of the question, given my druthers, but since you've asked for a forced choice...)

  Admittedly, I was using a highly analytical eye when observing his direction during the film, and perhaps would see it differently if I watched it again, but I do the same thing with his acting so that's pretty much a wash.

  For what it's worth, I was reading a story linked from this site a couple weeks back that compared his directing style with that of Woody Allen -- and happened to see Allen's Midnight in Paris around the same time, including the commentary where he talks about his directoral style...which he characterized as basically doing nothing but getting out of the actor's way then taking all the credit. It was hyperbole but not entirely untrue, based on what the actors said...so one can assume that Clint is a good director because he's a good actor, and therefore knows how to let the piece and the players do their thing without getting in the way...
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« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2012, 09:21:52 PM »

I've followed this discussion with interest, although not much enlightenment.  I got to thinking, though.  Given a choice, I prefer Mr. Eastwood as an actor than as a director.  I don't deny his skill as a director, but I realized that all of my favorite Eastwood acted films are directed by someone else.

Weighing in on the exchange between AKA23 and The Man With No Aim, I recently read something that might shed a little light on the relationship between actors and directors.

At the same time, I think I would disagree with you that other actors need a director or that they are always looking towards the director to know how to act in film. Perhaps this may be true with inexperienced actors, but I doubt very many of the great actors, if any, would not know what kind of performance to give without the director's guidance. I can't imagine someone like Anthony Hopkins, or Gene Hackman, being unclear about what kind of performance to give and needing the director's guidance to ensure a good performance. Can you?

While reading Golden Boy: The Untold Story of William Holden by Bob Thomas, I came across several paragraphs dealing with the filming of Breezy, which Clint directed.  The material is quoted from pages 179-180.

Quote
Crucial to the film was the casting of the girl, and Holden agreed to appear with all of the candidates in the tests.  Kay Lenz, a nineteen-year-old actress who had appeared in a few television films, was chosen.  Holden, who was fifty-three, helped assuage her nervousness and demonstrated how to hit marks effortlessly and how to avoid casting a shadow on the other actor.
     Eastwood, who was at first awed by directing the veteran star, devoted most of his attention to Miss Lenz.  One day Holden remarked, "I wish you'd talk to me more."
     "Gee, Bill, that was an oversight on my part," said Eastwood.  "I just thought that Kay needed the attention, and you didn't."
     Holden smiled.  "You know as well as I do, Clint, an actor needs all the help he can get."
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« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2012, 12:01:33 AM »

Elizebeth77 once posted....."While reading Golden Boy: The Untold Story of William Holden by Bob Thomas, I came across several paragraphs dealing with the filming of Breezy, which Clint directed.  The material is quoted from pages 179-180.

Quote
Crucial to the film was the casting of the girl, and Holden agreed to appear with all of the candidates in the tests.  Kay Lenz, a nineteen-year-old actress who had appeared in a few television films, was chosen.  Holden, who was fifty-three, helped assuage her nervousness and demonstrated how to hit marks effortlessly and how to avoid casting a shadow on the other actor.
     Eastwood, who was at first awed by directing the veteran star, devoted most of his attention to Miss Lenz.  One day Holden remarked, "I wish you'd talk to me more."
     "Gee, Bill, that was an oversight on my part," said Eastwood.  "I just thought that Kay needed the attention, and you didn't."
     Holden smiled.  "You know as well as I do, Clint, an actor needs all the help he can get."



"Holden smiled.  "You know as well as I do, Clint, an actor needs all the help he can get."

Here we have the rather remarkable juxtaposition of a highly regarded veteran actor (Bill Holden) plainly stating that he needs all the help he can get versus the other actor  C E (working as director) who has such self confidence in h.is own self directing skill that he assumes the veteran does too.

Clint did not know that Bill needed all the help he can get because Clint did not need all the help he can get.

I think I already said something like that once before. What about it, AKA23....did you read that? Maybe you read it and then forgot it.

I will say this and then say no more, because this is not a very interesting subject to me personally (I have greatly enjoyed many C E films in which he acted, without caring anything about who was directing)....C E has created a number of legendary film personas as a result of his acting. It has never been my concern who was directing. That is good enough for me.
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« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2012, 07:37:04 PM »

On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays he's a better actor. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays he's a better director. On Sundays he simply sucks at both.  :D

I'd say actor first director second only because that is how I came to know him. (When you are a kid you know nothing about directing). I know the cosmic universe will remember him 'personified' as one of the top 5 badasses of all-time...



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Clint Eastwood's words of wisdom: "Take your profession seriously; don't take yourself seriously. Don't take yourself seriously in the process, because you really only matter to a certain degree in the whole circus out here."
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« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2021, 02:21:50 AM »

20 years ago, I would've said actor but the work Eastwood has done in the 21st century as director has blown me away. Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters From Iwo Jima, Gran Torino, American Sniper to name a few. Eastwood has never been afraid to take chances with films. Even as an actor, some would say he is just a cowboy or action star but films like The Beguiled, Honkytonk Man, Tightrope show Eastwood has plenty of range.

But if I had to choose actor or director, it would be director. You just have to hear from actors who work with Clint on films and how easy going Clint is when directing. He doesn't seem to get stressed and some of the biggest actors in the business have given great performances being directed by Clint.

In my opinion, the films Clint has directed will be remembered more in the future apart from a couple of his acting films.   
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« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2021, 01:46:38 PM »



         I think there have been Eastwood acting vehicles that I felt many people ignored his performance as in 'Tightrope' and The Beguiled', even 'Bridges' as examples and there have been movies I thought he should had avoided like 'Firefox' (Sorry Gant) or Pink Cadillac.. I can't really say Eastwood had ever been embarrassing though some might say The Rookie or Pink Cadillac were ridiculous. I always felt that Eastwood did a lot of movies in the late 70's  and part of the 80's I felt were misfires. I rather had seen him do ' 48 Hours' and especially 'The Killing Fields' which he was offered instead of Sudden Impact. I wish he would had been offered the James Caan role in 'Thief'.  I also felt he did a nice job in White Hunter Black Heart. ............As far as his directing, I think he certainly grew from 'Misty'. Certainly Letters From Iwo Jima' is brilliant. I think Eastwood has had a diversified career in both. Certainly some classics and some misfires. Regardless, he still the King of Hollywood. No one had done what he's done this long..... Seriously, I only read about the Oscars from last night and how pathetic it's become...Gonna be a sad day when Eastwood's not around anymore.....
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« Reply #19 on: May 01, 2021, 11:07:41 AM »

I asked myself that question so many times: is Clint a better director than he is an actor ?
I still cannot have one last answer.
Probably because I admire and enjoy his work as an actor and as a director both.

I often consider that I cannot separate Clint the actor and Clint the director.
Indeed, Clint the actor is the most powerful element of Clint directed films: Clint the director spent his career working on the myth, the physical presence, the face and the body of Clint the actor.
Sometimes, the movies directed by Clint, without Clint the actor, suffer from the fact that Clint the actor is missing.
If we take Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, the two films for which Clint the director won an Oscar, we can notice that Clint the actor was nominated. Maybe these were just coincidences but noticeable enough.

In the sixties and the seventies, Clint the actor made many great or good films without Clint the director: the Dollars trilogy, Hang?em High, the Don Siegel directed films, Magnum Force, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.
But from the eighties, it was rare to see Clint the actor in a good film not directed by Clint the director, with the exception of In the Line of Fire. I consider Tightrope as a Clint Eastwood directed film, even if Richard Tuggle is credited as the director. Trouble with the Curve was enjoyable but not unforgettable.

I am not sure that a film like 48 hours would have brought something new to Clint.
Clint turned many roles down: The Towering Inferno, The Sorcerer, Apocalypse Now, The Killing Fields, Any Given Sunday, In the Valley of Elah.

Objectively, Clint Eastwood is probably a better director than he is an actor, if we consider all the awards that he won and all his critical success.

However, he is more underrated as an actor because he is considered as a movie star first like John Wayne or Marilyn Monroe for instance. He is not considered as a character actor like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman or Jack Nicholson.

I think that Clint showed us so many times that he can deliver great acting performances: The Good The Bad and The Ugly, The Beguiled, Dirty Harry, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Escape From Alcatraz, Bronco Billy, Honkytonk Man, Tightrope, Heartbreak Ridge, White Hunter Black Heart, Unforgiven, In the Line of Fire, The Bridges of Madison County, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino and The Mule.

The average moviegoer would probably consider Clint as an actor who played cowboys, cops or grumpy old men.
The cinephile would probably pay more attention to Clint the director.
And I would probably agree with both of them.
That reflects the complexity of the place of Clint in cinema history.
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