Clint Eastwood was fired from Universal Pictures for an unexpected reason in the 1950s. Of course, this event in the actor’s career happened long before his evolution into one of the greatest Western icons of all-time.
The legendary actor and director has been appearing in movies for more than half a century. Following a long-running role on the CBS Western series Rawhide, Eastwood turned into a major film star after playing what is now his most iconic character, the Man With No Name, in Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars in 1964. It was a role he reprised in For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. As a result, Eastwood became a favorite for studios looking to make Western movies, but this wasn’t the only genre he found success in. In the 1970s and 1980s, Eastwood made a number of films set in the modern era, including the Dirty Harry films, where he played the ruthless police inspector, Harry Callahan.
Years before Eastwood became a household name, he was a young actor who had recently signed a seven-year movie contract with Universal Pictures. He was given a few minor roles, such as Revenge of the Creature (a sequel to The Creature from the Black Lagoon), but Universal chose to terminate his contract early. The story of why he was fired from the studio comes from Hollywood star Burt Reynolds, who was fired from Universal on the same day. According to Reynolds, Eastwood was told that the studio complained to Eastwood that he had a chipped tooth (which he would not have fixed) and an Adam’s apple that stuck out too far [via YouTube]. Plus, it was said that he didn’t listen very well and that he talked too slow. Though his manner of delivering his lines is something he’s known for now, at the time, Universal executives viewed it as a speech impediment that he should have addressed.
Burt Reynolds added that when he and Eastwood were leaving, he remarked that the studio’s reason for firing him – a lack of acting ability – was a problem he could fix, whereas Eastwood had a much bigger issue: there was no getting rid of his Adam’s apple. That being said, Eastwood’s troubles with keeping jobs in the industry didn’t last for too long. He continued landing small roles for some time but did so without a contract to a major studio.
His career took a positive turn when he was cast in CBS’ Rawhide show in 1958. In the popular Western series, Eastwood played a young cowboy named Rowdy Yates, and remained as a series regular on Rawhide throughout the show’s eight-season run. After the departure of co-star Eric Fleming, Eastwood earned top-billing for season 8. It would seem that his Rawhide role made those in the film and TV industry rethink their opinions of Clint Eastwood, who soon transformed into one of Hollywood’s most sought-after stars.