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Sondra Locke (1944-2018)

  1. Barbara Hershey, Last Summer, 1968.  She may have felt too old for a teen at 24 - thre years more than Hershey - but it’s a pity she missed being Sandy in what Chicago critic rightly hailed as “one of the finest, truest, most deeply felt movies in my experience.”Hershey was never better…
  2. Kim Darby, True Grit, 1968.   The memorable debut of the newcomer from Shelbyville, Tennessee in The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter was still being edited  but the word was so good that producer Hal Wallis was keen to co-star  her with John Wayne. She surprised Wallis; she knew her own mind. Mattie Ross was too much like Heart’s Mick Kelly. “Let’s wait for the right thing.” (She did - and it was called Clint Eastwood…) Wallis then surveyed Geneviève Bujold (who became Wallis’ Anne of the Thousand Days), singer Karen Carpenter (a Duke idea), Mia Farrow (who kicked  herself for refusing), Sally Field, Jaclyn Smith, Tuesday Weld. Plus past and future Duke co-stars Michele El DoradoCarey and Jennifer Rio Lobo O’Neill. And Duke’s teenage daughter Aissa. Well Mattie was supposed to be  14.
  3. Liza Minnelli, The Sterile Cuckoo, 1969.    No one had seen her debut and she was running out of money when she auditioned as Pookie for a delighted director Alan J Pakula.“That was the best audition I’ve heard,” he told her. “I only wish I had met you six months ago.” That’s when Minnelli was booked. “Liza’s Pookie was a very different Pookie than mine... Losing out to someone with so much talent reduced my disappointment.”
  4. Patty Duke, My Sweet Charlie, TV, 1970.    Somewhat unwisely, Locke rejected director Lamont Jophnson’s invitation to head the tele-film that became a triple-Emmy-winning tele-film - ibncluding one for Duke. 
  5. Kay Lenz, Breezy, 1973.     First meeting of Clint Eastwood and a future lover.His Play Misty For Me co-star Jessica Walter thought Sondra would be perfect for his second directing gig. Scenarist Joe Heims agreed and told Eastwood. And he just kept chipping golf balls around his office during their meeting. “I’m not sure he ever actually paid any attention to me, whatsoever.” (He says he told an associate: “She’s an interesting type, very good actress - I’d certainly like to use her someday.” And he did - in six films during their 15-year affair). Heims was even more disappointed and realised he didn’t really “get” her May-December romance. “Sure enough, the final film was a predictable, run-of-the-mill story about a man in his late 50s who chases a young, teenage chick with lots of T & A.”
  6. Geneviève Bujold, Earthquake, 1974.    Female roles were had little significance  when Charley Hero (aka Charlton  Heston) was busy saving the world. Or, at least some American parts of it. Locke would later recommend Bujold to her lover Clint Eastwood for a film.
  7. Sissy Spacek, Carrie, 1976.  There would be  other Carries later on stage and screen (and almost a TV series) but none had the Spacek magic. Stephen King’s kinetic heroine was 16 and yet the candidates ranged from Linda Blair avoiding any more Exorcists at 17, Melanie Griffith (Tippi Hedren’s daughter and De Palma’s 1984 Body Double) and Theresa Russell, both 19 -  to Glenn Close, 29, and Farrah Fawcett and Jill Clayburgh…  at 32!  Betsy Slade was director Brian De Palma’s earliest choice, then her 1973 Our Time co-star Pamela Sue Martin, then Amy Irving (who wed his pal, Steven Spielberg).  Sondra Locke’s agent told her to pass. Also seen: Catherine Hicks, Anjelica Huston, Margot Kidder, Christine Lahti, Jessica Lange, Kay Lenz, ex-MGM kid actor Terri Nunn, Bernadette Peters, Theresa Russell, Jane Seymour, Cybill Shepherd, PJ Soles, the unknown Meryl Streep (!), Kathleen Turner, Sigourney Weaver, Dianne Wiest (future Oscar-winner for two of her five Woody Allen films), Cindy Williams, Debra Winger. Sissy knew director DePalma (hubby Jack Fisk was his art director), she was seriously pissed that she’d only been offered Sue or Chris and not The Role.  Fisk persuaded him to test her and she blew the opposition away. Sissy was 25. Yet, absolutely perfect! Fledgling film-makers De Palma and George Lucas held joint  auditions for Carrie and for Princess Leia, Lucas chose another Carrie…
  8. Carrie Fisher, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, 1976.
  9. Jane Alexander, City Heat, 1983.     The beginning of the end of the Clint-Sondra affair... (He had others). Praising her work in Bronco Billy (works every time!),director Blake Edwards called Sondra about playing the socialite.Wanting out of Clint’s shadow, work-wise, she agreed. As an afterthought (!), he suggesting showing Clint the script.They had meetings about him joining Burt Reynolds.. .and then, poor Sondra was “simply out of the mix. And forgotten.”  Edwards had used her to get to Clint. She was deceived, dismissed, crushed... Clint’s version: He had already refused the script as too talky, so “Blake was kind of a bad boy.” Eastwood got rid of him and gave it to Richard Benjamin - who was scared stiff of the boss and couldn’t spice up the dead meat.  “How do travesties like this get made?” asked Chicago critic Roger Ebert.
  10. Geneviève Bujold, Tightrope, 1983.     As Clint Eastwood told his lover and often co-star on his previous venture: “I can’t make my career decisions on whether or not you get some job!” Sondra rejected this scenario (as he should havedonel, he was no up to the complexities of the role) and Sondra suggested Bujold… and, indeed, Carrie Snodgress for his next Western, Pale Rider. 
  11. Frances Conroy, Mountain Rest, 2017.   If she had been in better health - swansong at 74 - as retired movie actress  being visited in her mountain  cabin by her daughter and film-stealing grand-daughter (Natalia Dyer from Stranger Things, 2016-2019). From 1989-1999, Locke made more court appearences than films, following abusive treatment by Warner Bros and Eastwood. She won a $1.5m directing-development deal. Or non-development, as all  her 30 projects were rejected  and/or given to other directors: Ivan Reitman got  Junior, 1993, and actor Griffin Dunne was allowed to make his his helming debut with Addicted to Love, 1996. She later discovered that Eastwood was reimbursing the studio. Both, therefore, had sent a message "to the film industry and the world at large” that she was not to be taken seriously.  Finally, in May 1999, a settlement was agreed  just before the jury was chosen and Eastwood called as a - if not, the - material witness. In her 1997 book, she called Eastwood a control freak, a monster and sociopath. “I discovered he was a liar and a cheat who was leading a double, no, a triple if not a quadruple life, and who was terrified of being found out.”  And she added: “Others who knew Clint said that I had been far too kind to him."

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