“Ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
The most detailed report of the convoluted affair comes in testimony to me on Sunday May 12, 1985 – on a yacht in Cannes habour during his first visit to the film festival – from Lieutenant Harry Callahan, himself, of the San Francisco Police Department, itself. Clint Eastwood.
“The chronology is rather strange… They asked me first in 1970. Jennings Lang at Universal said:
“Would you like to do this detective story
that Paul Newman has read and says is terrific
but he can’t do it for political reasons…”
That was intriguing! [Laugh].
“What do you mean – political?“
“Oh, he has some feeling about it.”
“I read the script [by Harry Julian Fink and RM Fink] and gee, I liked it. Kinda interesting, a change of mood in character and everything. ‘It needs some re-writing but I’ll do it – if you can get it.’ Well, Lang went off and somehow the deal went wrong and ABC bought it when the network was still making movies.
“Meanwhile, I was off doing something else. Then, ABC sold it to Warners. So then, Frank Wells, my former attorney, who’d been trying to get me over to join him at Warners, said: ‘What do you think about this thing?’
“I said: “Well, I liked it at one time – what do you have?” Five scripts, he said. ‘Five ..! What’s wrong with the first one? ‘
He explained how various people had taken tries at it – Steve McQueen, Irvin Kershner and everyone. [McQueen rejected all cops after Bullitt]. Clint didn’t mention – if he knew – that the script also went out to Marlon Brando, James Caan and Burt Lancaster).
“I read all five scripts and still liked the original that I’d said needed a slight re-write. Frank asked if I could make the film at a certain time and I had to say no because I was doing my first directing job, Play Misty For Me. ‘If you wait two months, I could start on it.’ No, they needed material real bad. ‘Wait just a couple of months and I’ll get Don Siegel and we’ll come over and do it for you right away.’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘we need it now.
“Ted Ashley is talking to Sinatra about it.”
I said: ‘OK, you go ahead in that direction
and I’ll finish my movie.’
“Then, for some reason, Sinatra dropped out [a hand injury dating back to The Manchurian Candidate, 1962, made it impossible to tote the all-important Magnum ]. I did my film and they called me back. I went back to the first script, got Dean Riesner who’d worked with Don and I on Coogan’s Bluff and other shows, he tuned the show up .
“Don and I went to San Francisco, found some locations and we made the film. So I had my cake and ate it.”
Six extra surprise witnesses…
1. Charles Bronson. “i never saw the movie but i did read the script – a good script. it came around to me., It came around to a lot of actors I would like to have made it. I was committed to somewthiung else or they didn[t want me at that time. It was a pretty good script. Ands Clint Eastwood fitted it beautifully.”
2. Terrence Malick recalls re-writing for five weeks when Irvin Kershner was due to direct Brando as Callahan. “Then, we all got fired by Warners and the project went to Clint.”
3. Robert Mitchum, hot again after Ryan’s Daughter, rejected both top 1971 cops, Popeye Doyle and, for “reeking of drug store tastes,” Harry Callahan; big brother John, however, was Harry‘ s pal, Detective Frank Di Georgio, for three Callahan cases.
4. Don Siegel thought of Audie Murphy for the Scorpio Killer (played by future Trekie Andrew Robinson). They hadn’t met for some time, not until the Dallas premiere of The Beguiled. “We started talking about the film and I suddenly realised I wanted someone to play a killer… and here was the biggest killer of all time! A war hero who had killed more than 200 people. But he would never agree to play a killer.” He never saw the film, either. Murphy was killed in a 1971 air crash, seven months before the film opened.
5. George C Scott said he refused Callahan as being “too strong – Eastwood’s performance was typical of where they wanted to go with it.”
5. John Wayne passed . Of course , he did. He would never throw his badge away in the dirt – he refused High Noon for the same reason. “He couldn’t have played Harry,” said Don Siegel. “He was too old. He was too old to play McQ, which was a poor rip-off of Dirty Harry .”