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Eastwood Chosen for AFI Life Award : Movies: The actor and Oscar-winning director is 'taken by surprise' at being named the 24th person to receive the honor.

October 21, 1995|ROBERT W. WELKOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Forget all the puns that come to mind, like this award made his day or did he feel lucky.

Clint Eastwood said Friday he merely had a "pleasant, pleasant reaction" at learning that the American Film Institute had bestowed upon him its Life Achievement Award.

"I was kind of taken by surprise," the actor and Academy Award-winning director said from Carmel.

Then, with a laugh, he recalled how he got the news.

"Steven Spielberg and the [AFI] committee called me and Steven said, 'I don't know about the [O.J. Simpson] jury downtown, but the jury here took only a minute to decide.' "

Eastwood becomes the 24th person to receive the coveted award, whose last four winners have been Spielberg, Jack Nicholson, Elizabeth Taylor and Sidney Poitier. Eastwood will be honored Feb. 29 at a gala Beverly Hills event, which will be broadcast at a date to be announced on ABC.

"AFI is proud to bestow this honor on one of the world's most respected and accomplished filmmakers," said AFI Chairman Frederick S. Pierce.

"For more than a generation, Clint Eastwood has been one of the world's most revered actors, but today he also stands as one of the great directors and producers of American cinema."

Eastwood said he was honored to be chosen for the award, which in the past has also gone to such legendary talents as director Frank Capra and John Huston, as well as actors Lillian Gish and Barbara Stanwyck. He called past award winners "giants of the industry."

Then, the 65-year-old Eastwood quipped: "It has been given to younger people like me."

As an actor, Eastwood has often played strong, silent leads in Westerns ranging from "The Good, the Bay and the Ugly" to "The Outlaw Josey Wales." His star power increased with the Dirty Harry movies and the recent "In the Line of Fire."

As a director, his 1992 film "Unforgiven" won Eastwood Academy Awards for best picture and best director, and he received an Oscar nomination for best actor. This year, Eastwood directed and starred in "The Bridges of Madison County."

Eastwood said Friday he now thinks of himself "50-50" as an actor and director.

"The plan was, when I first started directing in the 1970s, to get more involved in production and directing so at some point in my life, when I decided I didn't want to act anymore, I didn't have to suit up [as an actor] anymore," Eastwood said.

Eastwood said he never thought he would become an actor. "I acted in a one-act play in junior high school and thought I never wanted to do that again."

That all changed while he was attending Los Angeles City College more than four decades ago. He eventually got bit parts in movies and landed a role in the TV Western "Rawhide." The rest, they say, is history.

Eastwood today said he has no favorite role he has played, although he cited his character in the 1980 film "Bronco Billy" as one that was fun to play.

"There was something about playing a guy who is a great believer in doing something for people, for kids, but at the same token he was a dreamer. . . . "

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