Over the years, Clint Eastwood has done a solid job in playing different roles but one role hit him square in the eye. Which role was it? As himself. Eastwood’s career has been filled with some incredible work alongside scathing reviews. When he got around to making The Gauntlet in 1977, Clint Eastwood found his life in the crosshairs of criticism.
A lot of it had to do with his failing marriage to Maggie Johnson and his affair with co-star Sondra Locke. Toss in barbs about the similarity of Eastwood’s movie characters and plots…and it was a mess.
Clint Eastwood, though, was able to use The Gauntlet as a way to right his ship in some fashion. Critics be damned because he was going to take them all head-on. This would be his way of taking the narrative about his career back into his own hands.
Clint Eastwood Heard Enough of Criticism Ahead of ‘The Gauntlet’
Reportedly, film critic Pauline Kael just ripped Eastwood left and right. He caught flak from her about his uninspired acting, plus his characters showing a lack of tact and empathy. Rumors and innuendoes were flying left and right about his marriage in 1977, and it became too much to handle for Clint Eastwood.
He plays cop Ben Shockley, whose mission is to get Gus Mally, played by Locke, safely to Las Vegas. She believes they are being set up due to her knowledge of the inner workings of mob life. Mally ends up telling Shockley about her life as a sex worker who knows the mob really well.
They get attacked in a showdown at Mally’s home. But they manage to survive that one. As it ends up, Gus has secrets on Police Commissioner Edgar Blakelock. So, Shockley and Gus understand that in order to be free, they have to face up square with Shockley. Shockley and Mally grab a motorcycle and end up facing a gauntlet when going back into Phoenix.
The twosome get through the gauntlet and are going to set the rcord straight about Blakelock.
With The Gauntlet, Clint Eastwood pulls off an interesting story where he and a woman face gunfire and are trapped. Then, they get out and go chase down Blakelock to be free.
Eastwood’s Failing Marriage, Affair Get Attention
In his own life, Clint Eastwood was facing a lot of incoming fire due to his marriage and affair situations during his time on The Gauntlet set. Ultimately, Eastwood and Locke went public with their relationship. And yes, he and Johnson eventually did get a divorce. But this type of an almost victim that Eastwood presented to the world was a new Eastwood.
It’s like he had read enough about the criticism and naysayers. Clint Eastwood was in a public Gauntlet situation. But he didn’t let it get him down. The actor turned that criticism into fuel, a substance that fills up some of the most powerful machines in the world.
This role in The Gauntlet was like no other role he’d played until this time. Eastwood rocked a pair of cool shades and had Locke on the back of a motorbike. He didn’t let himself fall into playing roles that he didn’t believe in at all.
Outside of the movie world bubble, Eastwood faced an onslaught of criticism and hate for his life choices. Yet he took all of the public beatings metaphorically speaking. Clint Eastwood turned them into that all-important life fuel and started directing films in earnest.
One might look at Eastwood’s body of work and notice a little shift in his future work. He mixed up roles and film projects (some serious, others not so much). This way, Eastwood kept the critics like Kael and others at bay. He took back his own narrative about the business.
After The Gauntlet, nobody really questioned Clint Eastwood’s choices about his projects. He became the true master of his universe.
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