Clint Eastwood once swam through shark-infested waters after plane crash survival

Clint Eastwood interview – 2014

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Mr Eastwood stars in Spaghetti Western ‘Joe Kidd’ which is being broadcast on Channel 5 this afternoon at 12:55pm. The film sees Mr Eastwood star as a bounty hunter, who gets drawn into a battle for land ownership at the Mexican-American border. A band of Mexicans turn to force-of-arms when they find that their US land claims have been denied and all relevant records destroyed in a courthouse fire.

The group’s charismatic leader, Luis Chama, played by John Saxon, starts spouting revolutionary rhetoric and demanding land reform.

Frank Harlan, a greedy businessman, played by Robert Duvall, has interests in the disputed area and hires a band of killers to track Chama.

Mr Eastwood’s Joe Kidd initially wants no involvement in Harlan’s plan, until Chama makes the mistake of stealing his horses, sparking a feud between the pair.

Mr Eastwood rose to international fame with his role as the ‘Man with No Name’ in Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy in the Sixties, before playing an antihero cop in five Dirty Harry films the following two decades.

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These roles helped the actor to become synonymous with America’s ideals of masculinity.

However, Mr Eastwood’s life off-screen may not be too dissimilar to the protagonists’ the actor plays in his films.

In 2015, Mr Eastwood spoke to students at the Loyola Marymount University School of Film & TV, in which he recalled his “stark terror” after being involved in a plane crash while in the US Army.

He was a passenger on a Douglas AD bomber that ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean near Point Reyes in the early Fifties.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the actor recalled: “What was going through my mind was just a stark fear, a stark terror, because [in the] first place, I didn’t know anything about aviation at that particular time ‒ I was just hopping a ride.

“In those days you could wear your uniform and get a free flight.

“On the way back they had one plane, a Douglas AD sort of torpedo bomber of the World War 2 vintage, and I thought I’d hitch on that.

“Everything went wrong. Radios went out, oxygen ran out.”

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“And finally we ran out of fuel up around Point Reyes, California, and went into the ocean.

“So we went swimming. It was late October, November. Very cold water.

“[I] found out many years later that it was a white shark breeding ground, but I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have just died.”

According to biographer Patrick McGilligan, using a life raft to help with buoyancy, Mr Eastwood and the pilot swam two miles to safety.

Mr Eastwood was drafted into the military in 1951 for the Korean War and served at the military base in Fort Ord, California.

However, he never went on a combat mission, instead spending his time as a swim instructor and lifeguard.

Sondra Locke, who was married to Mr Eastwood for 14 years once claimed, according to biographer Wiliam Morrow: “He always dropped the Korean War reference, hoping everyone would conclude that he was in combat and might be some sort of hero.

“Actually he’s been a lifeguard at Fort Ord in northern California for his entire stint in the military.”

During his time in the military, Mr Eastwood met fellow soldier Chuck Hill, who had contacts in Hollywood.

Mr Hill introduced Mr Eastwood to Arthur Lubin, a Universal director, who was impressed by the future Oscar winner’s good looks and slim build.

Despite a poor first audition, Mr Lubin continued to support Mr Eastwood’s foray into acting and eventually signed him to Universal Studios, where the actor honed his craft.

Watch Joe Kidd’ on Channel 5 this afternoon at 12:55pm.

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