A Small Favor From Paul Newman Landed Clint Eastwood His Dirty Harry Role

Back when “Dirty Harry” was being developed, Paul Newman was coming off of the rousing success of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” the number-one film at the box office in 1969. By that point, Newman was already a massive star, but this was him at the top of his game for the first time; he could do whatever he wanted. So, the original script by Harry Julien Fink came across his desk, and while he liked it, he didn’t feel he could take the part. He did, however, find the perfect person for the role. Speaking with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, Clint Eastwood recalls how it was Newman who got his name into the running:

“Paul Newman had led me onto it. He told Jennings Lang, who is an executive at Universal at that time, that ‘there is a script that I read this exciting detective story, might be great for Clint,’ and, of course, when Jennings told me that, I said, ‘Well, how come Paul didn’t want to do it?’ He says, ‘Well, he had some questions about the political ramifications of what have you, but he thinks it’s an exciting story, and you might want to do it.'”

Not only did Clint Eastwood take on the role of Harry Callahan, but the Malpaso Company, Eastwood’s production company, came aboard to produce the film. Don Siegel had just directed Eastwood in back-to-back pictures, “Two Mules for Sister Sara” and “The Beguiled,” and came on as director for “Dirty Harry”. This wasn’t just a movie Eastwood was starring in. This was an Eastwood production through and through.

Leave a Comment