Eastwood has worked with Siegel more than any other director. Prior to “Dirty Harry,” the two worked together on the 1968 film “Coogan’s Bluff,” 1970’s “Two Mules for Sister Sara,” and the 1971 drama “The Beguiled.” In 1979, the two would reunite for “Escape from Alcatraz.” McGillian, in his interview with Eastwood, pointed out that “Dirty Harry” was probably the director’s best film. Eastwood had a slightly different take but agreed that Siegel was the kind of person he would have liked to see in the director’s chair for a gritty cop drama. Eastwood was the one who got the director attached. He said:
“I thought he did a nice job with ‘The Beguiled.’ Of course, I was the one who hired him for ‘Dirty Harry.’ When I came over [to Warner Bros.], it was tied into somebody else and the script was going in another direction. I got Siegel involved. My agreement with Warner Bros. was, ‘I’ll do it if you’ll let me hire a director like Don Siegel and we’ll take the story back to its original concept’ — which was Harry Julian Fink’s screenplay. They had taken it off in another direction.”
So Eastwood’s demand was simple: simplify. Go back to basics, get a pragmatic director, and “Dirty Harry” can move forward. According to a 2008 interview with MTV, Eastwood expanded further, pointing to how wild “Dirty Harry” had become before he stepped in to parse it down. Evidently, there were snipers a-plenty, the military became involved, and the film had become more action-centric.