Wednesday 8 August 2012

“Good guy, that last one he shot was a good guy!” On the Set with CLINT EASTWOOD by Tony Piazza.

A couple of months back I was thrilled to hook up with Tony Piazza, a really nice guy who has appeared in many great films and TV series of the 70s. We struck up a good relationship, which was secured upon discovering our shared admiration for both Steve McQueen and Paul Newman (more about that later). Tony had written a great piece about working with Clint, which he has kindly allowed me to post here, as well as some additional comments that are exclusive to The Clint Eastwood Archive. Many thanks Tony, and for your kind words about the Archive. Enjoy.

"Eleven words" my claim to celebrity status; my fifteen minutes of fame which if you took a stopwatch and measured it, would run well under that length of time. And although I would have many small screen appearances later on in The Streets of San Francisco, these few words to this day still gets me the most attention.
Why? Because CLINT EASTWOOD films are both well-known and greatly admired not only in the U.S., but also to audiences around the world. Therefore to be associated with a Clint Eastwood movie usually guarantees that an actor (even a minor one) will receive instant and lasting recognition.
TCM ran a tribute to Clint Eastwood and it brought back memories of my experiences meeting and working with the man. He was very pleasant, soft spoken, down to earth, and charming with a subtle sense of humor. I met him first in 1971 when he was shooting Dirty Harry. I had gone down to North Beach (one of the film`s locations) to take a look at the Harry car which it was being arranged that I would purchase from Warner`s Transportation when the picture wrapped. It was to be my first car and owning a picture car drove by Clint Eastwood made it all the more exciting. He was very humble and polite when I met him, and I also remember being surprised at how tall he was- well over six feet. I subsequently went down to the set many times afterwards and brought high school friends and dates along. Needless to say I was very popular amongst my peers. I unfortunately didn`t get the car however- they needed it for a pickup shot on the Warner`s backlot and it got shipped back to Burbank, California.
In 1973, three years after becoming an extra, I reported on the set of Magnum Force - Dirty Harry`s second appearance on screen. I initially performed in the background in various roles-police officers mainly, but during one of the days that I had reported to work, I was approached by the Assistant Director Al Silvani, who told me that my agent had suggested me for a small speaking role as a Cadet in the film. I was of course ecstatic. I was given the few pages of script that contained my line and rehearsed ever variation of that piece of dialogue (see above) than you could imagine. Finally the day came and I reported to the police firing range to do my scene in the picture. I was in good company - getting to hang out with ROBERT URICH, DAVID SOUL, TIM MATHESON, and KIP NIVEN all day (actually two days- it took that long to film!). They were a fun group, and I remember Urich doing impersonations of various celebrities like Ed Sullivan etc. He kept us in stitches. TED POST was the director and I was able to cinch my bit in two takes. Of course Clint Eastwood, HAL HOLBROOK, and JOHN MITCHUM were also there. It was a memorable event.
Left: Clint with Tony's Mother on the set of Magnum Force 1973
The last time I got to work with Eastwood was in 1976 on his third outing as Harry in the The Enforcer. I was at the Hall of Justice - this time as an extra. Perhaps I was feeling shy- or maybe I figured he wouldn`t remember me because (after all) it had been three years since I last saw him- or I thought he was a big actor now and too busy for me- but in any case I felt uncomfortable to re-introduce myself and so didn`t bother to go up to him that day. However as they were setting up I happen to glance over in his direction and he made a point to single me out and nod a greeting of acknowledgement. I thought that was pretty cool-especially since now he was a bonafide mega star! But, you know in hind sight, I shouldn`t have been surprised- that is Clint Eastwood. He never saw himself as a star - he has always been unpretentious in that way. One incident to drive this point home occurred during the filming of Dirty Harry. My father worked in his usual capacity on that film and both he and Eastwood had the same birthday, May 31st. The crew decided to get a cake for my Dad and presented it to him at lunch. One problem- they forgot it was also Clint Eastwood`s birthday as well. Well, could you imagine what the results would have been if this happened to another big actor with a matching ego? Not Clint, he wished my Father a Happy Birthday and enjoyed some of his cake.
Below: Tony's Mother with Hal Holbrook
Well, that`s my two cents for what its` worth regarding my time spent with Clint Eastwood. Great memories of a great guy and certainly worth the honor TCM has given him. Of course, knowing him, he probably thought it was a lot to do about nothing.
I appreciate The Clint Eastwood Archive's interest in Clint Eastwood; he is certainly a great actor, but more importantly in life he is still just as humble a man as when I worked with him back in the 70s. Fame hasn't changed him in all the years since I last worked with him. He is a generous man, and definitely has a lasting appeal, which cannot be said of the more recent actors. It was a privilege to get the chance to work with him, and more importantly, know him personally. I am also grateful that that the archive is interested in sharing my story. Thank you and I hope you enjoyed it.
Above: Tony Today
Tony Piazza is author of the 1930`s Hollywood murder mystery novel; Anything Short of Murder, which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, The Curse of the Crimson Dragon was released in February 2012. He was an actor/extra during the 1970`s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.
As I mentioned above, Tony is also an admirer of Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. Recently Tony shared the stage with another legendary actor's son, Chad McQueen promoting his e- book, "Bullitt Points" a behind the scenes look at the making of Steve McQueen's Bullitt.

It is a personal story, and all the proceeds go entirely to McQueen's charity - The Boys Republic. He, like Paul Newman, and Clint Eastwood haven't forgotten who put them where they are. They have used their fame and resources for the good of their fans, not wasting it entirely on their own personal pleasures. It is this humanitarianism that make them special, and why they hold such a lasing place in our hearts.
I must recommend this to anyone interested in McQueen, Bullitt or film history in general. At just $0.99 it is a fascinating read and includes some great pictures and more importantly, everything goes to McQueen's charity.

Please check out Bullitt Points here
To check out Tony’s original article click here


Mal Baker said...

Like most Eastwood fans over the years I have watched all his movies, know the words, music, even the sound effects (much to the annoyance of anyone present at the time!)
Also over the years I have read Eastwood books and magazines produced,most rehatched same stills, same stories etc...
So here we are with another first with the Tony Piazza apart from his appearance in the second DIRTY HARRY movie I didn't know anything about the guy. His role with respect, may have been small, the lines will always be memorable, and what a story he has told!
So we gotta ask our self one question how many people are still out there who have worked on an Eastwood movie, in any part, big or small? and they could tell their story.
I know the answer however, will be told on the "Archive" this is another find and I HOPE MANY MORE TO COME!!!!!!! well done DAZZ best Mal Baker.

Clint's archive said...

Thanks Mal, had a lot of feedback from fans about this, they seem to have really enjoyed this piece.