It took three decades, but Clint Eastwood finally received respect from the Academy Awards voters 25 years ago. After beginning his career in western TV series and then films, he became one of the biggest box office stars of the 1970s and 1980s. But it was “Unforgiven,” the 1992 movie he wanted to be his finale in the western genre, that brought him two Oscars.
Eastwood had been offered David Webb Peoples’ script for an epic western about an aging gunslinger as early as 1980, but the actor was hesitant to revisit the genre he had dominated over a decade earlier. In 1991, Eastwood finally committed to starring and directing the movie and cast fan favorites Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris in supporting roles.
Of course, he took on the lead character for himself. He received a Best Actor nomination, joining such men as Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, and Kevin Costner in the elite group of actors who’ve directed themselves to Oscar bids. With a box office haul of over $100 million, “Unforgiven” earned nine Oscar nominations a few months later for the ceremony in March, 1993:
Best Picture – Clint Eastwood (winner; watch his acceptance speech above)
Best Director – Clint Eastwood (winner)
Best Actor – Clint Eastwood (lost to Al Pacino, “Scent of a Woman”)
Best Supporting Actor – Gene Hackman (winner)
Best Original Screenplay – David Webb Peoples (lost to Neil Jordan, “The Crying Game)
Best Cinematography – Jack N. Green (lost to Philippe Rousselot, “A River Runs Through It”)
Best Editing – Joel Cox (winner)
Best Art Direction/Set Direction – Henry Bumstead and Janice Blackie Goodine (lost to “Howards End”)
Best Sound – Les Fresholtz, Vern Poore, Rick Alexander, Rob Young (lost to “The Last of the Mohicans”)
Now that he was officially part of the Academy’s circle of favorites, he then went on to two more Oscar victories for the 2004 Best Picture champ “Million Dollar Baby.” He became the oldest winner of the Best Director award at age 74.
Other nominations since “Unforgiven” have included Best Picture and Best Director for “Mystic River” (2003), Best Picture and Best Director for “Letters from Iwo Jima” (2006), and Best Picture for “American Sniper” (2014). He received the Irving Thalberg Award for his producing career in 1995.
One of the most notable things about Eastwood as director is his skill with actors. He has directed 11 Oscar-nominated performances with five wins: Hackman, Sean Penn (Best Actor, “Mystic River”), Tim Robbins (Best Supporting Actor, “Mystic River”), Hilary Swank (Best Actress, “Million Dollar Baby”), and Morgan Freeman (Best Supporting Actor, “Million Dollar Baby”)
Just ahead of the 25th anniversary celebration of the “Unforgiven” wins, February 9 will mark the release of the 87-year-old’s latest film, the thriller “The 15:17 to Paris.” Will Oscar voters take note again?
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