Clint Eastwood as Superman or James Bond? ‘It could have happened,’ he says [updated]

Sept. 07, 2010 | 11:26 a.m.
clint eastwood as superman Clint Eastwood as Superman or James Bond? ‘It could have happened,’ he says [updated]

Clint Eastwood as Superman? (Photo illustration by Kevin Lingenfelser)

Clint Eastwood is watching the contemporary superhero craze in Hollywood with a bit of generational relief. “Thank God that I didn’t have to do that,” says the the 80-year-old star.

The Oscar-winning actor and filmmaker is best known to moviegoers as a cowboy or a cop, but during a recent interview in Carmel, the Hollywood icon said that in the 1970s he was an early candidate to play the Man of Steel. He added that, a few years before that, he was approached with an offer to join her majesty’s secret service in the role of suave spy James Bond.

“I can remember — and this was many years ago — when [Warner Bros. President] Frank Wells came to me about doing Superman. So it could have happened. This was when they first started to think about making it. I was like, ‘Superman? Nah, nah, that’s not for me.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s for somebody, but not me.

“I was also offered pretty good money to do James Bond if I would take on the role. This was after Sean Connery left. My lawyer represented the Broccolis,” who produce the Bond franchise, “and he came and said, ‘They would love to have you.’ But to me, well, that was somebody else’s gig. That’s Sean’s deal. It didn’t feel right for me to be doing it.”

In December 1978, the same month that a relatively unknown actor named Christopher Reeve soared to fame in Richard Donner’sSuperman,” Eastwood had a new comedy hit on his hands with “Every Which Way but Loose,” which did not bring with it the indignity of wearing tights but did pair the tough-guy icon with a saucy orangutan named Clyde. The Superman film had taken a number of years to reach the screen, and Eastwood was 48 by that point, so he was too old to play the superhero.  Still, had he been 30, the star said his answer would have been the same: “No, thanks.”

Eastwood explained: “I always liked characters that were more grounded in reality. Maybe they do super things or more-than-human things — like Dirty Harry, he has a knack for doing crazy things, or the western guys — but, still, they’re not caped crusaders.”

For most of Eastwood’s time in Hollywood, comic-book roles were career kryptonite. That’s changed now, certainly,  with Jack Nicholson, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Christian Bale, Michael Keaton and Hugh Jackman as just a few of the leading men who have played costumed heroes or villains and avoided the typecasting that haunted actors of the past, such as Superman stars George Reeves and Christopher Reeve.

Clint Eastwood as James Bond?

Clint Eastwood, reimagined in the role of James Bond. (Photo illustration by Kevin Lingenfelser; images from MGM and Warner Bros.)

“That was part of the  consideration, a big part,” Eastwood said. “Look at Reeve, he was excellent. That was a big factor. You get a role like that, and it locks you in a bit. True, I had the western genre and the ‘Dirty Harry’ role, but everybody made westerns and did cop movies; they didn’t seem as bad,” as far as typecasting.

I told Eastwood that, after watching him dispatch criminals as San Francisco cop Harry Callahan, he was probably a better fit for the alleys of Gotham City as opposed to the skies of Metropolis. Eastwood surprised me by, with a wink, boasting  that his funny-book allegiance was to NamorBill Everett’s imperious sea prince.

“Hey buddy,” Eastwood said with a thumbs-up gesture, “the Sub-Mariner, that’s the one I always liked. I had all of those comics when I was a kid.”

As for Bond, no American has played Ian Fleming’s spy. Connery is a native of Scotland, and Roger Moore and Daniel Craig were born in England. Pierce Brosnan was born in Ireland, Timothy Dalton is from Wales and George Lazenby hails from Australia. Though it’s hard to imagine Eastwood in the coolly ironic mode most associated with 007 of the 1970s, it’s interesting to note that the two most recent films in the venerable series have taken the secret agent to a gritty, stoic style with Craig that has far more in common with Eastwood’s signature screen personae than, say, the safari-suit work of Moore.

I was in Carmel to interview Eastwood about “Hereafter,” which he directed. The film, a tender story about three broken souls and their lurching quest to understand the great beyond,  hits theaters on Oct. 22, and we spent more than three hours together talking both on and off the record. We chatted about the Superman and Bond roles for all of three or four minutes, but, later in the day, I joked to Eastwood that I was having trouble shaking the image of him in blue tights.

“That was a long time ago. I was a little more pumped,” Eastwood answered with a wink. “But believe me, I can get it out of my mind. I got it out of mind back then. It was easy.”

— Geoff Boucher



daniel craig in quantum1 Clint Eastwood as Superman or James Bond? ‘It could have happened,’ he says [updated]

Daniel Craig as James Bond (MGM)

MGM woes? Sure, but new Bond film also needs script

“X-Men” director says end is near for superhero film craze

ON THE SET: “Inception” pulls a dream heist in England

“Star Wars” producer says toy sales took Lucas to dark side


Matt Damon talks smack about James Bond … again

PHOTO GALLERY: “Bond” girls through the years

FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this post misstated the birthplace of Timothy Dalton.



51 Responses to Clint Eastwood as Superman or James Bond? ‘It could have happened,’ he says [updated]

  1. oakmonster says:

    So…Nathan Fillion = young Clint Eastwood?

  2. Gill Avila says:

    ***As for Bond, no American has played Ian Fleming’s spy.***

    In 1954 Barry Nelson played James Bond in an adaptation of "Casino Royale" on the anthology series "CLIMAX!"

  3. McClaren says:

    Clint Eastwood is the man!

  4. Bond Fan says:

    "Roger Moore, Daniel Craig and Timothy Dalton were born in England" – Dalton was born in Wales, NOT England!

  5. Allen Kephart says:

    He was great as Dirty Harry but would have been terrible as Superman. Christopher Reeve, God Rest His Soul, was the right one for that role. He made moviegoers believe a man can fly. He may not have done that on this world for real, but he is flying in Heaven.

  6. Granted says:

    Eastwood couldn't have been offered Superman when he was 30 as the writer suggests. He didn't make "A Fistful of Dollars" until he was 34 (1964), and while that shot him to fame in Europe it took a few more years for it to catch on in the US. Besides, Eastwood himself said he wasn't offered Superman until the 70's, which was likely after the monster success of Dirty Harry.

  7. Geoff Boucher says:

    Where does the writer suggest he was 30?

  8. The Eastwood Archive says:

    The Face on Superman looks to be from Coogan's Bluff 1968, the bond shot looks like Dirty Harry 1971

    The Clint Eastwood Achive

  9. john says:

    richard egan was offered the role of namor the sub-mariner in the 1950's for a tv series that went un-produced. clint in the 50's or the early 60's would have been a great sub-mariner. he was on the swim team in school at one time. eastwood also turned down the martin sheen role in apocalypse now; saying he knew the audience would show up expecting one type of film, but would be getting another type of movie altogether. after 1986's graphic novel the dark knight returns by frank miller there was talk among the fan base that if a movie were to be made about bruce wayne/batman coming out of retirement they would get clint. unlike superman or bond, i can actually see a 56 year old clint in the role.

  10. Eternity One says:

    A man has got to know his limitations – Clint obviously did – and still does. That's what makes him an icon. As Red Skelton used to say . . . 'you just don't look right to me' – well do yah punk?

  11. Steve says:

    This article says there was a three hour conversation……where can I get the full transcript?

  12. Tor-Sven says:

    He's still my first choice to play an elder Bruce Wayne. Only Eastwood can kick so much ass by just appearing on screen.

  13. Bruno Fankelli says:

    Clint Eastwood was better as Dirty Harry (or maybe The Green Hornet… hehehe). As for Superman, I couldn't think of a better actor now. Brandon Routh was terrible. As for James Bond, I'd rather go for Clive Owen or even HughJackman. Daniel Craig just don't fit into the Bond character.

    • AK Sarda says:

      It's all quite subjective, but some feel Daniel Craig is the best Bond after Sean Connery. Roger Moore was too, er, blonde, Timothy Dalton, though a great actor, didn't exactly fill out the role, Pierce Brosnan was way too Remington Steele in everyone's mind. Craig scored because he played Bond as close to the character penned by Ian Fleming. The script of his first Bond movie, Casino Royale, being so true to the book, also helped.

    • Bondbrain007 says:

      I love everything bond and Daniel Craig is perfect spec ops guys that would then become licensed to kill are short stout guys like Craig not stringy 6ft something s I love Connery but Craig brings a realism that was lacking all he needs is his brain and balls and maybe a gun or a shoe or a laptop or stab you with tiny scissors' guys like roger Moore needed the gadgets to give him an edge because he was wearing a girdle in the last few movies. It wouldn't be believable any way else, with Craig you can see he would kick some ass and he does. Also these are prequel movies so rough an tough Craig is perfect when I heard he was going to do it I thought great its over but am glad he rocks

  14. The Lurking Bat says:

    as cheesy as the show was I STILL would have liked to see Eastwood play Two-Face on 'Batman'.

    …and Eastwood as Sub-Mariner!!! THAT would have been BAD @$$!!!!!


  15. reverend61 says:

    It was my understanding that back in the mid-late 1990s they were considering an adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns, with Eastwood touted as favourite to play the ageing Batman. The excremental Batman & Robin more or less killed the franchise until Christopher Nolan resurrected it, which is a shame, as Eastwood playing Batman would have been amazing.

    • ray ramos says:

      Yes, he really was Frank Millers Dark Knight character…. I was really hoping that it would have happened… it would have been the most inspired casting ever…

  16. AK Sarda says:

    One can just imagine Lex Luthor being urged to go ahead and make Superman's day.

  17. Jeff Gray says:

    Clint's so versitle.Don't forget about his role in,"Paint Your Wagon."

  18. Mitch says:

    Clint Eastwood would have been too old for Superman and too preposterous or James Bond

  19. NotAmerican says:

    reverend61 and others – In David Hughes' 2003 book "Tales From Development Hell", he quotes Darren Arnofsky as saying, "I told them [Warner Brothers] I'd cast Clint Eastwood as the Dark Knight, and shoot it in Tokyo, doubling for Gotham City. That got their attention".

  20. NotAmerican says:

    It was in a chapter on "Batman 5" – it talked about how WB wanted their money-by-the-ton franchise to keep going; however, both George Clooney and Joel Shumacher said that they had "killed the franchise" by making the movie more campy and "family friendly" by deliberately making "Batman and Robin" have echoes of the '60s Batman TV show. Arnofsky and Frank Miller had wanted to do a movie that was ultra dark, violent, and VERY different from any Batman "story" (comic, graphic novel, movie, etc.) that had come before it. However, they realized they had to stay (fairly) family friendly, as Warner Bros. would "really need a PG property", as every four-year old was going to be "screaming at their mother to see it".

    Of course, I would have sold my liver to have seen a Frank Miller/Darren Arnofsky/Clint Eastwood Batman flick, but Nolan and Bale *DO* come pretty close… :)

  21. Geoff Boucher says:

    Looks much younger? I'm not sure what you mean.
    The photos in the post are old pictures of Clint (1960s and 1970s) combined with images from Superman and Bond (and they are labeled as such).
    If you want to see a current photo of Clint, check out my story on him from today:

  22. GORDON C. WONG says:

    You’re wrong about no American having played James Bond. The very first portrayal was by San Francisco-born Barry Nelson in the 1954 Climax Mystery Theater TV version of ‘Casino Royale’ which also featured Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre. Look it up at IMDB. It’s available via predictable sources and is worth the pursuit. Mr. Nelson is very funny as “Jimmy Bond”–total American cultural imperialism. –Canadian born GORDON C. WONG

    • Geoff Boucher says:

      The whole post was about feature films.

      • Doctor Killjoy says:

        Nice try at backpedalling, but no cigar. If you meant to say "in feature films", you should have said so. You should have just manned up, and admitted you screwed up. Now you just look like a loser, both to your readership, and your employer.

  23. Warner Brown says:

    Clint would have made the ultimate Wolverine. Sure he’s old, airbrush it out and he would’ve killed it.

  24. yakofujimato says:

    The American actor John Gavin was offered the role in ' Diamonds are Forever' but Connery came back.

  25. Elsa says:

    My hero complex guy is the versatile Hugh Jackman, but I wish he would get Wolverine out of his system and do a good old musical with singing and dancing — but really, he can act as tough as anybody.. and not many tough guys can sing and dance at the same time…

    • Brett says:

      Hugh Jackman is rightfully grateful for the role of Wolverine. Had he not been cast in the role, and had the first film not been as successful as it was, I seriously doubt that he would have the film career that he has today.

  26. Van says:

    Superman and James Bond aren't badass enough for Clint Eastwood. End of story.

  27. Tyrone says:

    Clint could easily have played Wolverine. Would have been perfect.

  28. aaron says:

    Either the Author is lying, or Clint is. The director wanted an unknown actor to play the part of Superman, to avoid any previous type-casting. As we all know, Clint was in Western movies during this time, thus absolutely taking him off the list of possible actors for the part. I call BS

    • Geoff Boucher says:

      Aaron, I'm sure Clint Eastwood doesn't much about your opinion of his integrity or truthfulness, but just so you know: When Warner Bros approached him about the role of Superman, Dick Donner wasn't even on board as the director yet. It was very early on in the project. Thanks for your charming message about calling "B.S." on a guy who is pretty much the definition of authenticity in contemporary American cinema.

    • Matt says:

      Aaron, it's common knowledge that the producers looked at established actors before settling on an unknown, eventually figuring their star power would come in the form of Brando and Hackman (both billed above Reeve). Many big stars were considered — not just Eastwood but also Redford, Beatty, Newman, Voight, etc.

  29. Tomas Carrera says:

    In my view, Clint Eastwood would have been sensational as 'Batman.' If the idea behind Batman is for criminals to be frightened to death, 'Dirty Harry' in black-gray body armor and a utility belt (not to mention a well-appointed Batmobile), would have done the trick.

    Even now, if they ever decided to do a live-action 'Batman Beyond,' Eeastwood would still be awesome in the role of an elderly Bruce Wayne.

  30. says:

    i could see him as superman but bond was an englishman , and the california accent might not have worked, but the bond franchise made the rigth move with roger moore. ( i could not see clint taking orders from "M")

  31. mr. vegas says:

    did you know that frank sinatra was offered the dirty harry role….thank he did 'nt do it clint was the perfect character

  32. Hypoxic says:

    It's interesting that people still believe Christopher Reeve was typecast, when in fact he was considered for many roles after Superman which weren't superhero fare. Reeve turned these roles down, which included the leads in Lethal Weapon, Splash, Fatal Attraction, The Bounty, Romancing the Stone, Pretty Woman, among others.

    Reeve was anything but typecast.

  33. Jack says:

    Its funny that Batman was brought up. Neal Adams' Batman work of the 1970s almost looks like Eastwood in the cowl, right down to the squint. Frank Miller also drew a very Eastwoody Batman in The Dark Knight Returns that almost looked like he used Heartbreak Ridge as reference material.

  34. Clone the Jackdog!! says:

    Clint was also to play 2-Face on the 60s 'Batman' tv show but it was cancelled before that ever materialized.

  35. jay says:

    GORDON C. WONG ·is correct Barry Nelson an american was the first to play a live action bond

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

E-mail It
Powered by ShareThis