Clint Eastwood, real-life bad-ass

At The Scuttlefish, Mark Lukach reports that Clint Eastwood is, indeed, bad-assed.

My friend Chris tipped me off to a pretty incredible story about Eastwood from when he was only 21 years old: the guy survived a plane crash at sea and swam a few miles to shore off the coast of Point Reyes, California, in freezing cold water that is a major breeding ground for great white sharks.

Are you feeling lucky, Clint?


  1. Clint is one of those rare folks where the more and more I learn about him, the more and more I respect him … Jimmy Stewart is another. 

  2. I hope this doesn’t morph into a Chuck Norris-like meme. Because it seems like it could. It really could.

    1. Norris and Eastwood must meet in the octagon and go mano-a-mano to settle once and for all who is the biggest badass. .44 Magnums to settle a tie.

  3. Umm, not sure how this is exactly bad-ass. I mean the plane’s sinking, what other choices are there than to swim for it? And that he was a swimming teacher? It’s pretty much the only thing he could have done in the situ, and it happened to be something he was obviously so trained in doing he was an instructor in it.
    It’s an exciting story, an adventure, but it’s not bad-ass. Bad-ass to me means willingly getting involved in something whether or not (more not) you’re trained explicitly for it.If he had a broken leg or something that would debilitate most people from an otherwise identical standpoint (expert swimmer needing to swim 2 miles at night or drown), then I’d consider it bad-ass. Like if he has to drag his unconcious captain on his back the whole way, or if he was only a novice swimmer. But as it stands it’s just someone doing the only thing they could do and happening it being it’s something they’re already really good at.

    1. “Bad-ass to me means willingly getting involved in something whether or not (more not) you’re trained explicitly for it.”

      Sounds more like dumbass than badass.  So then.. Bruce Lee would NOT be a badass by your definition.  

    2. If he had swum a few miles while fighting sharks, THAT would have been pretty bad-ass. Otherwise their presence in the same area was just extra motivation. Or maybe he WAS carrying the unconscious captain until he met the sharks?? You know, maybe I’ve been on the internet too long when Clint Eastwood swimming miles of shark-infested waters after surviving a plane crash fails to meet my standards for ‘bad-ass’.

    3. I believe Eastwood earned money as a swimming instructor after serving as a lifeguard during the Korean War. So he wasn’t just trained for it — he went to boot camp for it.

      1. “Hey!  HEY!  Yah you marine in the red shorts!  You are too far out, and no horsing around!”

    4. two paragraphs denouncing Eastwood’s claim on bad-assery?  that’s a pretty nuanced argument.  nuance being the polar opposite of bad-ass.  how’s life going for you, Mr. Turpin?

      1. To be perfectly frank, that picture looks to me more like, “My hemorrhoids is actin’ up today.”

  4. He IS a bad ass.

    And for the record – his Unforgiven is one of the best western films ever. Period.

  5. Ah, Internet.   It cracks me up that the guy who posted this, his research begins and ends with the fact that the book “Clint Eastwood: A Biography” by Richard Schickel is only partially available on Google Books.   Hey, why not check at your local library and actually read the book?

  6. In the interest of correcting every niggling detail of this story,while  I understand that there are a lot of great whites in the so-called “Red Triangle” of the Farallones, Point Reyes, and Monterrey, at certain times of the year, it is not a ‘breeding ground’ – from what I understand, and this is apparently not very well studied at this point, the Northern California population of great whites heads down to Mexico near Guadalupe Island to do their breeding. The visitors to the Golden Gate are in fact just feeding. Perhaps that serves only to impress?

    1. Listen Jason, apparently you didn’t see the Tom the Dancing Bug about the morality of sexual acts, but you seem to be entirely too interested in the breeding habits of great white sharks. It seems animalistic and I am pretty sure God wants you to resist.

  7. Also badass, or at least cool:

    *Eastwood took all his direction on the Dollars Trilogy in the form of mime. No, really. Sergio Leone spoke no English aside from the words “Watch me,” and he would act out the stage direction for each scene that way.
    *Eastwood also wore all of his own clothes on the first Dollars picture. He wore the same pair of jeans and boots every day. They were part of his costume from “Rawhide,” and he couldn’t find suitable replacements in Italy or Spain.
    *Eastwood took a pay cut on the Dollars movies, but accepted a bonus in the form of a Mercedes.
    *Eastwood was meant to play Two-Face, on the Adam West Batman show.
    *Eastwood flies his helicopter to avoid L.A. traffic.

  8. I did the backstroke/breaststroke for 3 miles (1.5m out and back) in the ocean off northern Japan.  How badass is that? :/

    Still, Clint Eastwood is pretty awesome regardless.

  9. Well, look, I don’t want to piss-off Clint, because. . .  you know. . .  he’ll beat the holy living snot out of me and all, but 1.) surviving a plane crash is mostly luck, and 2.) although swimming a few miles to shore in shark infested waters is impressive, it’s more “necessary” that “bad-ass” (I mean, what else are you gonna do, float there and wait to die?  Start swimming dumb-ass!  You might die anyway but at least go down swinging.)

    Of course, it’s more than I have done in my stinky little life, so never mind.

  10. Sergio Leone once said he liked directing Clint Eastwood because he had two facial expressions: “one with the hat, one without it.”  Which is pretty unfair, cause I’ve counted dozens of variations on the basic scowl and grimace in Dirty Harry alone.

  11. Eastwood sat on the rights to “Unforgiven” for over ten years, waiting until he was old enough to play the lead character without needing makeup.

  12. People are making the argument that, since Eastwood had to swim 2 miles through frigid waters, after a crash landing at sea, in order to survive, it’s not bad-ass.  As if only voluntary feats of strength and bravery that risk and defy death qualify for the bad-ass canon.  Well, I looked it up in Roger’s Rules of Bad-Ass.  Involuntary acts count also.  The observation that, had Eastwood not completed this particular feat of bad-assery he would not have survived, is immaterial.

  13. Since we’ve eliminated surviving a plane crash due to luck, are we saying that his swimming three miles in cold, shark-infested waters is “bad-assed”?  Because if so, every surfer in northern California is a badass.  They’ve swum hundreds if not thousands of miles in cold, shark-infested waters. 

    Even most of the bad surfers. 

    1. Ok. Everyone put away your computers get down to the beach and swim three miles. When you get back you can be just as unimpressed with yourselves as you are with Clint Eastwood.

    2. nobody’s saying surfers aren’t badass, too.  but haters definitely fall into the “bitch” category.  really at a loss here for all the hate.  if you’ve done something noteworthy and you’re lucky enough that others noticed, then accept your accolades with grace.  if nothing’s ever happened to you, then don’t worry about it.  if you are so upset over your unremarkable life that you have to try to argue that someone doing something remarkable is not worthy of being thought of as remarkable, then you might possibly be a bitch.

      [mods delete comment in 3, 2, 1…]

  14. That is also how William Tecumseh Sherman arrived in San Francisco, during the gold rush. In fact he survived TWO shipwrecks, the first his steamer from Panama and the second a lumber schooner that was carrying him from Marin County after he survived the first wreck.

    So Clint is in good company.

  15. Great whites are overrated. Bull sharks and lemon sharks in the warm waters of the Gulf and Atlantic attack more people. I’ve been bumped by a large lemon shark twice. No bite either time, but it was pretty badass to go into the water just a month after the first shark encounter. 

  16. I remember reading in the 80’s that the reason Clint Eastwood has that squint is because his dad left him out in the desert to survive on his own for a few days. If that story is true, I guess he was raised to be tough.

  17. I wouldn’t put too much faith in this. Unauthorized biographies have caught Clint telling some lies about his so-called “service.” He never was in combat or did anything except work as a lifeguard. I don’t believe the plane crash story is true.

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