Clint by the Numbers
When Clint Eastwood turned 44 on this date, his new action thriller Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) began its second week of release as the #1 box office hit. With three turns in the directing chair already under his belt (Play Misty for Me, High Plains Drifter and Breezy, the first two of which he also starred in), he was so impressed with the spec script that Michael Cimino wrote for this buddy heist caper that he not only bought the property for his Malpaso Productions banner but also asked Cimino to collaborate on the screenplay for the 1973 Christmas release Magnum Force, and then invited the scribe to take on Thunderbolt and Lightfoot for a directorial debut. Coming after the Dirty Harry-styled fireworks of Magnum Force, the character-driven dynamics of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot were a refreshing change of pace for the taciturn, gunslinging screenhero, and though its box office was 35% off that of Magnum Force, it still entered the win column as a fondly-remembered experience and an ongoing discovery for fans and critics alike, giving a vigorous boost to the careers of Cimino and co-star Jeff Bridges. As Eastwood turns a venerable 86 today, he’s putting the finishing touches on another landmark number: 35. Sully, his upcoming 35th directing assignment, the adaptation of aviator Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s memoir (with Jeffrey Zaslow) Highest Duty, depicts the heroic events of the 2009 crash landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, amazingly saving everyone aboard, and stars Tom Hanks, Laura Linney and Aaron Eckhart. It will premiere September 9, and will serve as proof positive that actor/director/producer/activist – and just plain legend – Eastwood is in no danger of being “86ed” anytime soon. Now in its second pressing, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is available – and flying high – on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray.