On this day in 2006, Clint Eastwood becomes only the 31st filmmaker in 70 years of Directors Guild of America (DGA) history to be given the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Eastwood accepted his award from DGA President Michael Apted at the 58th Annual DGA Awards ceremony, held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. In presenting the award, Apted called Eastwood “the consummate filmmaker” and “one of the most prolific, versatile directors in the history of the medium.” Eastwood is a two-time recipient of the guild’s annual award for Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film, for Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004), both of which also won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture. Eastwood starred in both films, and earned Oscar nods in the Best Actor category for both roles.
After getting his start in B-movies, Eastwood rose to leading man status in a series of Westerns, including the 1960s Sergio Leone-directed trilogy A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. In 1971, he played what would arguably become his most memorable role, embodying the title character in Don Siegel’s hit Dirty Harry. That same year, Eastwood launched his directing career with the thriller Play Misty for Me, the first offering from his production company, Malpaso.
After a string of less notable directorial and acting efforts in the 1980s, the early 1990s saw Eastwood moving away from his Dirty Harry persona (that film spawned four sequels, released from 1973 to 1988) and cementing his reputation as one of the most acclaimed actor-turned-directors in history. Unforgiven, co-starring Eastwood, Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman, was credited with revitalizing and re-imagining the Western genre; it won four Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor (Hackman), Best Film Editing, Best Director and Best Picture. As an actor, Eastwood had box-office success with In the Line of Fire (1993) and The Bridges of Madison County (1995), proving his ability to play an action hero and a romantic lead into his 60s.
Over the next decade, Eastwood turned increasingly to directing, making such films as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997), Absolute Power (1997) and Mystic River (2003), which snagged him another Oscar nomination for Best Director. He followed that up with the multi-Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby, which he directed and starred in, as a washed-up boxer-turned-coach who reluctantly takes on a female athlete (Hilary Swank) as a client.
Eastwood was overlooked by the DGA in 2006, although he directed not one but two high-profile World War II-themed movies, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, that year. Eastwood received an Oscar nomination, his fourth as a director and 10th overall, for the latter film, which featured an almost exclusively Japanese cast headlined by Ken Watanabe, and was also nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture.