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Clint Eastwood on the power of luck

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As a working-class kid from a family made nomadic by the Great Depression, Clint Eastwood still wonders how he got so far.

Now the director of dozens of movies as well as an iconic, award-winning actor, Eastwood didn’t plan this; he’d never known what he wanted to do when he grew up.

He wasn’t a good student or an outgoing guy. Eastwood went to trade school and at first dismissed being an actor because he thought actors had to be extroverts, the kind of people who told jokes and stories.

Eastwood remembers working with Richard Burton years ago. Someone asked Burton about his success. “I attribute it to luck,” Burton replied.

That idea — of being lucky without deserving it — is part of what compelled Eastwood to make Flags of Our Fathers, which depicts the honors and celebrity heaped on the three surviving servicemen who raised the U.S. flag at Iwo Jima.

Suddenly, Eastwood says, these three men were pulled out of combat and sent on a government tour to promote war bonds. Thrust in front of 50,000 people in Chicago, 1 million in New York, they felt overwhelmed with guilt for being treated as heroes when so many of their comrades had fought just as bravely and died.

They felt they were not heroes; they were just lucky.

Eastwood attributes his own success in films to a little risk-taking and a lot of luck. In fact, his mother used to tell him: “You have a little angel on your shoulder.”

He figures the best way he can explain luck is from a line in his movie Unforgiven, in which a character played by Eastwood himself says, “‘Deserve’ has got nothing to do with it.”

—Adapted from “We All Have The Same Fears,” Clint Eastwood, Parade.

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