Actor, producer and writer Clint Eastwood came through Boulder City for a 1977 film titled “The Gauntlet.” While Eastwood was always on board to direct the Warner Bros. picture, he wasn’t the first or second choice to star in the film.
“The Gauntlet” has a fun plot. A down-and-out cop, who is a bit of a boozer, falls for a well-known prostitute when escorting her across the Arizona-Nevada line to testify against the mafia.
“The Gauntlet” was first sold as a movie that would star Marlon Brando and Barbra Streisand. Brando changed his mind on the film. The legendary Steve McQueen was brought in as his replacement to play the lead character, Detective Ben Shockley. McQueen’s attachment to the film didn’t last long. The actor didn’t jell with Barbara Streisand, his co-star, and the film started to unravel before it even got off of the ground.
Eastwood stepped up as both director and leading man. He ended up hiring another lead actress, too. Sondra Locke replaced Streisand as “Gus,” the prostitute. Locke was a shoo-in for the role, not because she was as good of an actress as Streisand but because Eastwood and Locke were living together and did so up until 1989.
“The Gauntlet” was Eastwood’s cop movie directorial debut, but it also has special significance for me because of its ties to Hoover Dam, including the filming of one of the movie’s more prominent scenes. According to NPS.gov, the scene in which Eastwood and Locke are on a motorcycle being chased by an assassin in a helicopter was filmed at the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail at Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Hoover Dam. To this day, this location for “The Gauntlet” remains the sole section of the Hoover Dam railroad system that is not underwater or changed by tourist activity.
The 6-foot-4-inch Eastwood insisted on everything being as real as possible when making “The Gauntlet.” When filming in Arizona, the actor/director hired real cops for many scenes. When shooting biker scenes around Las Vegas, Eastwood didn’t seek out fellow actors for the bit roles with a local casting agency. Instead, he made friends with and then hired actual bikers from a motorcycle club called The Noblemen, according to IMDB.com.
Eastwood even bragged that his girlfriend and co-star, Locke, would get an Academy Award for her role in the film. Sure, the bragging might have been a publicity tactic, but it backfired when Locke wasn’t even nominated.
“The Gauntlet” didn’t flop, but it didn’t exactly succeed. It cost around $5 million to make and made a little more than $35 million at the box office. While the actor/director didn’t win any awards for the picture, his career wasn’t stunted.
Eastwood is one of only two people to have been twice nominated for best actor and best director for the same film (“Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby”). At 74, he was the oldest recipient of the Academy Award for best director, and he has directed five actors in Academy Award–winning performances: Gene Hackman in “Unforgiven,” Tim Robbins and Sean Penn in “Mystic River” and Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank in “Million Dollar Baby.”
Also, a pianist, composer and record label owner, Eastwood holds an honorary doctor of music degree from the Berklee College of Music. These are only a few of his impressive accolades.
“The Gauntlet” is a decent cop movie with a handsome Eastwood doing what he does best: getting justice for the underdog, which makes this movie my Throwback Thursday recommendation today. And, if you’re going to make it an Eastwood marathon this weekend (as you should), set aside time to watch his directorial and composer work for “Jersey Boys,” “Sully” and “Mystic River,” three completely opposite yet outstanding movies.
Tanya Vece is an entertainment and music writer who resides and volunteers in Boulder City. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @hollywoodwriter.