Longtime Clint Eastwood fans will remember Sondra Locke as the iconic filmmaker’s muse throughout the 70s and into the 80s. The pair starred in 6 movies together. She was also nominated for an Oscar. The actress has passed away at 74. She died in her Los Angeles home from cardiac arrest stemming from breast and bone cancer. The Associate Press declared her cause of death after obtaining the death certificate from the coroner’s office.
While Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke made quite a few very memorable movies together, the relationship ended on a bad note. After their partnership dissolved, Locke sued Eastwood for palimony, which turned into claims of fraud.
Before meeting Clint Eastwood, Locke made her big screen debut in the 1968 movie The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, starring opposite Alan Arkin. She was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of teenager Mick Kelly in the Robert Ellis Miller directed adaptation of Carson McCullers’ iconic novel.
Locke and Eastwood struck up a romantic relationship while shooting his 1976 Civil War set Western The Outlaw Josey Wales, their first of six movies together. They would later move into a Bel Air mansion together, and she began acting exclusively in his movies being produced by Warner Bros. A year after Jose Wales finished, she joined Clint Eastwood in one of his greatest action flicks, the underrated The Gauntlet, which arrived in theaters in 1977. This was followed by the legendary orangutang comedy Every Which Way But Loose in 1978 and its sequel Any Which Way You Can in 1980. In between those two movies, the pair would also shoot Bronco Billy. Their final film together was the 1983 Dirty Harry sequel Sudden Impact.
Locke claims Eastwood demanded she only work with him alone. The actress was granted one exception, playing Rosemary Clooney in a 1982 TV biopic, after Clooney had personally requested the actress. Back in 1996, Locke had this to say about one of her least favorite Eastwood collaborations, Every Which Way But Loose.
“I didn’t want to be up there with the orangutan. I was there because I was in love and [Eastwood] wanted me to be there. And I loved working with him and we were together. But I didn’t want that.”
Eastwood and Locke were considered domestic partners in the state of California. In 1989, she filed a palimony lawsuit against the big screen legend, the couple having been together for 14 years. Along with getting a $1.5 million settlement, she also got a 3-year contract to exclusively develop and direct films at her old studio Warner Bros. During the time of the palimony suit, Locke had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy after having a double mastectomy.
Sondra Locke is said to have pitched 30 different projects to Warner Bros., none of which went into production. She also couldn’t get a directing job on any of the movies already green lit by the studio. She believed that Eastwood had secretly financed her first look deal, which subsequently created a dead end for her filmmaking career. Locke sued Eastwood in 1995 for ‘fraud, intentional interference with her ability to earn a living and breaching his financial duty to her’. She claimed she had made zero dollars in all of 1994 and 1995.
A two-week trial went down in Hollywood starting in September 1996, and it had the world captivated. The trial even featured testimony from Clint Eastwood and various Warner Bros. executives. Locke was seeking $2.5 million. She settled, though Jurors later claimed they were going to decided the case in her favor. After the settlement came, Locke had this to say about the situation and how it ended.
“I don’t have to worry about working. [It] was never about money, it was about my fighting for my professional rights.”
The amount the actress and filmmaker settled for was never disclosed. Locke would go onto appear in just three more movies after the trial. She appeared in 2000’s Clean and Narrow and The Prophet’s Game. Her last appearance came in the 2017 movie Ray Meets Helen. She also served as an executive producer on the 2015 Keanu Reeves thriller Knock Knock.
Other memorable non-Clint Eastwood appearances over the years include a role in the rat-themed horror movie Willard, which arrived in 1971. She also starred in Cover Me Babe in 1970, A Reflection of Fear in 1972 and The Second Coming of Suzanne in 1974. On the TV side of things, she would appear in episodes of The F.B.I., Kung Fu, Planet of the Apes and Barnaby Jones.
Some point to the1986 dark comedy Ratboy as the start of Sondra Locke and Clint Eastwood’s relationship woes. She directed and appeared in the flop for Warner Bros.’ Malpaso production company. The movie is perhaps the weirdest of her projects. Several shady and shallow people try to profit from a physically deformed teenager whose face looks like a snout of a rodent and who lives hidden in a city garbage dump, alone and miserable. But it wasn’t the contents of the movie that bothered Eastwood. Locke had this to say about the movie and the deterioration of their relationship.
“In hindsight, I believe that he really did not want me to direct. The dynamic of our relationship entirely shifted. He had been the director and I was the actor. You know, he was the one in charge. And I think that he just did not want me to direct.And I said to him, ‘You know, it really would not be in my best interest, I think, if you come on [Ratboy].’ Well, I’m not gonna put my name on it! [he said]. And of course that was rather a joke cause he put Malpaso on there, and that is like putting his name on it. So, not only did he put his name on it but then also, he felt that he was in a position to tell me what to do all the time.”
Sondra Locke was directing the psychological cop thriller Impulse in 1990 when Clint Eastwood asked her to move out of the Bel Air mansion. Her other directorial credits include the 1995 TV movie Death in Small Doses and 1997’s Trading Favors, starring Rosanna Arquette. She has two songs on the Every Which Way But Loose soundtrack, and another track on its sequel soundtrack for Any Which Way You Can. News of the actress’ death came by way of The Hollywood Reporter.