Eastwood, 70, was among five performers honored Dec. 3 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. A taped broadcast of that event, attended by the president and first lady, aired on CBS Wednesday.
Reared in Depression-era California, Eastwood turned to Hollywood in the mid-1950s after serving in the Army and was immediately cast as a cowboy - because he was tall.
"When I got in the business, I was a young guy and I was a lanky kid," he told CBS News Correspondent Mark McEwen on Early Show. "They said, 'Well, he's got a Western look. We'll put him in Westerns.'"
After years on the TV series Rawhide and a string of B movies he's the pilot of the plane that bombs the giant spider in Tarantula Eastwood's big break came with a trio of "spaghetti westerns," so called because they were filmed primarily in Italy by director Sergio Leone.
Eastwood played the hero - a man with no name - in the first of the trio, A Fistful of Dollars, and returned in For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Eastwood, who started in the business playing piano for tips in Oakland's honky-tonk joints, says he did not hear the movies' distinctive theme song until after he had filmed the first movie and was being recruited for the second.
"I had never heard the score and then, they asked me to come back and do For a Few Dollars More, " he said. "And I said, 'You know, let me see the first one. I want to see what you've done with that before I commit to coming back again.'
"And so I ran this picture, all dubbed in Italian, by myself in a projection room. And I couldn't believe it. I thought, 'what a wonderful score.'"
Saying that music always has been important in his life, the actor declared a special love of jazz because it keeps him in touch with his youth .
"I first fell in love with jazz as a kid," he said. "I guess I like being part of a minority group or something, a part of a group that says, 'OK, this is a little art form that I like and it's not embraced by the mainstream.' I've been that way about a lot of things growing up and jazz happens to be one of them."
The father of five and grandfather of two, Eastwood came to international stardom in 1971 in a role that Frank Sinatra had turned down Dirty Harry.
Soon after, he tried his hand at directing, gaining acclaim with 1988's Bird which won several Golden Globes and an award at the Cannes Film Festiva.
That was followed by Unforgiven in 1992, which won Oscars for best picture and best director. That film also won top awards from the Golden Globes, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the National Society of Film Critics, the American Cinema Editors, and the Director's Guild of America.
Asked to describe the Clint Eastwood acting style that has developed in the course of his more than 50 films, the actor responded, "I keep it down to the simplest terms. Probably, it's somebody who has a certain reverence for the individual and is able to portray that on the screen."
His last acting role was in this summer's Space Cowboys, which he also directed.
Outside of the movie business, Eastwood has served as mayor of Carmel, Calif., and has run an inn in northern California. He is trying to develop, over the objection of environmentalists, a golf course, hotel and exclusive homes in Monterey County.
- Space Cowboys (2000)
- Forever Hollywood (1999)
- True Crime (1999)
- Absolute Power (1997)
- Eastwood on Eastwood (1997)
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)
- A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American
- Casper (1995)
- The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
- The Stars Fell on Henrietta (1995)
- Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (1995)
- A Perfect World (1993)
- In the Line of Fire (1993)
- Unforgiven (1992)
- Amazing Stories: The Movie 4 (1991)
- Hollywood Remembers Series (1990)
- The Rookie (1990)
- White Hunter, Black Heart (1990)
- Pink Cadillac (1989)
- Bird (1988)
- Stars of the Century (1988)
- The Dead Pool (1988)
- Thelonius Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)
- Wild West (1987)
- Heartbreak Ridge (1986)
- Pale Rider (1985)
City Heat (1984)
- Tightrope (1984)
- Sudden Impact (1983)
- Firefox (1982)
- Honkytonk Man (1982)
- Any Which Way You Can (1980)
- Bronco Billy (1980)
- Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
- Every Which Way But Loose (1978)
- The Gauntlet (1977)
- The Enforcer (1976)
- The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
- The Eiger Sanction (1975)
- Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
- Breezy (1973)
- High Plains Drifter (1973)
- Magnum Force (1973)
- Joe Kidd (1972)
- Dirty Harry (1971)
- Play Misty for Me (1971)
- Kelly's Heroes (1970)
- The Beguiled (1970)
- Two Mules for Sister Sara, (1970)
- Paint Your Wagon (1969)
- Coogan's Bluff (1968)
- Hang 'em High (1968)
- Where Eagles Dare (1968)
li>Death Valley Days: Deadly Decision (1966)
- Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo (1966)
- Le Streghe (1966)
- Death Valley Days, Vol. 3 (1965)
- Per Qualche Dollari in Pi · (1965)
- Per un Pugno di Dollari (1964)
- Death Valley Days on Laser (1963)
- Maverick: Duel at Sundown (1959)
- Rawhide (TV Series) (1959)
- Rawhide - the Collector's Edition (1959)
- Ambush at Cimarron Pass (1958)
- Lafayette Escadrille (1958)
- Maverick (TV Series) (1958)
- Escapade in Japan (1957)
- Away All Boats (1956)
- Never Say Goodbye (1956)
- Star in the Dust (1956)
- The First Traveling Saleslady (1956)
- Francis in the Navy (1955)
- Lady Godiva (1955)
- Revenge of the Creature (1955)
- Tarantula (1955)
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