Clint Eastwood’s on-set affair that almost ended in real-life duel with sc0rned husband
Clint Eastwood – who will appear on screens in the 1976 classic The Enforcer on Channel 5 at 10pm this evening – is arguably the most well-known Western cinema actor, making his name with tough protagonists that aren’t to be messed with. However, before he picked up prominence as the cowboy anti-hero, Eastwood was allegedly challenged to a real duel by his co-star’s husband in 1968.
Eastwood had just sprung to fame in the mid-Sixties when he took a role in the 1968 musical Paint Your Wagon.
Jean Seberg co-starred with Eastwood in the Gold Rush-era musical, with multiple reports from the time detailing the pair’s passionate affair on set.
At the time, the Dirty Harry actor was married to his first wife, Margaret Neville Johnson, and Seberg was wed to her second husband, French novelist Romain Gary.
Seberg was allegedly smitten with the Gran Torino actor, and even explained to her husband that she had fallen in love with someone else.
Karina Longworth, the host of Hollywood history podcast You Must Remember This, explained that once Gary figured out it was Eastwood his wife was besotted with he challenged the actor to a duel, although she did not mention what weapons he suggested.
Clint Eastwood and Jean Seberg met on the set of the gold rush-era musical Paint Your Wagon (Image: GETTY)
The two actors had a fiery affair but Eastwood seemingly forgot about Seberg when filming was done (Image: GETTY)
She spoke about the duel on the podcast: “They never went through with it, and instead Romain left, and Jean called her publicist to confess she was madly in love with Clint Eastwood, and she needed help announcing she was getting a divorce.”
Seberg allegedly believed Eastwood was equally devoted to their relationship and that it would endure long after the filming ended.
Although the actress divorced her husband, Eastwood didn’t display the same amount of devotion to his co-star, as he would stay married to Johnson until 1984.
In fact, at the time Eastwood – now 92 years old – already had three children, two other mistresses and a reputation as a serial cheater.
Eastwood’s first widely reported affair took place just a year after he got married and resulted in his daughter Laurie who was given up for adoption according to Eastwood biographer Patrick McGilligan.
In the film, Seberg, Eastwood and Lee Marvin’s characters enter into a polyandrous relationship (Image: GETTY)
Stuntwoman Roxanne Tunis also had a widely reported, 14-year-long relationship with the actor and fell pregnant with another daughter, Kimber, in 1964.
Eastwood’s first child with his wife, son Kyle, was born the same year as Paint Your Wagon.
By the end of filming, the Million Dollar Baby actor moved on almost immediately, leaving Seberg heartbroken and traumatised.
Jerry Pam, the publicist for both stars at the time, shared in 1981: “Once they got back to Paramount, it was as if Clint didn’t know who she was.
“Jean couldn’t believe that he could be that indifferent to her, after everything that had gone on in Baker.
“She was a very vulnerable woman, and it was a terrible trauma for her.”
Decades after his fiery affair, Eastwood admitted: “I adored her.
“She was very happy, and I don’t think many got to see that. We spoke of family, friends, relationships. She played an important role in my life.”
The years following the release of Paint Your Wagon were not kind to the actress, as she found herself one of the most high-profile names under the careful watch of the FBI as part of the controversial program COINTELPRO due to her outspoken support for civil rights groups.
In 1970, while still married to Gary, Seberg fell pregnant and the National Endowment for the Humanities reported that the FBI had tipped the Los Angeles Times that the baby was fathered by a member of the Black Panther organisation.
Following the film Seberg suffered a decade of turbulence and grief before taking her own life (Image: GETTY)
The actress reportedly experienced such severe distress in the backlash of the published rumour that she went into premature labour and the baby girl was lost.
A week after the child’s death, Alistair Cooke claimed in his Letters from America broadcast that Seberg had used a glass coffin “as a glaring proof that the baby was white”.
The actress’ lifelong battle with depression was widely reported and in 1979, a few days after the ninth anniversary of her daughter’s death, Seberg went missing in Paris.