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Every Which Way But Loose wasn’t supposed to star Clint Eastwood.
He was asked to pass the script along to his friend, Burt Reynolds.
Reynolds and Eastwood knew each other from their television days, where coincidently, they were fired on the same day from their respective shows Rawhide and Gunsmoke.
One version of the story goes that Eastwood was fired for his Adam’s apple while Reynolds was canned for being a bad actor. As they laughed about it in the parking lot, Reynolds joked that he was going to take acting lessons, but was unsure what Eastwood was going to do.
Of course, both actors found great success in film, delivering critically claimed box office winners.
Eastwood became known for spaghetti westerns and his Dirty Harry persona – a man with a few words and a lot of action.
So when he got the script for Every Which Way But Loose, he saw it as a chance to branch out. After all, the film was similar in tone to Smokey and the Bandit which was a huge success for Reynolds.
However, the studio didn’t think he could pull off a comedy with an orangutan costar, and market research said the same thing.
"Most sane men were skeptical about it... They said, 'It's not you.' I said, 'It is me. Nothing on the screen yet has been me,'" Eastwood recalled.
And he was right. The film’s total budget cost roughly 8 million dollars, and it grossed more than ten times as much. It became the second highest-grossing film in 1978, behind Superman, and was followed by a sequel in 1980, Any Which Way You Can.
“I thought it was kind of a hip script myself. Here is a guy pouring his heart out to an ape and losing the girl,” Eastwood said. "The guy was fun to play because he had to be stripped bare of all his dignity."
Thankfully, Reynolds had no hard feelings about his friend’s success.
“He doesn’t say but about four words a year. We’ve been very close friends forever,” Burt said. “[Clint] loves to do what he does, and he’s very, very good at it. He’s the best of my group, at directing, and I think he’ll do it till he drops over.”