Sondra Locke & Clint Eastwood: Inside Their Rocky Hollywood Romance

The longtime co-stars made fireworks on the big screen, but their real-life relationship exploded.

Clint Eastwood and ex-partner Sondra Locke
Jason Kirk / Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

The longtime co-stars made fireworks on the big screen, but their real-life relationship exploded.

Sondra Locke made her mark in the movies in 1968 with her Oscar-nominated role in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, but it was her longtime collaboration with Clint Eastwood—both on and off screen—that made her a household name.

Locke passed away at age 74 after a battle with breast and bone cancer, as previously shared by the Inquisitr. Now, fans of the actress recall her iconic movie career and her tumultuous relationship with her longtime boyfriend and co-star.

Locke and Eastwood began dating after meeting on the set of the 1976 film The Outlaw Josey Wales. In a 2013 interview with The Wandrin Star, Sondra Locke described her first encounter with Clint Eastwood as “love at first sight,” despite the fact that they were both married at the time: he to first wife Maggie Johnson, and she to lifelong best friend Gordon Anderson, who was openly gay and not romantic with her.

Sondra Locke was in a relationship with Clint Eastwood for 13 years, during which time they co-starred in a series of box office hits, including Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Any Which Way You Can (1980), Bronco Billy (1980), and the fourth Dirty Harry movie Sudden Impact (1983). Locke also directed 1986’s Ratboy under Eastwood’s production company Malpaso. The film became a cult hit in Europe.

But while they found success on the big screen, the star-crossed couple’s real-life romance suffered. Shortly after their 1989 split, Sondra Locke sued her ex-boyfriend Clint Eastwood for palimony. The exes reached a settlement that reportedly included a three-year development deal for Locke to direct films at Warner Bros., but after the production giant rejected more than 30 pitches from her, Locke sued Eastwood for fraud in 1995, accusing him of sabotaging her directing career, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Sondra Locke brought a separate action against Warner Bros. for allegedly conspiring with Clint Eastwood to sabotage her directorial career. All three cases were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts, per Variety.

While she did go on to direct several more films and even returned to the big screen in 1999’s The Prophet, Sondra Locke told Wandrin Star the acrimonious end to her relationship with her former lover was the most damaging thing to happen to her career.

“Most damaging to my future was the fallout with Eastwood. This was twofold. First, I had worked with him exclusively for so many years that I had not developed a network outside him and WB, his home studio. Second – and most important – was that his obvious enmity toward me had a surefire ‘blackball’ effect. He didn’t even have to articulate that he didn’t want anyone working with me. They understood the situation. He was a very powerful figure in town and no one wanted to get on his bad side. …I will always believe that I had many fans in high places, but they were not willing to put themselves on the line.”

Sondra Locke detailed her tumultuous relationship with Clint Eastwood in her 1999 memoir The Good, The Bad, and the Very Ugly: A Hollywood Journey, writing that the actor had “never been in love” before meeting her.

“Clint seemed astonished at his need for me, even admitting that he’d never been faithful to one woman — because he’d ‘never been in love before.’ …He even made up a song about it: ‘She made me monogamous.’ That flattered and delighted me. I would never doubt his faithfulness and his love for me.”

Locke also told Wandrin’ Star that, when things were good between them, she believed Clint Eastwood loved her as much as he was able to.

“I believe Clint knows who he is,” Locke said. “He just doesn’t LIKE who he is. I do believe that Clint loved me as much as he is capable of love, and in the first 8 or so years together he really WANTED to be the man he knew I saw in him. I think he tried very hard, but eventually, one’s nature cannot change.”

You can see Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke in the Every Which Way But Loose trailer below.