Sondra Locke dies at 74: The real story behind her relationship with Clint Eastwood

The Oscar-nominated actress found critical acclaim in her debut movie 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter' in 1967. Her career took a major turn after she met Clint Eastwood

Actress and director Sondra Locke has passed away at the age of 74, after a long battle with breast and bone cancer, Radar Online reported. She was laid to rest at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village after she died on November 3. However, her death only became public knowledge on Friday.

The Oscar-nominated actress found critical acclaim in her debut movie 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter' in 1967. Her career took a major turn after she met Clint Eastwood on the sets of 'The Outlaw Josey Wales'. She starred in multiple films alongside Eastwood and was also in a romantic relationship with the actor and filmmaker. Before meeting Eastwood, she starred in 'Cover Me Babe' opposite Robert Foster, followed by a psychological thriller called  'Willard' where she starred with Bruce Davison and Ernest Borgnine.

It went on to be a box office hit but did not catapult Locke to the success that followed. She was also featured in William A. Fraker's 'A Reflection of Fear' in 1972 and held the title role in 'The Second Coming of Suzanne' with Paul Sand and Jared Martin. She then went on to star in guest roles in television shows. 

Actress Sondra Locke arrives at the premiere of 'Our Very Own' at the Los Angeles Film Festival at the Director Guild of America on June 22, 2005, in West Hollywood, California (Getty Images)

In 1975, she nabbed a supporting role in 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' as the love interest of Clint Eastwood's character. Then, she starred in a lead role with Eastwood in 'The Gauntlet' in 1997. The film was a massive hit making $35.4 million at the box office. It was the 14th highest-grossing film of 1977.

Their next hit together was the 1978 film 'Every Which Way But Loose' where the couple starred with an orangutan. The film went on to the be the second highest grossing film that year as well. They then starred in a sequel, 'Any Which Way You Can' which made $70,687,334 in North America alone making it the 5th highest-grossing film of 1980.

Their personal relationship too was just as flourishing, or so it looked like in the beginning.

Before meeting Locke, Eastwood was married to Maggie Johnson from 1953, for more than two decades. In the midst of the marriage, he's known to have several affairs, two of which resulted in children. After his divorce in 1975, they started living together. However, when Locke found out that he was still involved with other women sexually in spite of their relationship, she called it quits. Their divorce was extremely ugly.

In 1989, Locke filed a palimony suit against Eastwood. She claimed that he had thrown out her stuff from their Bel Air home at the time and moved it into storage. She said she had been shooting on the 'Impulse' set at the time. A long legal battle followed where a settlement was received — Eastwood had to set up a deal for Locke that would allow her to develop a film with Warner Bros and she would take back her lawsuit. However, she sued him again in 1995 for fraud. She also filed a separate lawsuit against Warner Bros for plotting against her, which was settled out of court.

In a shocking revelation, Locke said that the whole deal was a fraud and that the studio had rejected all of the 30 or more projects she proposed and never let her direct. The former couple settled this suit out of court for an undisclosed sum of money almost four years later.

In her autobiography 'The Good, the Bad, and the Very Ugly – A Hollywood Journey', she talked about going against someone as loved as Eastwood. "There were times I wished I had only read it… and never lived it,  she reportedly wrote.

"I had made the journey and now I was standing on the edge of a precipice. And the truth was – the view was frightening," she said. Locke further revealed that WB and Eastwood had tried to suppress her book. "It was a great disappointment to me that the book was so suppressed by Clint and WB. I wish more people could have an opportunity to read it. I think it was easy for them to suppress me because he and WB were (and are) such powers."

She said: "Also, at that time, the woman’s story in any breakup was viewed with disdain – 'She’s only trying to cash in' or 'She is only after his money' were typical attitudes about any woman. Today, it is a little less so – some women’s stories are accepted, and believed. Then too, Clint was not of interest the way he is now. That is a double-edged sword because now he is more beloved."

Locke added: "So, either way, it is difficult for someone to challenge his 'being' and be taken seriously. One would think that it would be clear that a pattern has emerged with him, but no one cares. They only want his image and not to be bothered with reality. It was a miracle that a major publisher took it… one more miracle."

She pointed out, "Certainly, above all others he 'fired' from his life, I received the worst at his hand. I believe that is because I dared to challenge his treatment of me when no one else did. I had the audacity [in his view] to refuse to do what he wanted me to do, which was to walk away with no work, no security, no home. THEN he wouldn’t 'say anything bad about me.' I could not do that."

She also confessed that she was subjected to pregnancy checks. Locke explained in her autobiography, "Before I met Clint, my gynecologist had suggested and fitted for me an IUD. Because my sex life was not very active, he did not think I should be constantly taking birth control pills.

Clint complained of the IUD – it was uncomfortable for him, he said. And he too was not in favor of birth control pills, so he suggested a special clinic at Cedars Hospital where they taught a 'natural' method of birth control."

Locke explained, "It was the same 'rhythm' system that historically has been used to determine the fertile days for those who are attempting to achieve pregnancy. Of course, it could be used for the opposite results as well. Not only was I taught their method but I was constantly monitored with regular pregnancy checks. The whole process was awkward and entailed taking my temperature every morning and marking the calendar, etc. It was demanding and ultimately it had failed twice."

The autobiography came out in 1997. She was also a breast cancer survivor.