While his feature film “Sully”, centered on the spectacular landing of Commander Sullenburger, is broadcast tonight on TF1, did you know that Clint Eastwood himself had survived a plane crash at the age of 21?
If the opening sequence of Sully (broadcast tonight on TF1) – in which we can watch the spectacular landing of Commander Sullenberger on the Hudson River – is so realistic and impressive, this is in large part due to the talent by its director Clint Eastwood. A skill that the filmmaker has probably strengthened by appealing to a very personal memory, drawn from an adventure lived in his youth.
Indeed, 65 years before directing the extraordinary maneuver of Sully (played by Tom Hanks in the cinema), the filmmaker himself survived a terrible plane crash, at the age of 21.
The story takes place in 1951. While doing his military service and returning from a stay with his family in Seattle, the young man Clint Eastwood struggles not to sink into panic. It is 4 o’clock in the afternoon. And the plane he boarded for free – a WWII Douglas AD bomber – begins to lose altitude.
As the aircraft nears its destination, the Fort Ord military camp in California, things take a turn for the worse, and a crash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean now seems inevitable.
“Everything went wrong”, recalls the filmmaker many years later, during a conference at the Loyola Marymount University. “The radios went out. The oxygen started to run out. Eventually we ran out of gas around Point Reyes, Calif., And fell into the ocean. So we swam.”
Fortunately, holder of a lifeguard diploma, already at the time, Clint Eastwood still remembers a long and trying crossing to regain the American coast:
“I could see the coast of Marin County in the distance [près de San Francisco]“, he confides at the microphone of Hollywood Reporter. “I don’t know how far it was, it looked like 80 kilometers, but it must have been probably a kilometer or two. Then it started to get dark. Night had fallen when we arrived. “
An exhausting journey, therefore, in icy water, but also particularly dangerous because … infested with sharks! Fortunately for him, Clint Eastwood was not aware of it when he tried to reach the beach:
“It was the end of October, or November. The water was very cold. I found out many years later that this was a breeding ground for great white sharks. I’m glad I didn’t know it back then (…)“, laughs the filmmaker.
Although he declares that he thought about this event a lot when he realized Sully, he explains that he would have agreed to direct the film anyway. His little aeronautical mishap, in any case, does not seem to have disgusted him with planes. Far from there.
Indeed, since his accident in 1951, Clint eastwood landed a helicopter pilot’s license and even wrote a letter to Billy Wilder asking him to play aviator Charles Lindbergh (eventually played by James Stewart) in a 1957 film. As for his first role on big screen, in the feature film Tarantula, Clint Eastwood did it … in the cockpit of a hunter, struggling with a giant spider.
(Re) discover our video dedicated to Clint Eastwood …