It was Act One, Scene One in the fraud lawsuit against Eastwood by his ex-costar and former lover Sondra Locke, who blames the actor for torpedoing her film career after their 14-year love affair soured and is seeking more than $2 million in damages.
The 49-year-old Locke contends that Eastwood, 66, secured a development deal with Warner Bros. in exchange for her dropping a palimony suit against him. Locke claims that, in fact, the deal was a sham--because Eastwood secretly agreed to reimburse the studio for any damages incurred by her films. That secret deal undermined Locke's credibility, she says, and all 30 of her proposed projects were dumped by the studio, leaving her essentially blackballed in the industry.
A wan Locke took the stand late in the day, emotionally recalling her journey from rural Tennessee to Hollywood. The actress said that she and Eastwood ("my Prince Charming") fell instantly in love while shooting The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1975 and were together for the next 14 years. "I worked exclusively with Clint," Locke said. "He didn't like the idea of me being away from him.
"It was like a partnership, really, even though he was the bigger partner." The actress starred in six films with Eastwood before their breakup. She also directed two films for Warner Bros.--Ratboy and Impulse--both commercial failures. However, Locke claims that Impulse was ignored by the studio, which refused to advertise its "two thumbs up" review from Siskel and Ebert.
Judge David Schacter then adjourned the court. Locke's testimony will continue Thursday.
Locke was the second witness to testify. Terry Semel, chair and co-CEO of Warner Bros., was the first witness called by Locke's attorney, but he seemed to hurt, not help, the actress-director's case. Semel said Eastwood promised to underwrite any cash losses on the Locke deal. "Clint said, 'Try to give her a shot to do something,' " Semel testified.
Eastwood spent the day with his chair cocked toward the jury, rarely breaking eye contact.
During opening arguments this morning, attorneys for the actors traded barbs. Peggy Garrity, Locke's lawyer, told the court that her client's "career went down a dead end, and that dead end was financed by Clint Eastwood."
Eastwood's attorney, Raymond Fisher, countered, saying, "What Mr. Eastwood was doing was attempting to help the directorial career of Ms. Locke. He had nothing to do with any of the damages she suffered. In fact, we will show she was not damaged."
The lawyers estimated that the trial in Los Angeles-suburb Burbank will last a week.