Sondra Locke was nominated as best supporting actress in her first film role, an adaptation of Carson McCullers’s great novel The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. After many subsequent roles, she had the fortune and misfortune to be cast in The Outlaw Josey Wales, where she immediately attracted the attention of the star and director, who she would both almost exclusively work with and live with for several years. After he decided to ghost her, he also decided to ruin her career:
Things grew progressively worse. By early 1989 they barely saw each other. Locke suspected that he was tapping the phones. (He later confirmed in a deposition that he was.) Though she knew things were bad, she was unprepared for the abrupt end to their 13-year relationship one day in April. While she was on the set of “Impulse,” Eastwood changed the locks to their house. He had her clothes boxed and removed, and it swiftly became as if she had never existed. Panicked, confused, Locke sued. In acrimonious depositions, Eastwood called his former lover his “occasional roommate . . . for 10 years.” Still, she settled when he seemed prepared to give her what she really wanted: the opportunity to work. The linchpin of the accord was a deal at Warner Bros. where Locke would develop scripts to direct.
But three years into that deal, and after more than a dozen rejections by the studio heads of every script she brought them, she realized that the deal was a sham. Neither Eastwood nor Warner Bros. had intended her to work; she was meant to disappear. So she sued again, this time for fraud. In court Warner Bros. Chairman Terry Semel said Locke’s inexperience was the reason none of her scripts was approved for production. Eastwood, meanwhile, testified that he’d been victimized by Locke’s suit after years of supporting her and casting her in movies. He said, “I felt it was like social extortion of a kind, blackmail or whatever you want to call it.”
But when Locke settled this suit in 1996 for an undisclosed sum, she felt vindicated; the deal came after the jury went into deliberations and seemed poised to rule in her favor. As it turns out, it was. “We didn’t buy Mr. Eastwood’s argument,” says juror Yvonne Beltzer, a newswriter at KNBC in Los Angeles. “We felt that he had bought his way out of a palimony suit. More or less 11 out of 12 people had come to the same conclusion.”
Eastwood paid Warner Bros. to kill her films, and hid the transactions in his budget for Unforgiven.
RIP Sondra. https://t.co/aOZtrWeAD7
— Erin Fa La La La La (@erinscafe) December 14, 2018
This is how the Hollywood Reporter initially headlined her obituary:
— andi zeisler (@andizeisler) December 14, 2018
Do you ever feel we’re not making any progress? R.I.P.