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Eastwood Admits Quietly Financing Locke Deal

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With one-word answers, Clint Eastwood on Monday offered a sneak preview of his upcoming testimony in the trial of the fraud lawsuit filed against him by his former co-star and companion, Sondra Locke.

Eastwood spoke only about 15 words during five minutes on the stand in Superior Court in Burbank. Called as Locke’s final witness, his answers included five yeses to questions posed by lawyer Peggy Garrity, as well as three noes and a “That’s true” or two. His most verbose statement was: “Part of it, yes.”

The upshot: Eastwood admitted covering the cost of Warner Bros.’ $1.5-million, three-year development deal with Locke. The deal persuaded Locke to drop a multimillion-dollar palimony suit, but, Locke contends, she was duped by Eastwood because he never told her of his financial role in the arrangement.

In a dry, barely audible voice, Eastwood admitted he never told Locke or her lawyers that the money wasn’t coming from the studio.

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Locke, 48, is alleging that the deal was a sham set up by her hugely successful but spiteful former lover in retaliation for her filing the palimony suit when he kicked her out of his home after 13 years. The dead-end development deal humiliated her in Hollywood and destroyed her budding career as a director, Locke testified. She is seeking more than $2 million in damages.

Outside the courtroom, Locke said she found no joy in compelling Eastwood to testify.

“I didn’t enjoy it,” Locke said. “But sometimes you have to do things you don’t enjoy.” She added that even if she loses her case, she feels “clean.”

“I don’t feel courageous,” she told reporters. “One reaches a point where there are so many things that are being done to you, you have to make a decision to stand up or not stand up.”

So far the case has included testimony from Locke, her business manager, two top Warner executives and the Academy Award-winning producer of “The Godfather,” who testified about his attempts at “shuttle diplomacy” after the couple’s nasty and very public split in April 1989.

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During her three years at Warner Bros., Locke testified, the studio rejected more than 30 projects she pitched--including one titled “Oh, Baby” that later was made into the comedy “Junior,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Locke’s assistant, Mary Wellnitz, and business manager, Frederick Magrath, testified that such consistent rejection was unusual for a person of Locke’s talents. At the time of her Warner deal, Locke already had directed two films, “Ratboy” in 1986 and “Impulse” in 1989.

“You’re only as good as your last picture,” said Magrath, who testified that he believed the Warner deal had, indeed, damaged Locke’s career. But Eastwood’s witnesses disagreed. One of them pointed out that Warren Beatty has not directed since “Dick Tracy” in 1990, and his career seems solid.

Billy Gerber, president of Warner Bros.’ theatrical productions, testified in Eastwood’s defense that the 66-year-old actor-director never spoke ill of Locke and in fact had recommended her to direct two films--"Point of No Return,” the remake of the French film “Le Femme Nikita,” and “The Specialist.” Warner passed on Locke both times, he said.

Al Ruddy, producer of “The Godfather” and a number of Burt Reynolds movies, including “The Longest Yard” and “Cannonball Run,” described for jurors how he acted as a go-between when Eastwood, Locke, and even their lawyers weren’t speaking.

“There were a lot of stories flying back and forth in the rag papers about who did what to who,” he recalled. “I thought a lot of what was going on was unattractive and unnecessary and wasn’t doing either of them any good.”

But Ruddy denied that he had proposed the idea of the Warner Bros. development deal as a way to settle the palimony suit.

Eastwood may return to the witness stand today.


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