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Alison Eastwood grew up watching her father play a hero on the big screen – now, she wants to be a heroine for animals in need.
The retired actress, who is the daughter of Clint Eastwood and Maggie Johnson, spends much of her time rescuing animals at risk of being euthanized in Southern California’s overcrowded shelters. In 2012, the 50-year-old founded the Eastwood Ranch Foundation, which aims to reduce pet overpopulation and increase adoptions through spay/neuter programs, rescue partnerships, and local education.
Eastwood told us that when she is not overseeing her passion project, she is spending more time than ever with the legendary actor/director, who has been savoring his golden years kicking back with his family and playing golf with close pals.
Eastwood spoke to Fox News Digital about growing up outside of Hollywood, what it was really like being directed by her dad and how others can take part in her rescue efforts.
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Fox News: When did you first realize that your father was different from other days?
Alison Eastwood: I would say when I was seven or eight years old – somewhere around there. I was pretty young, and I remember seeing this movie poster on the side of a bus with my father’s face on it. I thought, “That’s kind of weird.” *laughs*.
But I think it goes even further back. I grew up in Carmel, which is a pretty small, sleepy town in California. We would have family dinners and people would approach him during our family time to shake hands, and get an autograph or a photo. It really annoyed my dad, but that’s the price of being famous.
You don’t get a lot of boundaries when you’re out in public. People think, “Well, he’s a public celebrity figure, and we want to go up and say hello.” I remember as a kid that we wouldn’t get a lot of uninterrupted, quality family time with him in public. People always wanted to engage with him. I guess that was my real first time noticing that people seemed only interested in him. And of course, seeing his face on the side of buses or buildings. I learned very quickly that other people’s parents weren’t garnering that same kind of attention.
Fox News: What was it like growing up in Carmel? You probably didn’t have the typical Hollywood upbringing.
Eastwood: Carmel is a beautiful place and I think my parents really wanted to get out of Hollywood to raise their kids. When my dad was in the army, he was stationed in the Monterey peninsula, so he loved the area. And my mom fell in love with it too. They both lived in LA, but when it came time to raise a family, they felt it was important to get out of the Hollywood scene.
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I’m glad they did because it was a very magical upbringing. We lived surrounded by the forest where we had baby deer, raccoons – all sorts of wildlife. And we were right on the ocean. My brother and I would just go outside and enjoy nature. I think that’s why I love animals and nature so much because I grew up in that kind of environment. It’s hard not to appreciate it on a very deep level.
Fox News: How much of an influence did your upbringing have on you?
Eastwood: It had an amazing impact on me. I remember my mom and dad took in a baby deer that had been orphaned. The mother had been hit by a car. We were able to care for it. And we were always surrounded by animals. My parents were both very conscious about exposing us to nature. But unfortunately, my dad is allergic to cats and some dogs. So is my brother Kyle *laughs*.
So I ended up taking care of the animals and I just loved it. My earliest memories of my childhood were helping these animals in need and it was wonderful. I also had lots of pets – birds, fish, a hermit crab – anything that wasn’t an allergen *laughs*. I was just very fortunate to be surrounded by nature and this beautiful sea life.
Fox News: Your parents divorced in 1984. Did that affect you in any way?
Eastwood: You know, I’m so thankful that both of them are friends. We all celebrate Thanksgiving together. Usually, my dad and his girlfriend will come over to my mom’s house. And my parents only live like a mile away from each other up in the Carmel area. They still have some businesses together.
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Their lives are intertwined, and it’s been great. And they’ve always gotten along really well… I give my mom a lot of credit for being somebody who said, “We have a family together, regardless of whether we’re married or not. We want the kids to know that we get along, and we’re friends still.” That was especially important to both of my parents. Family came first.
Fox News: You must have many, but what’s one memory involving your father that makes you smile whenever you think about it?
Eastwood: My parents separated when I was pretty young – I was six. But we spent a lot of time with him on set while he worked. I think one of my fondest memories involved my brother Kyle and me getting to be part of the crew. I got to use the clapperboard and everyone was just so sweet about it *laughs*.
Fox News: That’s one way to do “Take your Child to Work Day.”
Eastwood: I know! And the cool thing was that it wasn’t just one day a year. We were on set all the time spending time with him. My dad has a very tight-knit group of people he frequently works with, so it felt like family. I grew up with them and saw them all the time. They were always very welcoming and looked out for us kids. And my dad made it even more fun for us. He would put us in a scene, even if it was in the background or whatever. We got to be involved in his work, too.
Fox News: You went on to pursue acting. Did your parents give you any advice on navigating the film industry?
Eastwood: No. My dad was never encouraging any of us kids to be actors. But he certainly didn’t deter us. He just simply told us that we could do whatever we wanted as long as it made us happy. At first, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but when I reached high school, I was told I had to go to college for eight years. At the time, I didn’t want to do that. So I ended up getting into the film world, not just with acting, but also working behind the scenes. My dad would simply say, “If this makes you happy, go for it.”
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Fox News: Your father ended up directing you. What was that like?
Eastwood: Oh, he directed me multiple times *laughs*. I worked with him as a kid, and then I worked with him as a young adult. I last worked with him in 2018, which is when I retired from acting. It felt appropriate to start my acting career with him and then end it with him as well. They were all great experiences, but different ones. But he always looked after me.
In 2018, I played his daughter in “The Mule.” It wasn’t a big role, but I played a character that didn’t speak to her father. They had a very strained relationship, which is the complete opposite of what we have. It was tough to play someone who had such negativity and resentment towards him. So when we were done shooting, I would go have a beer with him or something, so we could end the day completely happy and laughing. He’s an amazing director and there’s a reason why people love working with him.
Fox News: What inspired you to launch the Eastwood Ranch Foundation?
Eastwood: I have always been an animal lover, but I wasn’t really involved in the rescue community, per se. In 2012, I co-created a TV show called “Animal Intervention” and we sold it to National Geographic Wild. It only lasted one season, but we still wanted to find a way to bring attention to animal welfare and rescue. That prompted me to do something locally after the show ended.
Looking back, I’m kind of grateful the show didn’t end up going on. It spurred me to go back to Southern California where I live and act locally. I wanted to do something in my community. I was becoming painfully aware of our overcrowding in California and our overpopulation problems, and the euthanasia problems. We decided to focus on domestic and shelter pets. It’s been over 10 years now, and we’ve helped save thousands of animals.
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Fox News: What’s a misconception you feel the public still has about animals in shelters?
Eastwood: That they’re damaged. You know, how could they end up here? Lots of animals that end up in shelters are wonderful and show how grateful they are when they finally get adopted or rescued. When it comes to shelters, it’s hard for an animal to show its true personality.
You’re in a chaotic environment. Shelters can feel a bit like a prison. There’s concrete, metal gates, and lots of noise. Even if you have good volunteers and people working there, animals can sense their environment… California is a very affluent, wealthy state, and we could be doing a lot more, such as mandatory spaying and neutering. We have a responsibility as humans to care for animals.
Some shelters, when they reach over capacity, end up having to euthanize. It’s a hard, sad situation. You can feel unsure about how exactly to solve it. But I think changing laws, enforcing laws and raising awareness to encourage people to do the right thing are important. You know, not to breed animals and not allow animals to accidentally get pregnant. It’s been a horrible summer already.
Kittens right now at our shelters [in California] have reached over capacity. It’s a heartbreaking situation. There has to be something that comes from a higher level, whether it be government or county – a more civil issue. Mere rescue isn’t enough. We’re trying to do those things. I work with a lot of different nonprofits that have been trying to implement stricter laws to help alleviate some of that. We want to educate the public more and empower them to know that we could do so much more.
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Fox News: What is your foundation currently working on?
Eastwood: We are working on building a facility that will have a ranch-like structure. Our goal is to one day have an animal sanctuary where unwanted, neglected, abused animals can live out their lives in peace. We are building our first rescue facility and adoption center here in LA county. We are an animal rescue and welfare organization. We not only rescue animals from high-kill shelters, but we also work on behalf of other nonprofits trying to help raise money and raise awareness on those already doing the work, as well as educate the public on how they can also get involved in their communities.
Fox News: What does your dad think of the Eastwood Ranch Foundation?
Eastwood: Both my parents have always been big supporters. They always knew from the time that I was very young that I had a deep appreciation and love for animals. And with my dad, I do see him all the time. He’s 92 and not working all the time like he used to. He’s enjoying his life. He spends time with the kids and playing golf with his friends. I cherish every moment that I spend time with him, especially now when he’s not working as much and on location.
Fox News: What’s next for you?
Eastwood: We’re in the middle of fundraising for our facility. We’re almost halfway there. We’ve been a little behind schedule due to [the pandemic], but we’re busy and determined. My goal is to ultimately open rescue facilities in other states and serve as a model for other rescues beyond Southern California. I know with the way things are concerning the economy, it’s not always easy to give monetarily.
But there are plenty of other ways you can help animals. Just sharing on social media is wonderful. Donating old sheets and towels to local shelters is great. Offering volunteer time to a local rescue, whether it’s helping to feed the animals, cleaning, or even transporting to and from the vet. I encourage people to reach out to their local rescues and shelters and offer their help. And that help doesn’t always have to be writing a check. It could simply be donating your time or skills. There is always something you can do to support your local rescues.