Sondra Locke took Hollywood by storm with her very first film and Oscar nomination. Then came six mega-hit films with Hollywood icon and legend Clint Eastwood, including their first film and Western The Outlaw Josey Wales. Along with her films, her director credits make her a trailblazer as a woman in cinema.
Sondra Locke was born Sandra Louise Smith on May 28, 1944, in Shelbyville, Tennessee. A couple of years after her birth, she took her stepfather’s last name, Locke. Growing up, Locke was studious and attended Middle Tennessee State University (back then Middle Tennessee State College) and majored in Drama. After college, her Hollywood career didn’t take off right away. Locke worked in radio and at the television station WSM Channel 4. During this time, she landed commercials and modeled. As she gained more exposure, she quit her job and went “all in” to pursue a career in film and television. She also changed the spelling of her first name to Sondra.
In 1967 she got her big break by being cast in her first feature film, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. She auditioned against hundreds of women for one of the leading roles. Her performance earned her the respect of many in Hollywood and movie-goers. Locke earned an Academy Award nomination as well as two Gold Globe nominations.
Throughout the 1970s, Locke landed roles in several films and television series, including a role in the adventure Western television series Kung Fu. In 1976, she played opposite Clint Eastwood in the Western The Outlaw Josey Wales, set during and after the Civil War. The film became a huge commercial success and was the first of six films Locke and Eastwood would star in together. Soon they became a powerhouse on screen as well as off. While each was still married, they began a relationship that lasted over a decade. Throughout that time, Locke made almost all of her films with Eastwood, except for the 1977 horror Western film The Shadow of Chikara.
Some of the biggest movies Locke and Eastwood starred in together included 1978’s Every Which Way but Loose, and 1983’s Sudden Impact, which was their last film together. They also starred in the 1980 comedy-drama Western Bronco Billy, where Locke becomes a performer with a traveling Wild West show. Locke and Eastwood went through a contentious breakup in 1989.
Locke married her husband Gordon Anderson in 1967, and their marriage lasted 51 years, all the way until her death in 2018. Her last role was in the 2018 romance film Ray Meets Helen. During Locke’s career, she moved beyond performing roles, as she directed a total of four films in the 1980s and 1990s. With so few women directors in Hollywood, Locke is considered a trailblazer among women filmmakers. Locke is remembered as a Hollywood star who worked her way to films with the biggest stars and made magic behind the camera as a director too.