To launch our new line of LIFE books celebrating legendary figures in our world, who Clint Eastwood? He is an icon among icons, a titanic figure in movie history still going strong at age 82. The recent dustup over his "Halftime in America" ad during the Super Bowl only confirms how large Eastwood looms in the American imagination: He is a Will Rogers or John Wayne walking among us. Clinton Eastwood Jr. was born in San Francisco, and nothing about him might have presaged his future except for rugged good looks. Those alone were enough to get him a supporting role in the TV series "Rawhide" in 1959. LIFE magazine was a weekly chronicler of Hollywood at the time, and we have been on the Eastwood case ever since: the spaghetti westerns (A Fistful of Dollars, etc.); the Dirty Harry movies; the directorial efforts, beginning with Play Misty for Me and right up through Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino; even the sideline jobs-his love of jazz piano and his career as a composer; his nonpartisan mayoralty of his chosen California town, Carmel-by-the-Sea. LIFE has visited Eastwood at home and even played golf with him on his own course overlooking the Pacific, and this will be an up-close-and-personal look at a man who is, perhaps as much as any American, too often seen as mere symbol. LIFE's new book series, ICONS, will present the famous in a way that allows our readers to know these people-often in a way they had never known them before.