12/26/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
Clint Eastwood, 72, filed a $10 million libel suit on Christmas Eve against the author, Patrick McGilligan, and St. Martin's Press for publishing a harshly critical biography of him, "Clint: The Life and Legend," reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
According to the suit, the book falsely accuses the "Unforgiven" Oscar winner of wife-beating, atheism and wartime cowardice.
Author McGilligan, whose previous books include bios of directors Alfred Hitchcock and George Cukor, and St. Martin's Press, were out to "destroy Clint Eastwood's reputation -- both as a maker of motion pictures and as a man," Eastwood's lawyer claimed in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif.
"Readers and reviewers of the book who know no better simply accept the false statements," the lawsuit said.
According to a review in the Houston Chronicle, the book was first published in Great Britain three years ago, and "has apparently been bouncing around U.S. publishers amid rumored threats from Eastwood's lawyers. It isn't difficult to see why. 'Clint' is perhaps the most thoroughly demythologizing book yet written on modern Hollywood."
McGilligan told the Chronicle that Eastwood's suit is "ruthless" and "vindictive."
"Clint makes a lifelong and career-long habit of suing people into the ground," McGilligan told the paper from his home in Milwaukee. "The book is as truthful and factual as possible, considering that the guy puts up a wall of publicity and lawyers whenever he goes anywhere."