Donna Mills got her lucky break with Clint Eastwood, thanks to another Hollywood heartthrob.
Before finding fame in "Knot’s Landing," the actress worked alongside Burt Reynolds in 1970's "Dan August." The "Smokey and the Bandit" icon was so impressed by his co-star, he recommended her to the fellow actor for his directorial debut.
"I worked with Clint Eastwood because of working with Burt Reynolds," the 82-year-old told Fox News Digital. "I had come out here to California. I was living in New York at the time where I was doing a soap opera. About a month or so later after doing ‘Dan August,’ I was getting ready to leave the soap. I had already given them my notice. All of a sudden, I got a call. I was told I got this new movie with Clint Eastwood. My instant reaction was ‘What? How did I even do that if I’ve never met Clint?' I didn’t audition for it or anything."
"It turned out he ran into Burt Reynolds at a bar one night, and he was saying, ‘I can’t find a girl I like to play my girlfriend in this movie I want to do,'" she shared. "Burt said, ‘Well, I just worked with this girl from New York. Maybe you’d like her. I thought she was great.'… Clint hired me from that!"
Mills played Eastwood’s love interest in the 1971 cult film "Play Misty for Me." The thriller, which also starred Jessica Walter, chronicles the life of a disc jockey whose world is turned upside down after a romantic encounter with a crazed fan.
For the role, Mills was required to share a passionate smooch with "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" star.
It was far from ugly. Mills insisted Eastwood, 92, is a very good kisser.
"I would give him a triple A!" the star gushed.
She also revealed that Eastwood was "a really sweet man" on set. She described how Eastwood was willing to omit a love scene from the film out of respect for her.
"Here I was, coming from a soap opera in New York," she explained. "I’ve never done a major motion picture out in California, let alone with one of the biggest stars in the world. It was mind-boggling. And yet, while we were shooting, he was so laid back and so nice to me. He was very generous. He actually did something that I’ve never had anybody else do. There’s a scene in the film that’s a montage scene where we’re in a pond naked together. I think there’s a waterfall. What I do remember is that it was very cold. He played me a song he wanted to do this scene to because that wasn’t in the original script that I got. He said, ‘You know, we’re gonna have to be naked together in this.’ I went, ‘Oh, my parents aren’t going to like that!'"
"He said, ‘I know it might be difficult for you,’" she continued. "’But we’ll shoot it and then I’ll show it to you. If you don’t like it, if you think it’s lascivious or anything at all, I won’t put it in the film.’ He honored that. I saw it and it was just beautiful. He shot everything so carefully and out of respect. It came out so incredibly beautiful and worked so well for the storyline. There wasn’t anything lascivious about it at all. So of course, I said, ‘Yes, put it in the film.’ But that’s just a very kind, considerate and generous thing to do."
Mills went on to star as conniving Abby Ewing in "Knots Landing," a spinoff from "Dallas" from 1980 until 1993. By then, she was grateful to shed her good-girl image.
"It was exactly what I was looking for," Mills explained. "I had been playing either the goody two shoes or the victim for a while. I was either beaten up, chased, or whatever. Every role I got was that kind of thing. And I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like what it said about women. So I had my agents looking very hard for a stronger character, a stronger woman. . So when I saw this role, I said to my agent, ‘That’s it. That’s the role I want.’"
"My agent called and one of the producers turned out to be a kind friend of mine," she shared. "He said, ‘Oh, Donna doesn’t have to come in and read. We know her. We’ll consider her.’ I said, ‘No, they won’t consider me because they won’t see me that way. I need to go in and read for them and show them that I can play something like this.' My agent begged and begged until they finally said, ‘Let her come in.’ I did. An hour after I left the reading, they called me and said, ‘You got it.’"
Mills said it felt great to finally be bad on-screen.
"She did naughty things," Mills chuckled about her character. "But women liked her because she was strong. She didn’t take any guff from anybody. And that was the reason I wanted to do this role. It was always very gratifying to me whenever women would come up and say, ‘You’re a role model.’"
Mills said she would never rule out the possibility of a reboot. She is also close friends with co-stars Joan Van Ark and Michele Lee, who she described as "my sisters."
"One of my favorite memories was doing a shower scene with Ted Shackleford," she said about the actor who played Gary Ewing. "He was such a prankster. They first shot his part. He had a bathing suit and all that. Then they shot my side of the scene. They’re shooting me and all of a sudden, I look over and he’s naked. He always did things like that. And Bill Devane too. That whole scene in the show where he tries to catch me without my makeup? That’s something he would actually do. He would sneak into my dressing room and try to catch me without makeup. I would never let him do it."
"It was such a fun set," Mills reflected. "I didn’t realize what a great work environment it was at the time… I remember every Wednesday we would go into [creator] David Jacobs’ office and read next week’s script. We could say to the writers, ‘I don’t like this scene,’ or, ‘I don’t like what my character is doing there. What about if we do this instead?’ It was a very collaborative feeling among the writers, the cast, the directors – everyone. We were thrilled to work together. That’s not always the case on a set. Sometimes as an actor you just do what you’re told and that’s it. But I think that’s one of the reasons why the show was so good. Everybody invested in themselves. We weren’t just playing characters that somebody wrote for us. We were playing characters that we helped create. I’ve never had that kind of total experience in any other place."
Mills has kept busy pursuing her love for acting. She has four Lifetime films coming out, which are based on the works of novelist V.C. Andrews.
"I got to play an evil grandmother which was a lot of fun," she said. "Life has been good to me. It’s like with anything else. When you love something and really focus on it, you go after it."