Like many in the entertainment industry, directors are represented by a union -- the Directors Guild of America. The DGA maintains a strict set of guidelines aimed at protecting the financial and creative rights of its members. One of these guidelines, casually referred to as the Eastwood Rule, is designed to prevent anyone from firing a director once he's been hired and begun work on a movie.
Specifically, the Eastwood Rule stipulates that no actor, producer or other person engaged in a film may fire the film's director and assume his duties and title. For example, a producer who disagrees with the director on the direction in which a film is heading can't simply dismiss the director from the project and take on the job. Along the same vein, a star, no matter how well-known, can't have the director of a film fired and replaced with another member of the crew [source: McGilligan].
The Eastwood Rule goes into effect once any film crew hires a director who's a member of DGA and signs the organization's standard contract. Violations of the Eastwood Rule come with some pretty significant penalties, including hefty fines levied against the production and certain crew members. In some cases, the Directors Guild may even revoke the membership of whoever steps in to replace a canned director, making it difficult or impossible for that person to find work in the mainstream movie business.
This rule sends a message to moviemakers that a director puts plenty of work into a picture, including significant resources before filming even begins. It ensures directors will be paid for their work and helps manage egos and prevent disagreements.
Now that you know how the Eastwood Rule works, let's take a look at where it got its name and the events that inspired its creation.