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Gran Torino (2008)

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Details Limited Release: Dec 12, 2008; Rated: R; Length: 116 Minutes; Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama; With: Clint Eastwood; Distributor: Warner Bros.

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Whitney Her
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Release date: December 17

While many 78-year-olds spend the colder months drinking Arnold Palmers between rounds of golf, Clint Eastwood does not. The ageless auteur is adding two more notches to his director's belt. The higher profile of the pair was October's Angelina Jolie vehicle Changeling. But it's Gran Torino, an indie-size drama about a crotchety Korean War vet, that persuaded him to take an onscreen role for the first time since 2004's Million Dollar Baby. ''I hadn't acted in a while,'' says Eastwood. ''It came back, but that first day or so wasn't easy.'' So why do it? ''I just thought I could do some damage with the character.''

That character is Walt Kowalski, a retired Detroit autoworker who's disgusted by the changing face of his blue-collar neighborhood — namely, the influx of Asian Hmong immigrants. When one of them, a teen named Tao (Vang), tries to steal Walt's mint-condition '72 Gran Torino, the kid's parents make him work for their racist neighbor as punishment (though it's not clear on whom the punishment is harder). Eventually, Walt's iciness begins to melt. ''He's a very intolerant person,'' says producer Robert Lorenz of Walt. ''It was a real challenge for Clint, both in front of and behind the camera.''

Originally posted Oct 31, 2008 Published in issue #1019 Nov 07, 2008 Order article reprints