[By Annie Leibovitz]
Twenty-two films as director-star, among them two that received Oscars for both best picture and best director: Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004).
“But what I really want to do is direct.” Has any actor fulfilled this wish more brilliantly and prolifically than our Clint? In the 1970s, Eastwood-the-star proved himself worthy of his mentors (Dirty Harry’s Don Siegel, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’s Sergio Leone) by working both sides of the camera in High Plains Drifter (1973) and The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).
Since then, he has completely shattered any preconceptions that he’s strictly a genre-Western guy, taking on taut drama (Million Dollar Baby, last year’s Changeling), slush for the ladies (The Bridges of Madison County, 1995), the musical biopic (Bird, 1988), and the war epic (2006’s Iwo Jima twofer, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima).
In his 29th feature as a director, Gran Torino, he delivers what he has hinted is likely his final film performance, as Walt Kowalski, a white-ethnic remnant of a working-class Detroit neighborhood now given over to Hmong immigrants. It’s a measure of Eastwood’s comfort with himself that he doesn’t approach the role with valedictory pompousness; rather, he plays Walt broadly, for laughs—growling, squinting, and spitting like a crotchety C.G.I. creature in a George Lucas film.
But Eastwood-the-director still manages to take Walt to some deep, dark places, as only he can. The performing Eastwood will be missed, if this is indeed his last role, but the filmmaker, 78 years old, marches onward: The Human Factor, starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, is due later this year.
[in Vanity Fair]