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Gran Torino Ending Explained: Clint Eastwood Confronts Dirty Harry

When we first meet Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) at the beginning of “Gran Torino,” he isn’t a very nice man. We might forgive his crankiness a little because he is mourning the recent loss of his wife of 50 years, but then we also get the sense that the worst aspects of his personality aren’t just to do with grief. He hates everybody, and the only bright spots in his life are his dog and beloved vintage Ford Torino. He doesn’t get along with his grown up kids, and he takes grim satisfaction from insulting people who try to help him out.

Walt is also a total bigot, and has no hesitation voicing his prejudices with a stream of ethnic slurs every opportunity he gets. In his neighborhood, he gets plenty; it was once mainly populated by blue-collar white people like himself, but has changed a lot since he first moved in. It’s now very multi-ethnic and has a problem with gang violence, which directly effects his Asian neighbors, the Vang Lor family. The boy, Thao (Bee Vang), is under pressure to join the Hmong gang run by his villainous cousin, Spider. Thao’s unwilling initiation is to steal Walt’s pride and joy, which doesn’t go down very well with Walt.

To apologize, Thao’s mum makes him do chores for Walt. Walt isn’t keen on the idea but eventually develops paternal feelings towards the kid, helping him find a job and giving him dating tips. He is also befriended by Thao’s sister, Sue (Ahney Her), and by extension the whole family. With Spider’s gang still threatening the Vang Lors, must Walt resort to violence to protect his new friends?

Clint Eastwood has helmed around 40 films since his directorial debut with “Play Misty For Me” and starred in many of them. Many of his characters are variations on his distinct persona that he developed in two genres in particular: the western and the crime thriller. His Oscar-winning “Unforgiven” addressed the violence of his laconic western characters, while “Gran Torino” is a conversation with his cop with a very big gun, “Dirty Harry.”

So what happens at the end of Gran Torino?

On the face of it, the ending to “Gran Torino” is fairly straightforward. Thao comes under increasing pressure to join the gang, and they attack him one day on his way home from work. Walt gets involved and beats up a gang member in retaliation. This escalates the situation even further, with the gang shooting up the Vang Lor’s house in a drive-by and beating and sexually assaulting Sue. The family chose not to report either incident to the police, and Walt is furious.

Thao wants to get revenge and asks Walt to help him. As we’ve seen earlier, Walt has no qualms about waving guns around. Walt really cares for the boy now and is dying anyway, and doesn’t want Thao to become a killer. He locks him in the basement and heads out to confront the gang alone on their turf. He draws them out of their house with a lot of yelling and accusations, making sure he also attracts the attention of the neighbors. Calling back to a moment earlier in the film when Walt draws a finger gun on them, he reaches slowly inside his jacket. This time, expecting him to pull out a piece, the gang gun him down. As he dies, it is revealed that he was just taking out his lighter.

Instead of resorting to violence, Walt has tricked them, laying his life down for his friends so the gang will get sent away for a very long time. It’s a profoundly satisfying ending to the movie, far more so because it inverts what we have come to expect from Eastwood’s screen characters. “Gran Torino” is perhaps Eastwood’s most outright entertaining movie of the 21st century and it works even if you haven’t seen any of his previous films. Where this ending really takes off is when considered in relation to Harry Callahan in the “Dirty Harry” movies.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

What is the connection with Dirty Harry?

After Eastwood’s steely-eyed performances in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” catapulted him from TV actor to international fame, the role that cemented his status as a Hollywood superstar came in Don Siegel’s seminal action thriller, “Dirty Harry.”

Eastwood played Harry Callahan, a maverick San Francisco police detective on the trail of a killer. He’s a character we’ve seen dozens of times since: a ruthless cop who plays by his own rules, treats his superiors with disdain, and prefers to work alone because his partners have a nasty habit of getting shot. He’s also the kind of guy who shoots first and asks questions later, as in the famous “Do I feel lucky?” scene where he thwarts a bank hold-up by killing one robber and seriously injuring another.

His unconventional methods are pushed to the limit when the city is held to ransom by a giggling hippie maniac calling himself Scorpio (Andy Robinson). Scorpio has already murdered one woman, and promises to kill more people unless the mayor coughs up $100,000. Callahan goes into full-on loose-cannon mode, rampaging across the city after the psycho with little regard for the suspect’s rights.

“Dirty Harry” is a great film — although some critics, including Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert, were quick to write it off its ideas as fascist. It’s far more ambivalent than that, with a screenplay that provokes discussion about the effectiveness of the law, and whether it is fit-for-purpose in extreme situations. In one of its more harrowing scenes, it asks if a murder suspect’s rights should count for anything while their latest victim is hidden away dying in a hole somewhere. Harry Callahan certainly doesn’t think so, skipping due process to torture information out of Scorpio about the missing girl, literally trampling his rights underfoot. It is mean, ugly, and far from a celebration of a fascistic worldview.

One thing we can say about Harry is that he’s a violent bigot who uses detective work as an opportunity for a little peeping tom action on the side. As another cop explains to his new Hispanic partner:

“That’s one thing about our Harry, doesn’t play any favorites! Harry hates everybody: [various ethnic slurs], you name it.”

Despite some critics denouncing it for glorifying police brutality, “Dirty Harry” was a big hit and Eastwood reprised the character in four increasingly tired sequels.

Is Gran Torino Eastwood’s apology for Dirty Harry?

Many have taken “Gran Torino” as Eastwood’s apology for Harry Callahan, much like his revisionist take on his vengeful western persona in “Unforgiven.” At the beginning of the film, Walt is unapologetically racist, takes the law in his own hands, and threatens people’s lives with guns. He is explicitly a different character from Harry, but for the purposes of the message Eastwood wants to make, may as well be Callahan in retirement. John Patterson of The Guardian compared Walt to John Wayne’s character in his final film, “The Shootist,” also directed by Don Siegel:

“Wayne takes all consequences upon himself and refuses to let a boy who idolises him … kill the bad guys. In the age to come, he suggests, young men must find a way to achieve manhood without the shedding of blood. In like manner, Eastwood in “Gran Torino” disavows the violent, racist core of his movie persona — and violence itself — while simultaneously honoring both his on-screen predecessor and his foremost directorial teacher. That’s a neat trick indeed, and a damn fine way to ride into the sunset.”

“Gran Torino” is better at addressing the violence issue than the racist one, and it generated controversy for its non-political correctness and use of ethnic slurs. More recently, Bee Vang (who played Thao) denounced the film for mainstreaming Anti-Asian racism (via USA Today). Watching it back, it’s easy to see where he is coming from. While one of the movie’s goals is to set up Walt as a racist so that outlook can be knocked down, there is an uncomfortable sense that many of his slurs are delivered in a way that seeks laughter. Maybe we’re supposed to be laughing at Walt’s out-of-touch bigotry, but it’s a questionable approach. After all, he isn’t the target of the unacceptable language.

While Eastwood is heavy-handed with the material, it’s clear that he intends his film to reject racist views and redeem himself for one of his most famous and problematic characters. It’s a thorny way to apologize for Dirty Harry, but “Gran Torino” isn’t the same story without depicting Walt’s racism in the first place.

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Steve McQueen: We didn’t get along,Brynner came up to me in front of a lot of people and grabbed me by the shoulder

YUL BRYNNER famously feuded with everyone from Steve McQueen to Ingrid Bergman, with an ego to match The King of Siam. His temper was legendary, his affairs were numerous – with men and women – and he famously flaunted his body in nude pictures. Even the reason behind his famous bald head was part of the man and the myth.

Whether thundering across the screen in The Magnificent Seven or scowling at the world in the King and I, Brynner was a unique screen presence. The self-proclaimed “Mongolian” star fought his way up from being an immigrant circus performer and loved to elevate himself to epic levels. When asked about his various conflicting dates of birth, he grandly replied, “Ordinary mortals need but one birthday.” He liked it to be known that he prepared breakfast in a silk kimono, other stars commented how he was “never far from a mirror” and his on-set demands and dramas were legendary. But then, his whole life had been extraordinary, from nearly dying in a youthful trapeze accident to numerous bisexual affairs along the way to becoming more famous than the Siamese king he played so many times on stage and screen.

Brynner’s iconic look was even a calculated ploy. He did not lose his hair but kept his head shaved because he enjoyed the attention he got for it when he debuted The King and I on Broadway in 1951. After that, he also demanded that he was never photographed with another bald man so that he always stood out in pictures.

The musical made his name but he chafed at taking second billing behind Gertrude Lawrence. When she died in 1952, he notoriously wept – but with joy because it meant his name would, at last, be top of the bill.
It was somehow fitting that he died just on October 10, 1985, just a few months after performing The King and I on Broadway – his 4,625th time taking the stage in his regal, spotlight role. For an actor who was obsessed his whole life with having top billing, he would have been far less pleased to know that he passed away on the same day as Orson Welles, and so was overshadowed in his final hour.
Brynner had grafted hard for his success and fought even harder to keep it. Raised in Beijing and abandoned by his father, his mother fled with her children to Paris in 1932, where talented acrobat Yul became a trapeze artist with the Cirque d’Hiver.
A horrifying fall in 1937 broke many bones in his body and left him unable to walk for eight months. He turned his attention to the stage and set sail for America in 1940.
During that first Hollywood decade of bit parts and odds jobs, he had an affair with handsome heartthrob Hurd Hatfield, who starred in 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as 1961’s El Cid opposite Charlton Heston.
Married four times, he also had affairs with men and women alike, from Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford and Judy Garland to artist Jean Cocteau.
Brynner’s enormous success on Broadway brought him back to Hollywood as a star and he was determined to impress in every way. His obsession with his own appearance meant that he increased his work-out regime when he learned he was playing Pharaoh Ramses II opposite Heston’s Moses in 1956’s The Ten Commandments, so as not to be overshadowed by the strapping actor.
This meant he was in phenomenal shape when he starred as King Mongkut of Siam in the film version of The King and I that same year, going on to win the Best Actor Oscar.
His impressive physique was also bared for all to see when pictures surfaced of a naked shoot he had down with gay photographer George Platt Lynes.
In turn, Brynner was an accomplished photographer himself, taking noted snaps of famous friends like Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Anthony Quinn, Sophia Loren, Mia Farrow and Audrey Hepburn.
From the mid-1950s he instantly became established as a major Hollywood star, with roles, salary and ego to match. Unfortunately, he did not have the corresponding physical height, which lead to two of his most infamous showdowns with fellow Tinseltown legends.
Bergman was over an inch taller in flat feet than his own 5ft 6½in. When the Swedish actress politely asked him if he would like to use any props to stand on, Brynner hissed back: “I am not going to play this on a box, I’m going to show the world what a big horse you are.” Horselike or otherwise, the actress went on to win her own Oscar for that role, her second of three in total.
Brynner’s behaviour hit new “heights” on the 1960s sets for The Magnificent Seven, particularly centering on a running battle with co-star Steve McQueen, who wasn’t particularly tall himself at 5ft 8in.
Whenever they were shooting outside, Brynner would scuff the earth and dirt into low mounds for him to stand on. McQueen, in return, would causally flatten them as he walked past.
Increasingly amused and irritated by Brynner’s behaviour, McQueen would also play with his hat or belt whenever his co-star was talking in a scene to subtly pull focus. All those iconic shots of the square-jawed
star taking off his hat to shade his face or using it to scoop up water from river were mainly shameless scene-stealing tactics.
He later said: “We didn’t get along. Brynner came up to me in front of a lot of people and grabbed me by the shoulder. He was mad about something. He doesn’t ride well and knows nothing about guns, so maybe he thought I represented a threat. I was in my element. He wasn’t. When you work in a scene with Yul, you’re supposed to stand perfectly still, 10 feet away. Well, I don’t wBrynner even hired an assistant with the sole job of monitoring McQueen’s misdemeanours and counting how many times he fidgeted during scenes, playing his hat, belt or gun. The antics increasingly infuriated the rest of the cast, leading to considerable friction on set. Decades later, dying of cancer, McQueen called to apologise. Brynner forgave him but Charles Bronson never did.
That said, Brynner’s own notorious behaviour never changed. In his early days of stardom, he insisted a special lift was installed at the Broadway theatre where The King and I was playing. Not just for him, but big enough for his white limousine – so he could drive in and out without being bothered by fans.
In 1965, he starred with Marlon Brando in the World War II ocean-bound action thriller Morituri and managed to eclipse his co-star by demanding a landing pad be built onboard the ship where they were filming, so his private helicopter could fly him back at the end of each day while his castmates were left, literally, all at sea..

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Donald Sutherland : I was lying on my back on the bed when Jane came out of the bathroom

Donald Sutherland still remembers an intimate moment they shared fifty years ago . He said she “seduced” him but he was left “eviscerated” when their passionate two-year affair suddenly ended.

While filming Klute in 1970, Sutherland fell in love with fellow star and activist Jane Fonda, even though both were married at the time. In the 1960s and 70s he was at the heart of Hollywood activism, alongside an on-screen career that included provocative and seminal films like Don’t Look Now and The Invasion of The Body Snatchers. They were matched body, mind and soul. For the next two years, they were together at the forefront of Hollywood support for the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War. The pair were just as passionate in private and Sutherland still dwells (often in no holds barred detail) on their intimate moments together.

Klute started filming in 1970. Fonda had been together with husband Roger Vadim, who directed her in 1968’s Barbarella, since 1963. When rumours started spreading in 1970 that they had separated, her official spokesman quickly denied it.

However, Sutherland later described how it was his beautiful co-star who made all the moves on him: “We’d already been cast but had not started shooting, and one day, she made it very clear, via a somewhat provocative suggestion, that I should come home with her. And I just said… Ok.’”
It would mark the end of the actor’s own second marriage to Shirley Douglas, which had produced twins Kiefer and Rachel
Kiefer revealed in 2014 that they had never discussed the affair but he imagined his father would say: “‘I fell in love.’ I understand that. People do. And when they’re falling in love, they believe in everything so strongly and passionately, this kind of heightened experience, that it’s very hard to judge somebody for it.”
His father frequently and famously has talked about the love and the lust, famously declaring: “She had, at the time, the most beautiful breasts in the world.”
Apparently, he followed that description with an anecdote so explicit it was not suitable for print. He did, however, wax lyrical in another interview about a naked moment that still has the power to stop his breath decades later.
Sutherland told GQ: “I was with Jane Fonda at the /Chelsea Hotel in 1970, maybe ’71. It was a room with a big bed and, to the right, four or five stairs to a landing that led to the bathroom. There was a little oval window on the landing and there was a street light shining through that window though it seemed more like moonlight, so maybe it was the moon, I like to think it was the moon.
“I was lying on my back on the bed when Jane came out of the bathroom. She, too, was naked, and when the moonlight caught her perfect breasts I stopped breathing. Everything stopped. And then it started again. Now, when I see it in my memory, I stop breathing again.”
It’s easy to believe. The actress has maintained her extraordinary figure through the decades, although this year she finally allowed her natural grey hair to shine.
The affair was passionate and intense, although Fonda has been less vividly ‘descriptive’ over the years.
She said in her autobiography that he had, “Something of the old-world gentleman about him.” The actress added that she found his “rangy, hangdog quality and droopy, pale blue eyes especially appealing.”
Alongside both their successful Hollywood careers, the pair performed together at benefits for soldiers who opposed the Vietnam War and found themselves on CIA watchlists.
Although they seemed perfectly matched, the affair would suddenly burn out as abruptly as it started – leaving Sutherland devastated.
He said: “We got together shortly before we made Klute and then we were together until the relationship exploded and fell apart in Tokyo. And it broke my heart.
“I was eviscerated. I was so sad. It was a wonderful relationship right up to the point we lived together.”
However, in 1972, Sutherland married French Canadian actress Francine Racette, after meeting her on the set of the Canadian pioneer drama Alien Thunder. It remains one of the longest and most stable marriages in Hollywood, and has produced three sons – Rossif Sutherland, Angus Redford Sutherland, and Roeg Sutherland.
After three high profile marriages to Roger Vadim, activist Tom Hayden and media tycoon Ted Turner, Fonda dated music producer Richard Perry until 2017 and has said she is now happily single.
The actress has also battled cancer three times. Last week she announced that, after undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy to treat Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, her cancer is now in remission.

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Gene Hackman gave his first interview in a decade, telling The Post about his “checkered career of hits and misses

Hollywood legend Gene Hackman proved he’s still in tip-top shape as he performed yard work at his ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Sunday.

The “Unforgiven” actor — who celebrated his 93rd birthday in January — looked fit and healthy as he brandished a shovel at his private estate.

Earlier in the day, the two-time Oscar winner was spotted fueling up for physical labor at a local Wendy’s, where he ordered a meal at the drive-thru.

Hungry Hackman chowed down on his chicken sandwich in the fast food franchise’s parking lot before pumping gas at a nearby station.
It was a rare sighting of the reclusive and retired star, who was last seen on-screen in the 2004 comedy “Welcome to Mooseport.”
Despite being one of Tinseltown’s powerhouse performers — appearing in classics such as “The French Connection,” “The Conversation,” “Superman,” “Hoosiers” and “The Royal Tenenbaums” — Hackman has long shunned the bright lights of Hollywood.
The father of three, who has lived in New Mexico with his pianist wife, Betsy Arakawa, for decades, also abstains from giving interviews — except to The Post.
In late 2021, Hackman gave his first interview in a decade, telling The Post about his “checkered career of hits and misses.”
Speaking on the 50th anniversary of “The French Connection” — the hit film for which he won his first Best Actor Oscar, in 1972 — the star stated: “The film certainly helped me in my career, and I am grateful for that.”
The down-to-earth actor added that he wasn’t a fan of rewatching his own flicks and hadn’t seen the classic crime caper since 1971.
“[I] haven’t seen the film since the first screening in a dark, tiny viewing room in a post-production company’s facility 50 years ago,” he told The Post.
Hackman — who previously resided in ritzy Montecito, California — has lived in Santa Fe since the 1980s.
The actor is also an architect and designer who has helped create more than 10 homes — including a New Mexico manse that was featured in Architectural Digest.
Since his retirement from Hollywood, the star also busied himself writing novels, including the 2013 police thriller “Pursuit.”
In 2012, the actor was struck by a pickup truck while riding his bike in Florida. He was airlifted to the hospital and made a full recovery.

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