Director leads two-front attack into dark territory

Like general-turned-president Dwight D. Eisenhower, Clint Eastwood has segued smoothly from the glories of the acting battlefield to behind-the-camera creative leadership, winning four Oscars for producing and directing the thought-provoking box office hits “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby.”

Eastwood’s strengths, like reflective holdovers from the violent thrill rides from his past, are in exploring dark territory, with a keen eye for wounded psyches.

This year, the director is attacking on two fronts, with the grim, fact-based, period kidnapping thriller “Changeling,” which debuted at Cannes, and the modern-day character drama “Gran Torino,” starring the grizzled hero himself as a racist war vet. The film is slated to open later this month.

Trophies: 2 Oscars; 2 Cesars; David di Donatello; 2 DGA Awards; 3 Golden Globes; 2 National Society of Film Critics; New York Film Critics Circle; Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.

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