Gran Torino (2009)

R | 116 mins | Drama | 9 January 2009

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HISTORY

The film opens after title cards featuring the logos of the production and distribution companies. All cast and crew credits appear at the end of the film. As noted in the onscreen credits, Gran Torino was shot entirely on location in and around Detroit, MI, including Royal Oak, Warren and Grosse Point, with most of the action taking place in the Highland Park area.
       According to its pressbook, Gran Torino was the first major motion picture to feature Hmong characters. The pressbook also noted that director and star Clint Eastwood initially had wanted to cast professional actors of Hmong descent, people who emigrated to the U.S. from Laos and other parts of South Eastern Asia, including Myanmar, Thailand and China. However, because so few were registered with SAG, casting director Ellen Chenoweth and her associates looked for non-professional actors by contacting members of various Hmong communities throughout the U.S. At the time of production, Bee Vang, who portrays "Thao" in the film, was a sixteen-year-old student from St. Paul, MN.
       The film was written by first-time screenwriter Nick Schenk, based on a story he co-conceived with Dave Johannson. The setting for Schenk and Johannson's original story was Minnesota, where Schenk was born and raised. As noted in the pressbook, Schenk himself had been a factory worker at one time and had worked alongside many Hmong families. Several contemporary sources noted that the film's setting was moved from Minnesota to Detroit, MI to enable the production to take advantage of favorable tax incentives offered by the state of Michiugan. The pressbook also noted that because the character of ... More Less

The film opens after title cards featuring the logos of the production and distribution companies. All cast and crew credits appear at the end of the film. As noted in the onscreen credits, Gran Torino was shot entirely on location in and around Detroit, MI, including Royal Oak, Warren and Grosse Point, with most of the action taking place in the Highland Park area.
       According to its pressbook, Gran Torino was the first major motion picture to feature Hmong characters. The pressbook also noted that director and star Clint Eastwood initially had wanted to cast professional actors of Hmong descent, people who emigrated to the U.S. from Laos and other parts of South Eastern Asia, including Myanmar, Thailand and China. However, because so few were registered with SAG, casting director Ellen Chenoweth and her associates looked for non-professional actors by contacting members of various Hmong communities throughout the U.S. At the time of production, Bee Vang, who portrays "Thao" in the film, was a sixteen-year-old student from St. Paul, MN.
       The film was written by first-time screenwriter Nick Schenk, based on a story he co-conceived with Dave Johannson. The setting for Schenk and Johannson's original story was Minnesota, where Schenk was born and raised. As noted in the pressbook, Schenk himself had been a factory worker at one time and had worked alongside many Hmong families. Several contemporary sources noted that the film's setting was moved from Minnesota to Detroit, MI to enable the production to take advantage of favorable tax incentives offered by the state of Michiugan. The pressbook also noted that because the character of "Walt Kowalski" was a retired auto worker, it seemed natural to have the story take place in Detroit.
       As many critics noted in their reviews of the film, a Ford Gran Torino was the model of car driven by "Harry 'Dirty Harry' Callahan," the iconic character created by Eastwood in the 1971 film Dirty Harry (see above). While the plot of Gran Torino is unrelated to any of the Dirty Harry films, many critics likened the widowed, racist Kowalski to an older version of the hardened, racial epithet-spouting, lone wolf character that was Dirty Harry.
       Soon after it was announced in Hollywood trade papers that Eastwood would be making a new film entitled Gran Torino , numerous movie fan-oriented websites erroneously reported that the project was actually to be Dirty Harry 6 , purportedly a fifth sequel to Dirty Harry . The rumors were given more credence after reports spread that representatives from Village Roadshow Pictures were trying to purchase a 1972 Gran Torino automobile. The car featured in the film was purchased after a lengthy search in Vernal, UT, according to the pressbook.
       Eastwood, whose previous acting role had been in Million Dollar Baby (2004), which he also directed, made his motion picture acting debut in the 1955 film Francis Joins the Navy (see above). In several interviews in 2008, the then seventy-eight-year-old Eastwood announced that Gran Torino would be his last film as an actor, although he would continue to direct. However, in Nov 2011, Hollywood trade papers announced that Eastwood would act again in the film Trouble with the Curve , The film, which was a 2012 release, was directed by Robert Lorenz, one of the producers of Gran Torino and many other Eastwood films.
       Although Eastwood had been one of the biggest box office stars in the world in the 1970s and 1980s, Gran Torino became his top-grossing box office film, earning $148,085,755 by the end of its theatrical run in North America, where it received mostly positive reviews. In addition to being selected as one of AFI's ten Movies of the Year, Gran Torino received a Golden Globe for Best Original Song ("Gran Torino"), written by Clint Eastwood, Jamie Cullum, Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Mar 2008
p. 1, 12.
Daily Variety
17 Nov 2008.
---
Daily Variety
4 Dec 2008
p. 1, 42.
Daily Variety
5 Dec 2008
p. 1, 42.
Daily Variety
8 Dec 2008
p. 7.
Daily Variety
5 Jan 2009
p. A2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 2008
p. 1, 29.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 2008
p. 31.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 2008
pp. 12-13.
Los Angeles Times
9 Dec 2008
Calendar, p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
12 Dec 2008
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
24 Dec 2008
Section E, p. 1, 8.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jan 2009.
---
New York Times
12 Dec 2008.
---
New York Times
14 Dec 2008.
---
New Yorker
22 Dec 2008.
---
Variety
8-14 Dec 2008.
---
Variety
22 Dec 2008
p. 6, 34.
Village Voice
10-16 Dec 2008
p. 58.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam/Steadicam op
"A" cam 1st asst
"A" cam 2d asst
Cam loader
Still photog
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Rigging gaffer
Rigging best boy
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Camera cranes & dollies by
Lighting equip by
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Armorer
Gen foreman
Const foreman
Paint supv
Standby painter
Greens coord
Leadperson
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
On set dresser
COSTUMES
Cost des
Set cost
Set cost
Set cost
Set cost
Set cost
Ager/Dyer
MUSIC
Orch and cond
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Co-supv sd ed
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cable person
Supv dial ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
ADR supv
ADR asst ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Supv Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Mix tech
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Video & computer graphics supv
Spec visual eff/Titles
Spec visual eff
Visual eff supv
Visual eff prod
Visual eff coord
Lead compositor
MAKEUP
Makeup dept head
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hair dept head
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting assoc
Casting assoc
Local casting/Extras casting
Local casting
Unit prod mgr
Asst to Mr. Eastwood
Asst to Mr. Lorenz
Asst to Mr. Gerber
Prod coord
L.A. prod coord
Asst prod coord
Set staff asst
Set staff asst
Set staff asst
Prod secy
Prod accountant
1st asst prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Key asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Hmong cultural adv
Hmong cultural adv
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Picture car capt
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Staff asst
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service
Set medic
Set medic
Set medic
Animal wrangler
Michegan prod services provided by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Digital film colorist
Digital film colorist
Digital intermediate prod
Digital intermediate ed
Digital intermediates by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Gran Torino," written by Clint Eastwood, Jamie Cullum, Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens, performed by Jamie Cullum and Don Runner, Jamie Cullum appears courtesy of Terrified Records and Universal Music Operations Limited
"Psalm XVIII," written by Benedetto Marcello, arranged by E. Power Biggs
"Esto es guerra," written by Neiver A. Alvarez and Jesus A. Perez-Alvarez, performed by Convoy Qbanito, courtesy of LMS Records
+
SONGS
"Gran Torino," written by Clint Eastwood, Jamie Cullum, Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens, performed by Jamie Cullum and Don Runner, Jamie Cullum appears courtesy of Terrified Records and Universal Music Operations Limited
"Psalm XVIII," written by Benedetto Marcello, arranged by E. Power Biggs
"Esto es guerra," written by Neiver A. Alvarez and Jesus A. Perez-Alvarez, performed by Convoy Qbanito, courtesy of LMS Records
"We Don't F*Around," written and performed by Budd-D, L. B. & Buddah, courtesy of Kingpen Records
"The Bartender" and "Maybe So," written by Renzo Mantovani, performed by Renzo Mantovani and Doug Webb
"Appreciation," written and performed by L. P., Buddah, Cuzz & L.B., courtesy of Kingpen Records
"Hmoob Tuag Nthi," written by Elvis Thao, Cheng Yang and Joseph Yang, performed by Rare, courtesy of Shaolin Entertainment Records
"All My Hmong Mutha F*Kaz," written and performed by Buddah, courtesy of Kingpen Records.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
9 January 2009
Premiere Information:
New York and Los Angeles opening: 12 December 2008
openings in selected cities: 19 December 2008
Production Date:
15 July 2008--5 September 2008 in Detroit, MI
Copyright Claimant:
Matten Productions GmbH & Co. KG.
Copyright Date:
12 March 2009
Copyright Number:
PA1620936
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Digital; dts; SDDS Sony Dynamic Digital Sound in selected theatres
Color
Technicolor
Lenses/Prints
prints by Technicolor
Lenses/Prints
filmed with Panavision cameras and lenses
Duration(in mins):
116
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
44954
SYNOPSIS

At the funeral Mass of his beloved wife Dorothy, retired auto worker Walt Kowalski looks on with disgust as his grown sons and their families enter the pews. Later, at his home, Walt distances himself from his family, with whom he has a strained relationship, preferring to putter and bring chairs from the basement. He also dismisses young Father Janovich, who tells him that Dorothy had asked him to try to convince Walt to go to Confession. When Walt's granddaughter, Ashley wistfully asks about his pristine 1972 Ford Gran Torino convertible, saying that she could use a car for college, Walt merely walks away. As the days pass, Walt spends his time mowing the lawn and tending to his spotless home. Sitting on the front porch with his dog "Daisy," Walt expresses disdain for the unkempt houses occupied by neighboring Hmong immigrants, and exchanges angry glances with the elderly Hmong grandmother next door. One afternoon, Thao, her shy grandson, is harassed by a local gang, but rescued by his cousin Spider’s gang. Later, when Spider tries to goad Thao into joining them, Thao's more assertive sister, Sue, tells him to leave Thao alone. Thao gives in, though, and reluctantly agrees to Spider’s initiation rite of stealing Walt's Gran Torino. That evening, while Walt is at a tavern enjoying racist jokes with friends, Janovich asks to speak with him again about going to Confession. Walt answers his question by relating the horrors of killing many men in the Korean War, when he earned a Silver Star. During the night, Walt awakens to noise in his garage, prompting him to grab ... +


At the funeral Mass of his beloved wife Dorothy, retired auto worker Walt Kowalski looks on with disgust as his grown sons and their families enter the pews. Later, at his home, Walt distances himself from his family, with whom he has a strained relationship, preferring to putter and bring chairs from the basement. He also dismisses young Father Janovich, who tells him that Dorothy had asked him to try to convince Walt to go to Confession. When Walt's granddaughter, Ashley wistfully asks about his pristine 1972 Ford Gran Torino convertible, saying that she could use a car for college, Walt merely walks away. As the days pass, Walt spends his time mowing the lawn and tending to his spotless home. Sitting on the front porch with his dog "Daisy," Walt expresses disdain for the unkempt houses occupied by neighboring Hmong immigrants, and exchanges angry glances with the elderly Hmong grandmother next door. One afternoon, Thao, her shy grandson, is harassed by a local gang, but rescued by his cousin Spider’s gang. Later, when Spider tries to goad Thao into joining them, Thao's more assertive sister, Sue, tells him to leave Thao alone. Thao gives in, though, and reluctantly agrees to Spider’s initiation rite of stealing Walt's Gran Torino. That evening, while Walt is at a tavern enjoying racist jokes with friends, Janovich asks to speak with him again about going to Confession. Walt answers his question by relating the horrors of killing many men in the Korean War, when he earned a Silver Star. During the night, Walt awakens to noise in his garage, prompting him to grab his rifle and fire it blindly several times. Because it is dark, he does not see that the intruder is Thao, who runs away unhurt. The next day, when Spider drives over to Thao's house, he pressures him to try to steal the car again, but Sue, her mother and Grandma angrily tussle with him. The commotion summons Walt from his house, carrying his rifle and ordering them away. After Spider leaves, Thao and Sue try to thank Walt, but he also orders them off his lawn. For several days after the incident, Walt's Hmong neighbors bring him gifts of food and flowers, which he unsuccessfully tries to refuse. Sue tells Walt that he is now a hero in the neighborhood, but he gruffly dismisses her. Janovich, whom Walt has grudgingly come to like, also tries to talk to him again, concerned that he needs to expiate his guilt over his actions in Korea. One day, as Walt is driving his pickup truck, he encounters some black youths threatening Sue and her white boyfriend. Walt intimidates the boys and drives Sue home, while her hapless boyfriend runs away. As the smart and fearless Sue talks with Walt, he finds that he likes her. Some time later, Walt is impressed when he sees Thao run across the street to help an elderly white woman who has dropped her grocery bags. That afternoon, Walt's son Mitch and daughter-in-law Karen bring him a cake to celebrate his birthday, but spoil the occasion by showing him brochures for a retirement community and suggesting that he sell his house. Just after Walt sends the couple away, Sue comes to his door to invite him to a party at her house. Despite his initial reluctance, Walt goes with her and is startled by the shaman Kor Khue, who tells him that he is not at peace. When Walt begins to cough up blood, he rushes to the bathroom and reflects that he received more insight "from these gooks" than his own family. Walt soon begins to enjoy himself, happily eating all of the homemade Hmong dishes and finding the politeness of the Hmong teenagers refreshing. He also notices that one, a pretty girl named Yuoa, has a crush on Thao. The next day, Thao, Sue and their mother approach Walt to tell him that Thao was the person who tried to steal his car. They want Thao to make amends, and although Walt refuses, Thao shows up at his house the next morning. At first Walt dismisses Thao with busy work, but soon has him repairing other nearby houses, and within several days is given the neighbors’ lists of repairs for Thao to complete. On his final day, Thao is rebuffed by Walt, who has just experienced a severe bout of coughing. Walt then goes to a hospital for tests and learns that he is gravely ill. The next day, Thao asks Walt if he knows how to fix a faucet, and Walt eagerly helps him. Now Walt begins to take pleasure in helping Thao's family with household repairs and in teaching Thao what to do. He and Thao become close, and Walt tutors his young friend in more American and manly behavior, such as swearing. When Thao reveals that he would like to attend college but needs to earn money first, Walt introduces him to a friend who owns a construction company. After Thao is hired, Walt takes him to a hardware store to buy him a tool belt and some tools, and assures Thao that he will be fine. A short time later, when Thao is walking home from the bustop after work, some of the gang harass him in an alley, stealing his tools and burning him with a cigarette. Although Thao tells Walt it is nothing, Walt secretly finds one of the boys who hurt Thao and beats him, threatening more if he and his friends do not leave Thao alone. Some time later, at a summer barbeque, Walt plays host to Sue, Thao and Youa, finding it easy to enjoy their company, and loans Thao his Gran Torino to drive Youa to the movies. Later that night, as Walt is watching television, Spider's car drives by and spray's Thao's house with bullets. Walt immediately grabs his rifle and goes next store, frantically asking if everyone is all right. They say that Sue is at a girlfriend's house, but as the hours pass, they become increasingly worried. After hearing a car stop, then race off, they find Sue in shock, badly beaten and raped. As the family cries, Walt rushes home, punches the walls, then starts to cry. When Janovich comes to see him, he tells Walt that the police have left after investigating but no one is saying anything. Walt then says aloud that Sue and Thao will never have peace as long as the gang is there. After telling Janovich to call him "Walt," the men share a beer and discuss what can be done, with Walt concluding that Thao must have a chance at a future. The next morning, an angry Thao goes to Walt and asks him what they should do. Despite Thao's near hysteria, Walt calms him by saying that they need a plan and tells him to return at four o’clock. After Thao leaves, Walt mows his lawn, buys a new suit, has a haircut then goes to Janovich to ask him to hear his confession. Although the priest wonders aloud if Walt has done something terrible, Walt confesses only to a few small transgressions before receiving absolution. After Confession, the worried Janovich says that he plans to go to Walt's house every day to make sure that he does not retaliate against Spider. At four, when Thao returns, Walt takes him to the basement and gives him his Silver Star, but says that the boy does not want to know what it was like to kill a man. Walt then goes upstairs, tricking Thao into remaining in the basement, while Walt locks him inside. Despite Thao's screams, Walt leaves, then takes Daisy next door to Grandma. Walt later calls Sue to tell her where to find his house keys to unlock Thao. Meanwhile, outside Spider's house, Janovich and two police officers are waiting for Walt because Janovich is certain that Walt plans a retaliation. After some time, though, the police leave and forcibly remove Janovich. When it is dark, as Spider and other gang members are talking on the front porch, Walt appears, then takes out a cigarette as many neighbors look on. As he quietly recites the "Hail Mary," Walt makes a move for his pocket, prompting Spider and the others to spray him with bullets. When the police arrive, they discover that Walt was unarmed and merely holding his cigarette lighter. Because his murder took place within the sight of so many witnesses, Spider and the others are arrested for murder as Sue and Thao arrive, weeping for Walt. On the day of Walt's funeral, his family is surprised to see Thao, Sue and their mother attend the Mass in traditional Hmong dress. As Janovich eulogizes Walt, his barber, Martin and other friends smile as the priest fondly reminisces about him. Some time later, at the reading of Walt's will, it is revealed that he gave his house to the church "because that is what Dorothy would have wanted." His only other bequest is for his friend Thao, to whom he has left his prized Gran Torino. That afternoon, as Thao drives the car along the highway, he smiles at the generosity of his friend and his prospects for the future. +

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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.