Clint Eastwood give up acting? Don't count on it

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Clint Eastwood spends more time behind the camera these days directing films. But anyone who believed him a few years ago when he said he had given up on acting, can think again. Clint has changed his mind.

Actor Clint Eastwood is interviewed as he arrives at a screening celebrating the DVD box set release of the "Dirty Harry" film franchise in Los Angeles May 29, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

The Academy Award-winning director, who was promoting his latest film “Changeling” at the New York Film Festival on Thursday, began acting more than 50 years ago and gained fame playing tough-minded cowboys and cops.

But in recent years, the 78 year-old Eastwood has perfected his skills as a director, winning Oscars for directing “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby” and earning nominations for “Mystic River” and “Letters from Iwo Jima.”

Yet, Eastwood said that despite past declarations against returning to acting, if he likes a role, he will gladly act again. In fact, he has a new film, “Gran Torino,” coming out in a couple of months in which he does just that.

“Since this picture (‘Changeling’) was completed this year I have done another film in which I have performed, even though I said I wasn’t going to do that anymore,” Eastwood told reporters.

“I think I started saying that back a few years ago, I said ‘I don’t think I’ll act anymore, I’ll stay behind the camera’” and then ‘Million Dollar Baby’ came along and I liked that role,” he said. “Now I’ve done ‘Gran Torino’.”

It is his first acting role since 2004’s “Million Dollar Baby,” but the Hollywood veteran joked that after directing several young actors in “Changeling,” maybe he should go ahead and quit acting -- again.

“I’m always amazed at how good some of them are at such young ages because it took me forever to learn how to say my own name,” he said.

“It’s a great thing, that’s one of the reasons why, in my senior years I do this sort of thing, I stay behind the camera and let the young people out there jump and run,” he said.

“Changeling” is a gripping 1920s drama based on the true story of a woman whose search for her missing son forced her to confront the Los Angeles police and a serial child killer.

The film is due for release in the United States on October 31, after a world premiere at May’s Cannes film festival that drew mostly good reviews. The movie debuts at the start of Hollywood’s award season, and industry watchers are wondering if it will bring Oscar directing nomination No. 5 to Eastwood.

But if not, there’s always “Gran Torino,” which Eastwood not only stars in, but directs. He portrays a Korean war veteran forced by his immigrant neighbors to confront his racial prejudices after his Gran Torino car is stolen.

That movie reaches theaters in December and for Oscar watchers who follow the race, Eastwood’s backers at Warner Bros. have a history releasing his movies late that month in time to qualify for the Oscar race.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte