Credit: AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Clint Eastwood is never out until he says he’s out.

Following 1992’s Unforgiven, the actor and filmmaker ended his storied Western career, and that was years after closing the book on Dirty Harry.

When he made 2008’s Gran Torino, and hinted he might be done acting altogether, and seeing as he was 78 years old then, it seemed very likely. He’d already quit performing for every filmmaker except for one ­ — himself.

But when his longtime cinematic sidekick Robert Lorenz took the helm of the family baseball drama Trouble With the Curve (in theaters Sept. 28), the iconic actor was persuaded to step in front of the camera once again — with another director behind the camera for the first time in almost 20 years.

All right, batter up! Check out the first photos of Eastwood’s return to the screen.

The now 82-year-old Eastwood stars as Gus, an aging Atlanta Braves scout with vision problems whose daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), reluctantly agrees to be his eyes on a crucial recruiting trip.

“He gets his chance to prove whether he still has value as a scout—and as a dad,” says Lorenz, Eastwood’s longtime producing partner, who shared best-picture Oscar nominations with him on Mystic River and Letters From Iwo Jima. “They’re having trouble communicating. They always have, and now they’ve come to a point in the relationship where it’s either going to change or it’s not. He needs a little help, and she decides it’s worth the effort.”

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John Goodman co-stars as Pete Klein, Gus’ boss in the Braves clubhouse, who urges Mickey to help her father. “He recognizes that Gus is at risk of losing his job,” says Lorenz (pictured right). “There are younger people at the organization who think it’s time for new blood. Gus is old school, and they want to move him out.”

If you follow pro baseball (or read or saw Moneyball), you know modern scouts rely much more on statistical analysis than just keen eyes and instinct. A younger Braves recruiter (Matthew Lillard) clashes with him over a green power hitter named Bo Gentry (newcomer Joe Massingill), so the veteran embarks on a road trip to follow Gentry and gather more information.

Justin Timberlake plays Johnny, a rival young scout who happens to like and respect Gus. “They’re friendly,” Lorenz says. “When Johnny was a ballplayer, Gus scouted him.”

And when they’re on the road together, they can enjoy a little bromance over cigars and beer.

Johnny can’t do Gus’ job for him, but he can help smooth out trouble between the father and daughter. “At every moment she’s ready to throw it in, Justin’s character is there to sort of remind her of the value of continuing to pursue their relationship,” Lorenz says.

Of course, as Johnny develops eyes for her, you can just imagine the older fellow narrowing his.

All this is just the story’s first few innings. From there, expect Trouble With the Curve to start playing emotional hardball.

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Trouble With the Curve
  • Movie
  • 112 minutes