Interview By: Edward Kasche
George Clooney, I gotta admit, I was surprised with the man and you may be too. He began the interview by saying he was hung over from the night before, but there was a good reason, and it’s not just that he’s part-Irish as he jokingly suggests. He had held a screening of his new film, Good Night, and Good Luck, attended by his father, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, even his less than favorite person, Bill O’Reilly, amongst others. “It was a fun night for us, so I drank.” This seems up to par with what I knew of Mr. Clooney. We’ve all heard the stories of the Italian villa, the weekend parties, the modelsâ€¦ he always seemed like a much cooler guy to hang out with and pick up chicks, than pay $10.50 to see on the screen. But Clooney isn’t just a playboy, playing actor. He’s an actor, director, screenwriter, and producer who just happens to know how to have a good time.
I’m not a fan of ER, never was; nor did I particularly enjoy The Peacemaker, From Dusk Till Dawn, or Batman & Robin (in this case, the less said, the better). A slow, bumpy start like this can destroy an actor’s career, especially when the actor is already thirty-five years old and has been cutting his teeth in television. Things didn’t look good for Clooney’s blossoming film career. But then, something strange happened. The road went from rocky path to smooth highway. It seems to me that George began making decisions outside of the Hollywood mainstream, and he strung together Out of Sight, Three Kings, Ocean’s 11, The Thin Red Line, and two Coen Brothers‘ films. While doing all this, he brought back the smooth coolness of the Rat Pack and worked with Soderbergh, David O’Russell, Malick,
Good Night, and Good Luck is the story of Edward R. Murrow, the infamous news anchor who, for lack of a more in-depth discussion, engaged Senator Joseph McCarthy (he, of the blacklists and Communist-aggression fears) during the 1950s, in a debate over the Constituionality of what he was doing. Murrow is a cornerstone, a legend of broadcasting, a man of courage, integrity, social responsibility, and journalistic excellence. Clooney made it clear why this man, Murrow, was deserving of a film, and why he was the man to bring it into fruition. Clooney has background in news that helped guide him through the process of creating and filming Good Night, and Good Luck. His “daycare,” as he recollects, was his father’s newsroom and his chores involved holding tele-prompters and working around the set. He watched, he listened, and he learned. The quality and detail show through clearly now, so many years later. Clooney and co-writer/co-star Grant Heslov, worked for months gathering information and news footage, going that extra mile to “double-source” everything in order to ensure accuracy. “If we got anything wrong, we would be marginalized.” Clooney’s smart; he’s focused.
George calls himself a good casting director; “dubious, at best,” in acting and directing. He has implicit faith in those actors whom he chooses to fulfill roles. He cites Sam Rockwell for his wonderful work as Chuck Barris in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and every actor working in Good Night, and Good Luck. He never pushes himself to the forefront. In fact, he’s always quicker to acknowledge another’s work before his own, even going so far as to claim that his job was made easier by the professionalism and talent of those around him. The guy’s humble, and that’s tough for a millionaire with gorgeous women on each arm, a
As a director, Clooney keeps it simple (“stillness is key”), but has very interesting ideas. One such idea was to have his actors in Good Night, and Good Luck work as actual news reporters with papers from the 1940s and 1950s. Every morning, the actors would have older papers delivered to their trailers, and they would type, on typewriters, the stories they felt were lead material. Later, they would all meet in a board room and discuss the leads of the day. That’s a director who understands actors, and knows what he’s doing.
I was also amazed at how well-educated, yet understanding of others’ opinions, George was while discussing history and world politics. With almost every question he was asked, he found a way to relate it to a historical fact or discussion. The interview could very well have been captured with a History professor, or at least had the same feeling as talking to a younger, hipper History professor. Clooney mentioned Pat Buchanan, Richard Nixon, Mickey Rooney, Gina Lollabrigida, Pearl Harbor, Japanese prison camps, Russian nuclear testing, Hurricane Katrina response, the history of broadcastingâ€¦ you get the point. That’s the educated-side of him; the comical-side had him doing impressions of Richard Nixon and Sen. McCarthy. He’s balanced. He admits, “I don’t have all the answers, but I like to continue the debate.”
I’ll admit that it’s difficult to like people who seem to be too cool or too popular. Especially, when these guys are rich, famous, and date the most beautiful women in the world. You know who I mean. Each week their hair is a different color, they’re wearing $1,000 t-shirts, and there’s a headline involving Jennifer Aniston. The term used to describe these guys is often, tools. I had prior assumptions, but George Clooney is not one of these guys.
He’s not just a matinee star, or a former television star, or