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Rolling Stone Interview..December 2005

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Rolling Stone Interview..December 2005

Post by Merlin on Mon Dec 27 2010, 09:21

GEORGE CLOONEY

RENEGADE of the YEAR

It was fun to be doing stuff I really believed in," George Clooney says. "You want to raise a little hell while you can." In 2005, Clooney turned forty-four and found new ways to spend the capital of his seemingly effortless old-school Hollywood charm. First was Good Night, and Good Luck, his second film as a director: the story of journalist Edward R. Murrow fearlessly taking on commie witch hunter Joseph McCarthy in 1954 -- with some pointed implications for the toothless state of TV news today. Then came Syriana, for which Clooney was executive producer and and star -- a dense, intense drama about the stranglehold that oil has on our lives and our politics.

Clooney literally broke his back to make Syriana. His character (CIA agent Bob Barnes), in Lebanon to plan the assassination of a Mideast prince, gets captured and tortured. Shooting that scene, Clooney suffered an injury and started leaking spinal fluid through his nose. Even today, he has headaches and short-term memory loss.

Visiting New York on a break from filming The Good German for director Steven Soderbergh, Clooney looks healthy and slender, having dropped the thirty pounds he gained for Syriana. He glows with the passion of the politically righteous -- or maybe that's just really good skin. And he hasn't lost his wicked, deadpan sense of humor. When he called Pat Robertson to recruit him (successfully) for the One campaign for Africa, he called him "Reverend Robertson." The televangelist preferred a different title: "Call me Dr. Robertson." Clooney's response: "OK, you can call me Dr. Ross."

When you look back on this year, what will you remember?

It was my best year and my worst year. It's funny how hard it is to enjoy things when you really, truly hurt. My brother-in-law: perfectly healthy, stood up, dropped dead of a heart attack. My grandmother fell down and broke her hip and died a couple of weeks later. But creatively, it was my best year by far. It's certainly a year that I won't forget. [Half-joking] I may forget it, because it's in my brain -- and I'm losing my brain.

With Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana, you nailed the two main forces driving the United States right now: media and oil.

We got lucky in our timing. It was about two and a half years ago when we were getting these things made. And believe me, no one was encouraging us to do it at that point. I was sick of the idea that any sort of dissent would be considered unpatriotic. To me, the most patriotic thing you could do was question your government. We're a whole country based on dissent. It's actually your duty to question authority.

You got a lot of heat for criticizing the Iraq War.

It was fascinating to be called a traitor and told that your career is over because of your political views. But that's fine, I can handle that. You can't sit around demanding freedom of speech and then say, "But don't say bad things about me." Just don't say that raising these questions is unpatriotic. There will be people who say we're saying in Syriana that bombers are good people, but clearly we're not. All we're saying is if you're going to fight a war against an idea -- terrorism -- as opposed to a state, then you're going to have to understand how such evil, horrible things happen.

Very few people wake up in the morning and say, "I'm going to do some evil today."

Yeah, I think they believe in what they're doing and that they're going to get seventy virgins after they die -- but, really, who wants seventy virgins? I want eight pros.

How did you end up in the movie?

The studio was willing to take it on politically, but like any studio, they needed a star. It didn't matter whether I was going to be fat and bearded, they still needed a star.

Get me a fat, bearded star!

Get me Burl Ives! Get me Raymond Burr! So I called up [director Stephen] Gaghan and he said, "I really don't want a movie star in this role." I agreed: I said I can play this part, but I'm going to need thirty days to change a little bit. So I shaved my hairline back about an inch and a half, grew a beard and put on thirty pounds in thirty days. And when we told Warners that we were going to do it for no money, it's hard to say no to that.

Your accountant must love you.

I don't want to take out $20 million upfront -- then you don't see it on the screen. To me, the idea is to gamble on yourself. Take no money, have a percentage of the back end -- if the movie makes money, you make money. If not, well, you've made the movie. And your tendency then is to do films you believe in, as opposed to saying, "Well, it's a really crappy film, but I'm getting 20 million bucks." Good Night, and Good Luck, literally without exaggeration, the craft-services guy was paid more than I was to write, direct and act. But we made the movie we wanted, so who cares?

Did coming to fame relatively late in life --

It was a big help. If I was as famous as some people are at eighteen years old, I would have been shooting crack into my throat. But you can't remain famous like that over a long period of time. Lindsay Lohan is going to have a downtime in her career.

No!

I don't know her at all; she may be completely together. But at that point, I wouldn't have been prepared for the down period if I hadn't gone through it for a long time beforehand. You realize there are other elements, including luck. I'm no better an actor in Out of Sight than I was in Batman and Robin, which I had shot six months earlier. And I was killed for Batman and Robin and praised for Out of Sight. The second and third rounds in your career are the ones that define you.

What did you learn this year?

Any time I think I'm smart, I'm not. There's a great movie, Out of the Past, where Robert Mitchum says, "I never found out much listening to myself." So what I'm learning more every year is to listen to other people. We talked to John McCain for a while when we were in Washington, and he talks about how the polarization of the Senate really happened in '94. Guys stopped spending the weekend in town having drinks and solving each other's issues.

So the problem with Congress is that they don't drink enough?

We're going to have to get these guys doing shots of Jagermeister. I want to see Orrin Hatch downing some Goldschlager.

What else would you like to see?

Everybody says, "Look at how bad these guys [the Bush administration] are." Well, that's easy, they're beating themselves into the ground. But we can't just be the party of "I disagree." We have to be the party of "here's the way out." These Democratic senators voted for the war and say they were misled. They weren't misled, they were afraid of being called unpatriotic. Who's the guy or girl who's going to step up and say, "We're going to run out of oil sooner or later, so let's take the bull by the horns and say ten years from now, no cars built that run on internal combustion"? It's going to happen at some point, so why don't we take the lead? Then we don't have to bomb people in Middle Eastern countries -- we just don't need their product.

Are you hopeful about the future?

I think we're really great at this as a country: We do dumb things, and then we fix them. 1941, Pearl Harbor: We grab all the Japanese-Americans and throw them in detention camps. Well, that's not very sporting of us, but we fix it. In the Fifties, we grab people because they read a newspaper and bring them in for investigation. Pretty dumb. Vietnam? Pretty stupid. But there seems to be a tide turning. The Democrats aren't providing the answers, but the Republicans aren't getting free passes on everything. You don't get to say you're either with us or with the enemy anymore. So I'm an optimist about the United States.

King Clooney and the 10 Best Movies of 2005

Two kings ruled Hollywood this year: Kong and Clooney. Peter Jackson's epic eased the pain of 2005's sagging box office (down eight percent from last year). And George Clooney, taking on Big Oil (Syriana) and Big Media (Good Night, and Good Luck), eased the pain of audiences starved for challenge. The best movies, from David Cronenberg's A History of Violence to Paul Haggis' Crash, came from renegades eager to light a fire of provocation about the way we live now. You could see the flame from Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain to Steven Spielberg's Munich. Burn, baby, burn.

3. Syriana
Directed by Stephen Gaghan

George Clooney, as actor and executive producer of this political fireball, has had to endure rave reviews that complain about how complicated it is to follow the hairpin turns of the plot. "Should a movie be this much work?" asked one critic. Wow, we've reached an age where even reviewers have to apologize to audiences for a movie that asks them to use their brains instead of just sitting back and letting Hollywood formula work them over. Director Stephen Gaghan has written a corrosive, many-tentacled script that actually lets you see the links between the oil crisis in the Middle East, Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and the collusion of the White House with business interests whose main concern -- to quote a great Gaghan line -- is providing "the illusion of due diligence."

4. Good Night, and Good Luck
Directed by George Clooney

George Clooney, as actor, director and co-writer of this riveting look at TV news, has some people asking what's the point of dredging up a fifty-year-old battle between TV newsman Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn in a performance that deserves to be legendary) and the infamous commie-hunter Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Everyone knows that TV news is impervious to bullying from advertisers and political opportunists. Everyone knows that Murrow's fear about television was ungrounded -- the box would never be used as an instrument to "distract, delude, amuse and insulate." Clooney merits credit for the uniformly strong acting, notably from Frank Langella as the wittily imperious CBS chairman, Bill Paley, and Patricia Clarkson as Shirley Wershba, a reporter coping with working in a world of men. Clooney's direction is so assured that only in hindsight do you realize the extent of his achievement. Shooting in black-and-white (cheers to cinematographer Robert Elswit) to evoke the Fifties, Clooney eases us smoothly through the hermetic world of the newsroom until we can almost inhale the cigarette smoke and the creative energy of journalists doing their best work under siege. As a piece of direction, it's a tour de force.

Merlin
More than a little bit enthusiastic about Clooney

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Re: Rolling Stone Interview..December 2005

Post by Katiedot on Tue Jan 04 2011, 12:23

Great article - he totally called it for Lynsey Lohan, didn't he?

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Re: Rolling Stone Interview..December 2005

Post by melbert on Tue Jan 04 2011, 13:12

He saw the writing on the wall...

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Re: Rolling Stone Interview..December 2005

Post by it's me on Thu Jan 06 2011, 17:02

what does it mean?

it's me
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Re: Rolling Stone Interview..December 2005

Post by Casey on Thu Jan 06 2011, 17:18

Merlin wrote:GEORGE CLOONEY

RENEGADE of the YEAR

-- but, really, who wants seventy virgins? I want eight pros.

Er, sometimes, he makes it too easy, so I wouldn't bother making the obvious joke here. LOL.

Casey
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Re: Rolling Stone Interview..December 2005

Post by Merlin on Thu Jan 06 2011, 17:50

Ha ha more like 80!

Merlin
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Re: Rolling Stone Interview..December 2005

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