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Vanity Fair, November 2006

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Vanity Fair, November 2006

Post by Katiedot on Fri 23 Mar 2012, 22:24

We visit Casa Clooney for a chat about the producer-actor-director's latest film, The Good German; his plan to cause a New York media meltdown; and what his Aunt Rosemary (the Britney Spears of her day) taught him about keeping fame on a leash.

by Rich Cohen November 2006


America projects two kinds of power in the world: hard power, which is tanks, jets, and missiles, and soft power, which, at the moment, is George Clooney. He is dashing, and charming; his hair glistens; his dark, soupy, saloon-singer eyes shine. He is thinking and saying just the right thing at just the right moment. He is against the war and for the people and stands up to the bullies. He put David O. Russell in a choke hold during the filming of Three Kings because he did not like the bullying ways of the director. Years ago, while filming a TV pilot, he got in the face of a producer because the producer made a girl cry. O.K. That's just two dots. But connect them and you begin to see the picture.

Clooney was the first winner at the Academy Awards this year, and when he stood up, and he looked fantastic, and glittered like a jewel, he was talking for all of us. Like they say in the movies, "Someday, a hero will rise."

Behind him was a whole library of movies starred in, produced, and directed, a shelf surprisingly deep for a man who did not break out until he was in his 30s (he's 45 now), with his starring role in the TV hospital drama ER. Sure, there were some dogs, One Fine Day and Batman & Robin, but ever since he made that key decision—that if he was going down, he was going down swinging—the titles have been (mostly) excellent: O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Three Kings; Out of Sight; The Perfect Storm; Ocean's Eleven; Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which Clooney directed; Good Night, and Good Luck—he co-wrote and directed that—and Intolerable Cruelty. He's now filming Ocean's Thirteen—the poster of which he says should read, "Ocean's Thirteen … better than Ocean's Twelve."

His new movie, directed by Steven Soderbergh and co-starring Cate Blanchett, is The Good German. "I will tell you right now—she will win the Oscar," Clooney says. "She's the best actor working today. Not actress, she's an actor. Intimidating, in a way, to work with an actor that good."

Shot in black and white, it's an homage to the wartime noirs, in which the American hero gets lost in the muck of old Europe. "Everybody's right and everybody's wrong," he told me. "Everybody's a little dirty along the way." It's a kind of smoothie, with ingredients consisting of equal parts Chinatown, The Third Man, and Casablanca. It's as if Clooney took a machine back through time to make a movie with Billy Wilder.

It can and has been argued that Clooney is the last of the old-time movie stars, a throwback to Jimmy Stewart or Gregory Peck, or the master himself, Cary Grant, the only American actor who radiates a calming sense of adulthood, the only grown-up in the room. It's this persona—the decent man in a cockeyed world gone wrong—that he carries from role to role and that makes you cheer him the way the studio audience used to cheer every time Fonzie came on the set. Maybe he's a doctor, maybe he's a convict, but Clooney is always Clooney the way Gable was always Gable.

It's not just his looks, or fabulous gift for bull****, but his political stands, evident in the movies he makes. He was at the awards for Syriana, a Stephen Gaghan picture in which Clooney played (get this) a conscience-ridden C.I.A. agent lost in a hall of mirrors, and no matter how fast or far you ride, ka-bam! And let's face it, that's America in the world today. He got fat to play the role, and acted up a storm, and cast down his eyes, and let himself be tortured. He was tied to a chair and beaten in this scene, and when, in a fit of Method, he went wild and turned over the chair, he was badly injured. For a time, when blowing his nose, he thought he was blowing snot but was really blowing spinal fluid.
Did Lee Strasberg ever expectorate spinal fluid?

He got the award for that one—best supporting. He was also there for Good Night, and Good Luck—his movies had eight nominations in all—which he co-wrote, directed, and acted in. (Clooney recently dissolved his longtime producing partnership with director Steven Soderbergh, with whom he has made, among others, Solaris, Out of Sight, and Ocean's Eleven.

"Two years ago we announced we were only going to run till 2006," he told me. "We just felt things have a beginning, a middle, an end.") Good Night, and Good Luck was shot in black and white (so that old news footage could be blended with new scenes) and was righteous in an Ezekiel-in-the-desert sort of way, a retelling of the prime-time battle between Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy, which was really a thinly disguised fable about Fox News and the Bush administration—a cry in the face of barking dogs.

Clooney was cool and sharp in his acceptance speech, but what he said was less important than what he was doing—he was surfing, riding the crest of outrage that was pouring out of Hollywood. Here was a man who had stood up and was not scared by the power of Washington or the madness of Republicans or the madness of war. O.K., so maybe he was a little too self-satisfied. Think of the studio head in the Coen brothers' Barton Fink talking to the screenwriter: "This is a wrestling picture. The audience wants to see action, adventure, wrestling, and plenty of it. They don't want to see a guy wrestling with his soul—well, all right, a little bit for the critics—but you make it the carrot that wags the dog." And maybe he spoke a little too much about the historical greatness of the movie industry. "We talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular," he said, "and we, you know, we bring up subjects. This academy, this group of people, gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939, when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters." Hattie McDaniel? Didn't she play Mammy in Gone with the Wind? Isn't that kind of like giving the woman on the syrup bottle an award for her portrayal of Aunt Jemima?

But Clooney is a movie star, and was speaking his mind, and not a jokester like Jon Stewart, and not a funny man like Ben Stiller, but a pop aristocrat—Atticus Finch standing down the mob that wants to lynch that poor Negro. And so a miracle had happened: an adult had appeared in a world of children, a senior in a nation of sophomores. Handsome, gray-haired, thin-hipped, dark-eyed George Clooney, the last American man.

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Re: Vanity Fair, November 2006

Post by Katiedot on Fri 23 Mar 2012, 22:32

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Re: Vanity Fair, November 2006

Post by it's me on Fri 23 Mar 2012, 22:43

oh my
I remember
that article...
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Re: Vanity Fair, November 2006

Post by melbert on Sat 24 Mar 2012, 16:05

romantic george... can't you just get lost in all that...
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