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Interview from 2000: New York Times

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Interview from 2000: New York Times

Post by Katiedot on Fri Jan 28 2011, 13:45

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FILM; George Clooney And His Stormy Career

By DANA KENNEDY

Published: June 25, 2000

BURBANK, Calif. — UNLIKE some of the movie and television sets George Clooney has worked on over the years, the six-month shoot for his new film, ''The Perfect Storm,'' though physically grueling, was harmonious. Mr. Clooney's only real disagreement was with the film's dialect coach, who urged him to adopt a Boston accent for his part as a blue-collar sea captain in the true story of six Massachusetts fishermen lost during a terrible storm in 1991.

''I said no, the Boston accent is the hardest one to do,'' said Mr. Clooney, 39, while sitting in his office at his company, Maysville Pictures, on the Warner Brothers lot. ''I'm a fairly famous guy, and when you suddenly hear me with a weird accent it'll take away from everything else. I don't want the audience spending the first 15 minutes of this movie like the RCA Victor dog, trying to figure out what I'm doing.'' Indeed, while Mr. Clooney's co-stars Mark Wahlberg and Diane Lane affect Boston accents in the film, which is based on the 1997 book by Sebastian Junger, Mr. Clooney's character, Capt. Billy Tyne, sounds, he said, ''like a guy who could be from anywhere.''

Not embarrassing himself by attempting a tricky accent is just one of many quirky and often savvy decisions Mr. Clooney has made throughout his 18-year career in Hollywood. Lately he has become the frequent subject of breathless magazine articles focusing on his good looks, charm and bachelor status. (He was married in his 20's to the actress Talia Shire and has repeatedly said he does not want to marry again or have children.) He is also a staple in the tabloids, which chronicled the broad swath Mr. Clooney recently cut through the Cannes Film Festival, attractive female ''journalists'' never far from his side.

But the story of his rocky though successful rise from television bit player to NBC's smash hit ''E.R.,'' and, most recently, to movie stardom, reveals an actor who can be as confrontational as he is affable, as tough as he is thin-skinned, who often really did do it his way.

Mr. Clooney worked his way up from ''a seventh banana in mediocre TV'' to his current asking price of $12 million a film by taking risks and vigorously standing up for himself, even if that assertiveness alienated some powerful people in Hollywood. One of his former directors called him a ''gigantic pain''; another simply said he was ''difficult.''

''Everyone in Hollywood is scared and they'll totally compromise themselves to get ahead,'' said the comedian Roseanne Barr, who worked with Mr. Clooney during the first year of her sitcom before he abruptly quit. ''But George is his own man. He's not for sale.''

While he admits to great ambition, Mr. Clooney has conducted himself like the anti-Eddie Haskell in an industry fueled by sycophancy. ''I'm an actor, but I'm also a businessman and a bit of a hothead,'' said Mr. Clooney, who in person is as charming as advertised and entirely without airs, though his easy manner seems to mask a very guarded nature. ''This town is run by fear, but I've always had a line that I would not cross. It may have cost me some jobs, but at least I can look myself in the eye in the mirror every morning.''

Mr. Clooney walked away from his role (as the scruffy foreman) on ''Roseanne'' in 1989, when it was the No. 1 show in the country, because he felt he wasn't good in the part, and he quit the 1991 comedy ''Baby Talk'' after a bitter fight with the executive producer. He was fired from the sitcom ''The Facts of Life'' in 1986 by the producer after just one season and then reluctantly rehired because he was still under contract. The battles often occurred, he said, when he felt he or a colleague was being mistreated.

His on-set skirmishes didn't end after he became a film star. As recently as 1998, during the filming of the Gulf War movie ''Three Kings,'' Mr. Clooney said, he came to blows with the director, David O. Russell. ''We throttled each other,'' said Mr. Clooney, who said Mr. Russell treated many of the cast and crew badly. ''It was a really bad experience.''

Mr. Russell agreed. ''There were times when I felt like killing George and he felt like killing me,'' he said.

YET for all the directors and producers who have felt Mr. Clooney's wrath, many who have worked with him rhapsodize about him. During a television press junket for ''The Perfect Storm'' last week in Gloucester, Mass., Mr. Wahlberg and Ms. Lane said Mr. Clooney's wit and penchant for practical jokes buoyed cast and crew alike during three months in Gloucester and during the even tougher three months spent filming inside wave-strewn studio tanks in Los Angeles.

Mr. Wahlberg and Mr. Clooney play two of the fishermen who were aboard the 72-foot Andrea Gail when it ran into a killer northeaster while returning from a swordfishing trip to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. The bond between the two actors, who starred in ''Three Kings'' and who will be reunited in the remake of ''Ocean's Eleven,'' is typical of the friendships Mr. Clooney forms with colleagues.

''He's the greatest guy in the world,'' said Leslie Moonves, the president of CBS, who signed Mr. Clooney to a contract when he was head of the Warner Brothers studio in 1990 and helped groom him for stardom. ''The minute he walked into my office at Warner Brothers we clicked, and I also knew he was going to be a big star.''

Mr. Moonves has maintained a close relationship with Mr. Clooney, though he moved to CBS in 1995. Mr. Moonves greenlighted the actor's risky, live, black-and-white remake of ''Fail Safe,'' which was shown in April. Mr. Clooney produced the show and agreed to act in it after Mr. Moonves asked him to.

''George is not a vanity producer,'' Mr. Moonves said. ''Every single piece of that project was overseen by George.''

Mr. Moonves said they argued only about one of the actors Mr. Clooney wanted in the cast. ''I was at the Super Bowl and came back to my hotel to a 20-minute message on my answering machine,'' Mr. Moonves recalled. ''It was George explaining why this guy was the right actor. He even said he'd pay the guy's salary if he had to. I said, 'If you're that determined to have him, he's yours.' Of course he never paid his salary, but there was $20 from George on my desk when I got back.''

That determination was slow to surface. During his youth in Kentucky, where he grew up as the son of a newscaster and a former model, Mr. Clooney described himself as ''without much focus and drive.'' He dropped out of Northern Kentucky University, where he had been majoring in broadcast journalism, and decided to move to Hollywood to try acting after his cousin, the actor Miguel Ferrer, came to Kentucky to shoot a movie and wangled Mr. Clooney a bit part.

His father, who had briefly attempted an acting career without much success, urged his son not to go. ''I just felt the odds were stacked against it,'' said Nick Clooney, who has been a news anchor in Cincinnati, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles and the host of the American Movie Classics network. ''Of course if he'd listened to me he'd be the No. 1 D.J. in Ashland, Ky., now.''

Mr. Clooney drove to Los Angeles in a beat-up old car in 1982 with $300 he had earned working in the tobacco fields near his home that summer. He lived briefly with his aunt, the singer Rosemary Clooney, and then moved in with other struggling actor friends. That first year, Mr. Clooney got parts in commercials and small roles in forgettable television shows like ''Riptide.'' He had so little money he bicycled around Los Angeles to auditions, carrying a change of clothes in his backpack.

In 1984, he was offered a role in the soap opera ''Santa Barbara'' for $1,400 a week but his agent said no. ''He was convinced there was better work around the corner and there was,'' Mr. Clooney said. ''But it was hard to turn that money down when I didn't have any.''

Mr. Clooney joined the cast of a short-lived sitcom called, coincidentally, ''E.R.'' in 1984 and then moved to ''The Facts of Life'' in 1985. He enjoyed his first year, cheerfully calling his performance on the show ''the worst combination of overconfidence and bad acting you've ever seen in your life.''

He was fired at the start of his second season by the show's new producer, who accused him of sabotaging the weekly run-through of the show in front of network executives. Mr. Clooney said the opposite was true. He said the script had been so bad that the show's stars had wanted to give a deliberately poor performance for the network but he urged them against it.

Mr. Clooney was eventually rehired on ''The Facts of Life,'' but it was a taste of things to come. In 1991 he was cast in the comedy ''Baby Talk'' and clashed with its powerful producer, Ed. Weinberger, who had also produced ''The Mary Tyler Moore Show'' and ''Taxi.'' Mr. Clooney remembers telling Mr. Weinberger one day that everyone used an expletive to describe him whenever the producer left the room.

Mr. Weinberger, for his part, said Mr. Clooney became upset when he fired the show's co-star and replaced her with a different actress. Mr. Clooney became even more angry, according to Mr. Weinberger, when he had to fire the original set of twins who played the baby of the title. ''The audience hated those first babies,'' Mr. Weinberger said. ''We had to get cuter ones. The babies didn't know they were being fired. But George blamed me.''

The parting was so volatile that Mr. Clooney worried he might be blacklisted. ''I remember him calling up and saying Weinberger warned him he'd never work in that town again and he said, 'Pop, maybe he means it,' '' Nick Clooney said.

NICK Clooney also has a history of standing up to his bosses and leaving jobs in which he felt compromised. He walked away from a contract at KNBC in Los Angeles when he felt the quality of the news stories was deteriorating, and he clashed with Roger Ailes, now the president of the Fox News Channel, when they both worked in Cincinnati. ''It was very dangerous for George to quit 'Baby Talk,' but I told him it was the right thing to do,'' Nick Clooney said. ''No matter how frightening it feels to jump into the void, you keep your integrity and eventually something even better comes along.''

Sure enough, Mr. Clooney swiftly landed a $40,000-a-week role on the series ''Sisters.'' But his dream of becoming a film actor -- his roles in ''Attack of the Killer Tomatoes'' (1987) and ''Horror High'' (1988) notwithstanding -- eluded him. He was asked to read for a one-line part in the 1994 movie ''Guarding Tess,'' but Mr. Clooney was so insulted by the size of the role that he refused to audition. ''I decided to stop thinking of myself as a movie actor working temporarily in TV and just try to do better TV,'' Mr. Clooney said. ''And at that moment, everything changed.''

Not long after, Mr. Clooney heard about a pilot for an NBC program called ''E.R.'' and lobbied hard for the part of Dr. Doug Ross, even turning down a pilot for a series in which he would have starred. ''On paper 'E.R.' was the much smaller role in an ensemble,'' Mr. Moonves said. ''But he read both scripts and his instinct was 'E.R.' was better. He's very smart about material.''

With the success of ''E.R.,'' Mr. Clooney was cast opposite Quentin Tarantino in his first big movie, ''From Dusk Till Dawn,'' in 1996. He called it ''the biggest break of my career.''

Despite high-profile roles in subsequent movies like the critically reviled ''Batman and Robin'' and the underrated ''Out of Sight,'' Mr. Clooney has yet to open a blockbuster. But he professes not to care. He worked for a much smaller salary -- $1 million -- on the upcoming Coen Brothers movie, ''O Brother Where Art Thou?'' and he plans to produce and write as well as act in the future.

His dream project is one that he and Mr. Moonves are developing together about the legendary broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and his showdown with Senator Joseph McCarthy. ''I want to do it for my father,'' Mr. Clooney said. ''Murrow was a hero in our house. It'll be all about everything he and I believe in.''

Correction: June 25, 2000, Sunday An article on Page 11 of Arts & Leisure today about George Clooney refers incorrectly in some copies to the actress to whom he was married. She was Talia Balsam, not Talia Shire.

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Re: Interview from 2000: New York Times

Post by melbert on Sat Jan 29 2011, 01:54

I love these old interviews! Thanks so much Katie!

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Re: Interview from 2000: New York Times

Post by it's me on Sat Jan 29 2011, 12:53

thanks

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Re: Interview from 2000: New York Times

Post by PigLove on Mon Jan 31 2011, 17:05

It's rare for him to be portrayed as "difficult" even in a good-guy way. Thanks Katie!

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Re: Interview from 2000: New York Times

Post by melbert on Mon Jan 31 2011, 21:56

I think that when it comes to his work, George has such high morals and standards that when he believes something is not right, he becomes vocal and fights for what he believes is right.

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Re: Interview from 2000: New York Times

Post by it's me on Mon Jan 31 2011, 23:07

I think you are right

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Re: Interview from 2000: New York Times

Post by melbert on Mon Jan 31 2011, 23:50

Wish he had the same ethics with his women...

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Re: Interview from 2000: New York Times

Post by Katiedot on Tue Feb 01 2011, 05:18

melbert wrote:I think that when it comes to his work, George has such high morals and standards that when he believes something is not right, he becomes vocal and fights for what he believes is right.
I agree.

I also think that he's a pretty strong prescence and could have a tendancy to 'take over' a bit, which is certainly going to annoy those who think they're in charge.

I forget where I read it, but there was one mention in an old, old article about him kind of 'setting up camp' on set, playing basketball and hanging around the crew. That behaviour tends to undermine the authority of directors, producers etc.

Irrespective of whether that behaviour is intentional, unintentional or just passive-aggressive, there's bound to be people who get rubbed up the wrong way.

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Re: Interview from 2000: New York Times

Post by melbert on Tue Feb 01 2011, 14:47

Mr. Wahlberg and Mr. Clooney play two of the fishermen who were aboard the 72-foot Andrea Gail when it ran into a killer northeaster while returning from a swordfishing trip to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. The bond between the two actors, who starred in ''Three Kings'' and who will be reunited in the remake of ''Ocean's Eleven,'' is typical of the friendships Mr. Clooney forms with colleagues.


I just re-read the article and didn't realize that Mark was going to be in Ocean's 11. Who did they put in for him, cuz' he certainly wasn't in 11?

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Re: Interview from 2000: New York Times

Post by Casey on Tue Feb 01 2011, 16:00

Melbert, Matt Damon got the part that Mark was supposed to get. I think, if my memory is right about what I read, is that Mark backed out of Oceans 11 to do that remake of Planet of the Apes, where he took the lead role, as opposed to the supporting role he would've played on O11. I think his decision to back out of O11 caused a rift between him and George. Matt stepped in and now he's officially George's Hollywood friend, a role that mark was poised to take. LOL.

There was an interview with mark maybe a year or so ago where he was asked about not doing the Oceans movies and this is what he said:

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Last edited by Casey on Tue Feb 01 2011, 18:43; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Interview from 2000: New York Times

Post by lucy on Tue Feb 01 2011, 16:05

I think MD did a great job in the ocean series,he has a better range than MW,and is funny.

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Re: Interview from 2000: New York Times

Post by melbert on Tue Feb 01 2011, 17:26

Now I remember hearing that! Duh! I can't see Mark in Matt's role. I think that Matt is an absolute "fit" for Linus!

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Re: Interview from 2000: New York Times

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