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INT: Clooney/Damon, Cheadle

Dec. 9, 2004by:

A sequel to a remake? Sure, it sounds absurd, but when the remake in question is OCEAN'S 11, it makes all the sense in the world. After Soderbergh’s hip take on the Rat Pack classic struck gold at the box office, the director hatched a plan to get the crew back together for a second film. Not that it was difficult to get Clooney, Pitt and the rest of the gang back together. The way they talk about it, making these films is like one big party where Soderbergh just happens to be walking around with a camera. Not a bad way to make a living.

A few weeks ago I trekked down to the Bighorn Country Club in Palm Desert, California, for a couple of huge press conferences to promote the film. Here are some excerpts from the first one, featuring George Clooney, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle. The guys spent most of the time joking around and riffing off each other, occasionally mentioning something about the film. Check out what they had to say about OCEAN'S 12, opening this Friday.

What was the atmosphere on the set like?

GC: It was really, there was no camaraderie at all on the set on this one. Quite honestly, nobody, Brad set the tone, and he's such a movie star it was very hard to, it was fun, we had a great time. Always, fun people, except for Julia. We don't like her, or her twins.

DC: Definitely I would have to agree with Matt. Steve set the tone and I loved this film, he could've been really safe and tried to do the same thing over again but this film was a complete departure and a lot more fun I think that opened it up and I think it's a testament that he can do that and--

GC: And Jerry [Weintraub, the producer] too. Jerry getting everybody together makes a big difference. Those are the two cool elements of this group. The rest of them are kind of dorks.

There’s a joke in the movie about your character being 50 years old. Was that improvised?

GC: That actually came from, that actually happened to me. We put that into the script because I was in Italy last year and some younger girl said to me, "George, how old are you?" And I was stupid enough to ask the question that you should never ask, "Well, how old do you think I am?" And she said, "Fifty.” I mean, "You think I'm 50 years old?" She said, "If you want.” So Steven thought it would be funny to put it in the film.

MD: That should come under regret.

GC: Yeah, I'd file that under Ewok.

How do you avoid the potential pitfalls of making a sequel?

GC: Right, well there's all these egos involved, that's a problem, you could imagine. You know, the secret was, the truth was, we didn't start the first one with the idea of doing a second, so the second one came about organically. We were literally in Rome and Steven – who had never been to Italy before – we were sitting in a restaurant and he looked up and said, “I've got an idea for a sequel.” And we hadn't, the film hadn't opened, or maybe it had just opened, I think. We were doing the press thing for it. So, you know, the truth of the matter is we wouldn't have shown up if Steven hadn't had an idea, a different way of telling the story, you know.

The problem with sequels, as we all agree, is that it's usually just a sort of rehash of the film before it, and trying to take the things that work and Steven had a way of saying, “Well, let's mix up what just happened in the first one and really throw these guys off.”  We thought, well that's a really interesting idea and a reason to do a sequel. There are a lot of pitfalls in it, you know, one is that we had to work with Jerry again and, no, the only danger in it is to repeat yourself, and the only danger in it is to repeat yourself. (laughs)

You’re known for your pranks. Were there any on this film?

GC: There were. We did a few pranks. There were some antics. The fun part I think for us there was always in Rome at the top of the Derussi Hotel, outside Jerry built basically a restaurant bar on top of this hotel so we didn't have to go anywhere, so every night after work there'd be, I don't know, 40 or 50 of us just sitting up there.

Brad did some dastardly things to me. He was, when we were in Rome, you guys might have already heard the story, but when we were in Rome, we first got to Italy, Brad had a memo put out in Italian that said to all the Italian crew that Mr Clooney would appreciate it if you would only engage him as Danny Ocean or Mr. Ocean, don't look at him in the eyes.

MD: The memo was just as if George had written it.

GC: And he handed it out so it really sound like I was trying to stay in character, so for about a month that went around. Everywhere I went, it was like, “OK, Mr. Ocean,” until I finally said, “What the hell is everyone (doing)?” And when I found out, when it got into the paper that I was like this diva that made all the crew call me Mr. Ocean, I felt like I had to get him. So I just put a bumper sticker on the back of his car that said, there were two. I put one on that went for a few days that said "I'm gay and I vote," – it’s a political year – and then it was "Small Penis on Board.” And that ran for a few days too. 

MD: That was right on the side door so as he drove through LA rush hour--

GC: On the passenger door.

MD/DC: People were honking at him and waving. And he thinks it's because he's Brad Pitt and he's waving back.

Any chance there will be another sequel?

GC: We came up with our own theory, which was the musical, Oceans 5,6,7,8. Look, we're not even thinking about it. Honestly, we really aren't. The only reason we did it at the last one because Steven said here's a great idea. Jerry said let's put it together. So…

MD: If Steven and Jerry wanted to do it, everyone in the cast would be open to it. They're really fun things to work on.

GC: For everyone except for Steven and Jerry. They had to work.

What’s it like working with a director who is also a cameraman?

MD: For me it really allowed me to trust him because I know that he's not sitting forty feet away looking at a 4½" monitor trying to decide if you really hit the mark right there, and suddenly he'll put the camera down, say something to you, and go again, it's really intimate.  I really like the way he

What’s the most important element of a good caper movie?

GC: I think in almost every good caper movie, the caper's the least important part. In Eleven, the caper wasn't the most important part, it was sort of the camaraderie. You want to have a good story, and you want to have a good fun caper but I don't think the caper is, I think the mistake that filmmakers make is when they decide that the caper's the most important thing in the film. It's like everybody failed for so long in making, until Get Shorty, they failed to make Leonard's films because instead of focusing on the characters, they were focusing on the capers and the capers, in all Leonard books, were not particularly good but the characters were amazing you know. Then all of a sudden you see it done well (with) Get Shorty and Out of Sight and you go, “Oh, focus on the characters.”  It can get complicated and too much I think but that wasn't our main concern.

Matt, are you happy to have a bigger part this time around?

MD: No, actually I asked for a smaller part. I wanted to just do less and work less because I was pretty tired.

GC: You know he shows off, he's like, he's got a big hit sequel hit coming out already. I think I should have a bigger part, so we gave it to him.

MD: Actually, it came out, I don't know how the character ended up being such a kind of bungler in this movie, and I think it was a reaction to doing the Bourne Supremacy, and I was just so sick of being right in everything, that I wanted to play a guy who wasn't right very often.

GC: Every time Matt does this in the movie, I howl.

The gang isn’t nearly as cool this time around. What was it like changing things up?

MD: It's a lot more fun, working without really, playing people who are totally fallible and screwing up, it was a lot more fun this time around.

GC: It's sort of the natural progression of you know, the first one was, we really planned it out. We decided to do it, we weren't forced into the situation where we had to do it and all of a sudden when we were on the defensive, it was a completely different set of rules, and that was, to me, what I think was the most fun, the audience and we all felt that we may not pull this off.

MD: And also you're introducing a new character, the central character in the movie who's trying to catch us so if it seems like we're just going to get away with it, it kind of weakens that character's structure. You want her to be one step ahead of us, you want her to be formidable. And you want Vincent's character to be formidable as well.

Why does the film appear grittier?

GC: The first one actually was shot less-- it wasn’t as grand as I think people remember it. When you look at it, it’s still a lot of handheld camera. Steven uses things, he’s always been trying to bring into it the things he learned from independent films, foreign films, back into studio pictures. I think this is another step towards that which is I think you're right. It’s a little grittier but it’s still high end entertainment. It doesn’t seem to be- - we’re not disemboweling anyone. Well, there were a couple we did.

DC: I don’t think those made it.

GC: No, they were cut.

DC: That got cut. Oh, I think it’s on a much bigger pallet than the first one. And I think he’s playing with colors in a different way and sound. I just think it’s a lot more fun and it moves more. It’s a lot more kinetic than the first one to me. And I think that as George was saying, he’s bringing elements into big studio feature films from an independent world, from a foreign world, things to me that are always much more exciting than just sort of the standard slick Hollywood take.

What did you learn about each other on this movie?

MD: Which way do we go with that one?

GC: Well, let’s start with the bumper sticker. I don't know.

DC: I’m going to try to answer this really honestly, so if I put you to sleep, I’m sorry. I don't think I learned more about anybody necessarily this time, but I am definitely closer to everybody. That’s what was kind of cool about this one. The first day that we came back to work in Chicago, the first day all of us were back together, we just stood around for two hours just talking and just reminiscing. Different groupings that we made and Steven was kind of walking through it, letting us just sort of get reacquainted.

And then after a couple hours we were all saying, “Are we going to shoot? Are we going to work today?”  Everyone said yeah, it kind of feels comfortable here. We all went to lunch and when we came back, Steven had all these chalk marks drawn on the floor and angles and heights and had done the whole thing in his head. I thought, “What a bizarre and cool way to block a scene. Just kind of hang out and talk as we would” and then you see that scene and see what he did. It’s mindblowing.

GC: It’s also, this isn’t a group of guys who just got together for one movie before this. We did Out of Sight together, we did Fail Safe together, we’ve worked on a lot of project together. You’ve done Traffic with Steven. You and I have worked together on other projects. This whole group of people, it’s a group we really enjoy not just working with but being around. So when you all get together in a room, it is really fun. There is a good sense of camaraderie not just because you like the guys, but because you get to work with them a lot.

George and Matt, can you tell us about your next project, Syriana?

MD: If you saw Traffic, it’s written by Steve Gaghan who wrote Traffic. And Gaghan is directing. George and Steven Soderbergh are producing it. Structurally, it’s really similar to Traffic in that it’s four or five different storylines converging around one topic, but in this case the topic is oil instead of drugs. So it’s structurally similar to Traffic and it’s a big directing job for Steve Gaghan. Hopefully, so far, so good.

GC: Yeah, it’s going great and Jeffrey Wright’s in it. It’s a great cast and it’s about corruption. It deals with oil in some of the same ways that Traffic dealt with the war on drugs. So if we don’t screw it up, it’s a really interesting premise and a really interesting movie. We’ll see. We’ve got our fingers crossed.

MD: But we could screw it up.

GC: Oh, we’re very good at screwing things up.

How much of the plot and scenes were improvised?

MD: Well, structurally, heist movies in general scriptwise have to be really tight because there are so many storylines going and so much happening and they’re so plot oriented a lot of the time, so there was leeway for all of us within a set structure, but the script was pretty--

GC: Had to be pretty tight by design.

MD: But there are still a lot of little character stuff that were open to us. Eight or nine months out, Steven sent us all a script with a note attached saying call me with ideas, suggestions. And Steven tends to  be really- - the environment’s incredibly relaxed so it’s kind of fair game that you take a shot with stuff and see if you get a reaction from him and if he starts chuckling, then you stay with it. And if not, you go running back with your tail between your legs to the script.

How did you get any work done? What was a typical day like?

MD: I think Steven Soderbergh, I’m sure he sees these things about how much fun it was and he wants to throttle us because really, the heavy lifting on these movies really does fall to Steven, which he likes. He likes it that way. He’s a creatively really restless person, loves to work and I think that’s one of the reasons he likes to direct and be the cinematographer and camera operator and go home and edit at night. So these movies, for me anyway, they’re always going to feel easier just because the work’s divided up 12 different ways. We’re used to doing movies where we go every day to work and we’re working five, six days a week and never have a day off. In Ocean’s, we have three days off a week or something like that. The days we work, we really did work.

GC: We get up, we go to work at a decent hour. We would work for, I don't know, eight, nine hours. And then start drinking. Go to the rooftop, start drinking.

George, when you gained the extra weight for Syriana, were you treated differently by people you encountered?

GC: Yes, I did, thank you. And I’m 50.

MD: Well, it’s not like when Gwyneth Paltrow put on the fat suit and nobody could recognize her. He looked like George. He just looked really heavy and like 50.

GC: These are my friends. Imagine the people who aren’t m y friends, what they’d do. No, listen, it’s a good thing. I wouldn’t do it again. I’ll do it once. I’m in the process of trying to lose a lot of that weight. It’s hard on your system.  It was interesting too. You were certainly less recognizable and that made it sort of interesting, but we were in some places you didn’t really want to go out anyway. Over in the middle east so Matt and I stayed in our hotel rooms a lot.

MD: Eating.

GC: Eating and eating and eating.

MD: I put on 20 pounds for no reason. It was not a character choice, just an accident.

How difficult was it to bring all the stars back? Did anyone hesitate?

DC: Brad. Brad Pitt.

MD: Brad Pitt.

GC: Brad Pitt. Prettyboy Pitt. You know, he’s been a little upset because of the Jude Law sexiest man thing. You should ask him- - He knows we’re going to tee off on him when he comes in here because he has been talking about it quite a bit. He was down, it hurt him.

MD: I’m friends with Jude because we did Ripley together and I’m a little worried for him just because Brad’s really pissed off.

GC: I will say this because I did get a look at the list and Don’s on the list and Matt’s on the list and Bruce Willis is on the list and Brad’s on the list. I don’t want to talk about that. We’re really excited for Matt because- -

DC: We’re doing a write in campaign.

GC: For years now, you guys know this, that this is something Matt’s really wanted, Sexiest Man Alive and Jude really ran a good campaign we felt like and we think that--

MD: Nothing you can do with a campaign like that. It was a strong campaign.

GC: No, but by the way, being on the list means that in the event he can’t serve, you could actually be bumped up.

MD: That’s right, which I’m hoping, kind of like my Eve moment--

GC: Yeah, you might move up.

MD: Jump in there, but we’ve got to get George to get the 50 and over sexiest man alive.

Warning – spoiler ahead!

Where did the idea of the bit involving Julia Roberts’s pregnancy come from?

GC: Well, it came out of, it sort of came up accidentally because Julia, in the middle of filming I think the first month of shooting, we read in the paper that she was pregnant and everything sort of changed suddenly. Uh-oh, we’ve got to rethink what we’re doing here. But the question was whether or not Julia was willing to do something as ballsy as that, which is to make fun of herself or celebrity or whatever that is. And it's a hard thing to do because you’re using yourself as a target. And she just jumped in with both feet.

MD: Yeah, that whole sequence hinges on her completely going for it, her being starstruck when Bruce Willis comes in and that whole sequence is completely driven by her. In terms of shooting, that was probably the most fun that we had. Don turned to me at one point and said, “I’m actually doing a pratfall.” We were just completely over the top. It was a blast to shoot. It was really, really fun and it became evident that it was going to be really fun when she showed up in the first take and she was just so good. She was clearly just taking the leap off the cliff so we went with her.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com.

Source: JoBlo.com

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