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INT: George Clooney


Every now and again, my willpower will be tested at one of these press junkets. This was one of those times! I think many women would agree that having a hunky piece of manmeat like George Clooney so close in proximity is as cruel as waving a piece of candy in front of a child. Aside from the fact that he has regained the title of ďSexiest Man AliveĒ, he is a multiple award winning, multi-talented actor partnering again with Soderbergh in his upcoming film, THE GOOD GERMAN.

Having made a transition from television to an A-list Hollywood actor, producer, executive producer and director, some of Clooneyís previous credits include OCEAN'S ELEVEN and TWELVE, SYRIANA, GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK and OUT OF SIGHT. In THE GOOD GERMAN, he plays a U.S. war correspondent sent to Berlin just after WWII to cover the Potsdam Peace Conference, but sidetracked by his disillusioned former love and a mysterious murder. Shot in black and white, it emulates a classical Hollywood film with old world romance and mystery.

I had the great pleasure of meeting the super hot Clooney last week when he sat down to talk about making a different kind of film, the Oceanís franchise, the evolution of his career and on working with Soderbergh. Check out what the charismatic star of THE GOOD GERMAN had to say.

George Clooney

Your back is hurt, is it the same thing that happened before?

Yeah, same thing as before. It gets better and it gets worse. Itís not so bad. With a brace itís fine. Drink a little, a little Limoncello. (Laughs.) Unbelievable.

Do you feel pain every day?

Itís been bad for a couple of days, but it gets better.

Any more surgery?

No, no, no with surgery. Done with surgery. No more of that. Stop that.

Are you always this excited about with Steven?

We love working together. This is one we developed. We optioned the book and developed the script and there is that awful moment where we have to sit Alan Horn and Jeff Robinov down at Warner Bros. and tell them its black and white. They are really thrilled about that as you can imagine. But, no, every time I get a chance to work with him Iím happy. Iíve never had a bad experience with him.

Have you have gotten to live out the golden age of Hollywood with all these roles recently?

Yeah, in a way you do. Hereís the good news or the fun news for me was that for the past few years, weíve been able to push and do what we wanted to do. And you know as well as I do that that doesnít last forever, so you try and do things that no one is encouraging you to do. There is nobody at the studio going, ĎPlease make a black and white film about the Potsdam conference.í (Laughs.) ĎGive us another black and white about Edward R. Murrow in 1954.í Or ĎGive us ĎSyriana.íí There is nothing that they are like, ĎYeah, thatís what we were hoping for.í So, we get to push it for a while and you know they wonít let us do it for much longer, but weíre going to keep doing it for as long as we can. So, for us, itís an exciting time because we feel like weíve gotten away with something.

How would you say your relationship has changed over the past few movies?

I wouldnít say that it really has. I was a fan and stole ideas from him on Out of Sight. And Iím a fan and I steal ideas from him now. Over the years weíve become very good friends as well and thatís an important part of it, that weíve been able to spend a lot of time together and that we like each other a lot. But, I donít get that itís really changed. I just get the sense that I think the most of him as a director. Iíve been lucky between he and the Coen brothers. Iíve got a couple of people that I really enjoy working with who I also think play at the top of the game.

Do you have a particular affinity for the era of the 40ís and 50ís?

Maybe. I mean, my favorite time, in American cinema especially, is the mid Ď60ís to the mid Ď70ís. I just think thatísÖ if you look at the films that came out of that generation or that period of time. All those nuts. Itís just some amazing films. But, there is an awfully good eraÖI mean, we were looking atÖyou know Steven sent us films to look at for this film. Just to talk about things. Some of them I had seen before. Mildred Pierce I had seen. I liked John Garfield and the idea of John Garfield. I thought that was sort of an interesting guy to think about. And there was a Mitchum film called Out Of The Past, which I had never seen which was phenomenal. Iím really a fan of that kind of stuff.

Starting off in TV and then to the big Hollywood screen how have you developed as an actor?

Well, you hope youíre pushing things and growing. Usually, Ďcause you know I write and direct and produce. And as a writer or director or producer I can look at things a little more objectively then you can as an actor. So I can look at things that I wouldnít cast myself in and go, ĎAh, there are guys who could do that better than me.í So, I think one of the secrets as an actor is understanding your limitations and then trying to push things every time and do things differently. And trying to grow, but not trying to think there is something wrong with it.

Are there days when you donít take acting as seriously anymore?

No, not yet. But, youíre right, itíll happen. If I get a chance to act with Steven or Joel or EthanÖI did this film with Tony Gilroy coming out who did a wonderful job. If youíre given a good script, there is nothing more about it, to be an actor in that. Thatís exciting. Working with Cate. There isnít a moment thatís boring. On this film, this is as hard as anything Iíve ever done as an actor because itís a completely different style and you have to commit to it. You just canít stand outside and wink. You have to sort of lay in and be overly dramatic and painfully direct and not penalize things. Thatís really hard to do. To try and find a level that makes it believable. So, no, not yet, but Iím also working with directors I really love. If I get to that point, Iíll much rather direct. I like directing better.

How was winning an Oscar affected your career?

Itís changed everything. Iím much taller. (Laughs.) You know itís a funny thing. Itís one of those interesting things, because itís a nice thing and it always makes you feel you knowÖbut it makes absolutely no difference. Itís nice. You sit down with the studio and you tell them you want to make a film. Even if you carried it and set it down on the table. It just doesnít matter. They really donít care. Theyíre happy for you, ĎThatís great. Great George.í But it doesnít really make a difference in my day-to-day life of getting things done. My friends will come over and pick it up and go, ĎMan, thatís heavy.í Itís a nice thing.

How often do you need to mix the commercial movies in with the independent projects to make it all work?

We have to do them. You know Clintís the god. He sort of understood exactly how to do it. We have an office exactly right next-door, literally right next-door and Iíve seen him for ten years. Seen him every day. He gave a great pattern on how to do it and a smart way of doing it, which is you make one that does well commercially and it buys you two smaller ones along the way. And that seems to be what weíve been able to continually do it with Warner Brothers.

So, you wouldnít do another ďOceanísĒ movie to get smaller movies made?

No, well, this one happened because we felt like we could do it better than Twelve. We didnít want to go out getting socked in the chin on that one. We were both like, ĎWe know how to do this.í And we found a really good reason to do it, which is revenge. Which is always better than just money. That made sense to us and we went, ĎThatís a good reasoní and thatís the only reason to come back. I think, listen, ĎRocky 17í? Who knows? Maybe ten years from now Iíll need a job and Iíll think about it. But right now, we donít plan on it.

Do DVDís help you make money on those small ones now?

I think most of the time you lose money because it costs so much in the prints and ads. You know Good Night And Good Luck is the best example. We paid less than any other film that was in our category in terms of prints and ads out there. It cost $7 million to make the film and it was probably $25 million in ads. Which is a lot of money. So, suddenly, you have a $32 million for a $7 million film and we were the low point of those guys. Ultimately they did make their money back. We made $35 million or something here and probably about that overseas, so basically youíre breaking even and then they make money on DVD, but that doesnít happen very often. Itís a very interesting business. The DVD is where the money is.

Are you more forgiving when working with a first time director like Tony?

I didnít have to be forgiving with Tony. He really, really, really knew what he was doing. Sometimes you get with a director who is basically a first time director and they need a lot of handholding. I had one last year where there was a lot of work to be done. Tony is a grown-up. He knew what he wanted to shoot, he had plans. The biggest thing with a first time director is do they shoot with a point of view? Steven shoots with a point of view. Joel and Ethan shoot with a point of view. Thatís the secret. You donít want to just collect footage and get in an editing room and make a film, thatís the difference.

How difficult was it shooting Michael Clayton in New York ?

Itís always trickier shooting in New York , because youíre not going to get isolated anywhere. Itís very hard to get a moment, because thereís a lot of people around, but thatís also why you shoot in New York , because it gives you that energy.

You came out with a great plan to fake-out the tabloids by dating a different star every night.

Well, I was just kidding on the Vanity Fair article. I saw Leonardo DiCaprio yesterday, and I said, ďSorry, I made a joke.Ē

I was wondering why we didnít see you with a different person every day?

Look, because I was actually joking, and I actually do have to work, you know? I have a job and Iím busy, so I didnít really mean it. I just thought it would be a funny thing, Ďcause eventually, theyíd keep running the story until they believed nothing. But I donít really have the time to do that.

What led to the decision to shut down Section 8?

We decided that when we started it. Steven and I had a conversation about it two years before we shut it down. We decided it. We had seen all the other companies do this, which is about five years in, you stop being filmmakers and you start being administrators and businessmen, and we didnít want to do that. Exactly what we thought would happen was happening. Weíd start to have more meetings on ad campaigns and posters and trailers then actually making the film, and that was no fun for us. We were very clear about it. We tried not to screw with anyone along the way, so we said, ďtwo years from today weíre doneĒ and we did it and weíre very pleased with how that worked.

And now you have a new production company?

Mm-hm. We started over, reset and start over and try again.

Whatís going to be the difference?

Well, Grant [Heslov] and I have the same theories, which is you try to protect filmmakers; you try to get screenplays made that people didnít want to make. All the same things. Weíre having some luck. We just got the Grisham book and weíre having a really interesting time with some really interesting projects.

Talk about the shifting point of view of the film. Do you think your character is elemental?

I really love the idea of changing the point of view, literally changing the lens, Ďcause I thought the minute you started seeing the narrative change, you were like ďOh, this is really quite a way of telling a story.Ē I was really excited by the idea of it. Also because in general, a 40ís film like this is told by the male in it, and I really liked watchingÖ and it really throws you because you think itís about Tobey Maguire and then, it ainít. I remember the first time I saw ďAlienĒ, when I went to the movie theatre in 1979, and you thought Tom Skerritt was going to be the star, because thereís always been the guy sort of surviving, and he was the handsome guy. And he bites it first and all of a sudden, you realize itís Sigourney Weaver, and youíre really taken by the idea that point of view gets shifted a little bit, and I think that thatís really interesting storytelling.

Is there something different that you are interested in exploring on film that you havenít yet?

There are a few things. Thereís a screenplay Iím working on now that I want to explore. The movie Iím directing right now is a football film from 1925 thatís been about 10-12 years of us trying to get this thing made. I finally figured the key to it out this summer and finished writing it. Weíre going to start shooting it in about a month, so that was one that I just wanted to get done, it was making me crazy. Also because I didnít want to do a political film next Ďcause after Syriana and Good Night and Good Luck, I got offered thirty different politicalÖ all of a sudden, everybody wants to do a political film and I didnít really want to do that. I didnít want to become that guy. But then I have an interesting idea about elections that I might want to do after that.

Do you think you are taking some risks making the third Oceanís?

Yeah, itís a very different version of that. Itís back to 11 in terms of spending more time with the guys, but itís about revenge, which I think is just such a good motivator after youíve had these guys make a lot of money. What are you going to do? ďLetís make some more moneyĒ? So this one is about just getting someone who wasnít one of our guys, and I just love films like that.

I got psyched to hear that youíre doing White Jazz with Joe Carnahan.

Itís such a good screenplay.

What was it that drew you to the screenplay?

I hadnít read the book. Joeís brother Matt wrote a version of the screenplay that was justÖ and itís dirty, nasty, mean. Thereís nothing nice about it, and Joeís a great director and should be doing it more, because I worry about really good directors not directing enough. Itís like I want Quentin [Tarantino] to direct more. I know he has to take time off to do his thing. I want to see him, you know? I feel that way about Joe. I want to see him do more films and this is a really good screenplay.

Donít you see Good German as a political film?

How to screw up an occupation? (laughs) But I donít know if thereís a comparison between now and the idea of sort of forgiving war crimes because thatís not really what weíre doing particularly right now in Iraq . Thatís the one thing weíre clearly not doing. We certainly didnít forget any war crimes of any kind. I donít know itís overtly political. Itís certainly set inside an absolutely real event. Thereís a great documentaries about how the German soldiers were desperately trying to surrender to the Americans for the two-car garage rather than the Russians where it wasnít going to be nearly as nice. So I love that world but you know, itís still at itís heart and soul, itís a romance murder-mystery, Chinatown , nobody wins, nobodyís good, movie set inside a real world. So there are real political underpinnings, but I donít think theyíre necessarily relevant to whatís going on politically here right now.

So which is better, the Oscars or Sexiest Man Alive?

I have to say ďSexiestĒ is big. I got to say, itís a big one, I use it. Brad is upset, but thereís still a time for him, heís a couple years younger, so he still has a shot. I think Matt was the most hurt. It hurt Matt. We did campaign for him but he just didnítÖ





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