George Clooney talks about his latest film, plus 'Rendition'
George Clooney has earned well-deserved praise for his new, politically charged film Michael Clayton. At the Toronto International Film Festival last month, he discussed the role.
What made you choose this film?
It's really hard to find a good script in Hollywood. You would think that would be easy, but it isn't. This was a great script [written by the film's director Tony Gilroy]. You read it and you say this movie has to be made. It's well crafted with great characters. They aren't easy to get made in this day and age.
What were your favorite scenes?
You love watching really good actors at their best. I loved Tilda [Swinton] in the bathroom stall falling apart. It is beautiful watching someone who is seemingly in control, but not in control, and learning all about them. I loved Tom [Wilkinson] in the scene in the alley. So simple and so good. Something that people don't talk about enough is that [director] Sydney Pollack is a really good actor.
What inspired you to be politically active?
My mother was a mayor, my father ran for congress. I've always been involved in issues politically and socially. I was shown actual inter-office memos from corporations that explained that if you recall this [product] it would cost $300 million, but if you don't, you'll kill 300 people and a class action suit will cost you $300,000. Those were real documents. They informed how I played the part.
You took a pay cut to do this film.
Of my last eight films, I've been paid for two of them. You do it because you want to get good movies made.
Did the role help you improve as an actor?
This role gave me something really different to play. You hope you grow with every role, but you never know if you are or not. You make an effort. You can be good in films if you have a good script and director, but you can be really bad in films if you don't. If you don't have a good script and director, there's nothing you can do and that's the bottom line.
How do you feel about competing for acting roles?
There is no competition with my friends ever [over roles or performances]. You try not to compete in art. There is competition with Matt Damon though. I'd like to kick his ass.
The war on terror is now producing movies that question the tactics of the war on terror. Following on the heels of In the Garden of Elah is Rendition, directed by Gavin Hood, whose last film was the Oscar-winning Tsotsi. The film is based on the practice of "extraordinary rendition," which allows alleged terrorists against the United States and other nations to be shipped off to a foreign country and tortured without having to abide by the rules of the Geneva Convention.
Reese Witherspoon stars (but isn't given all that much to do) as a woman whose Egyptian-American husband Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) has been kidnapped as a suspected terrorist collaborator. While Anwar is being tortured in an unnamed country with C.I.A. officer Doug Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) on hand as an observer, his wife is trying to get an old friend (played by Peter Sarsgaard) to intervene on her husband's behalf. Meryl Streep also shows up as the overseer of the rendition program who is unhappy that El-Ibrahimi's wife is trying to force the kidnapping of her husband to be officially acknowledged.
The movie presents its theme while presenting evidence that makes the audience unsure as to the guilt or innocence of El-Ibrahimi. Gyllenhaal's character is distraught about what he witnesses, and finally decides he must make a decision involving duty to one's country versus his personal sense of what's right.
ATLANTIC CITY — George Clooney batted .500 at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Ides of March was disappointing, but The Descendants, written and directed by Alexander Payne (and due for release Nov. 18), is a superb drama with comic accents that explores a family in crisis that manages to reconnect. I’ll present his thoughts on that film closer to its release, but Clooney also talked about his career in general during a Toronto Film Fest press conference. In talking about directing himself, he noted, “Directing myself, I was doing a part that I knew exactly what I needed. I was filling a gap....
This is exactly why I spend my working vacation every year at the Toronto International Film Festival. The 35th TIFF takes place this year from Sept. 9-19. This will be my 23rd trip to cover the global cinematic feast. The festival has grown from an understated, unpretentious celebration of emerging filmmakers, to a film festival that officially launches the Oscar buzz season