George Clooney Interview For His Engaging Thriller ‘The Ides of March’
Directed and starring George Clooney, ‘The Ides of March’ takes place during the frantic last days before a heavily contested Ohio presidential primary, where an up-and-coming campaign press secretary finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate’s shot at the presidency.
In the film, George Clooney plays Governor Morris, a candidate running in the presidential primary race for the Democratic Party ticket. Ryan Gosling plays his press spokesman, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays his campaign manager, Paul Giamatti plays a rival campaign manager, Marisa Tomei plays a reporter for the New York Times, Evan Rachel Wood plays an intern for the Morris campaign, Jeffrey Wright plays a key senator, and Max Minghella plays Ben Harper, a campaign worker for Morris. ‘The Ides Of March’ is out now in the US, it hits UK cinemas October 28th. The movie will be Clooney’s fourth film as director after ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,’ ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ and ‘Leatherheads.’
Beau Williamson’s play ‘Farragut North’ was the basis for ‘The Ides of March,’ what was it about the play that interested you in telling this story?
George Clooney: We read the play itself, Grant Heslov and I, who’s my writing and producing partner, we had been working on a morality tale, more on the lines of Wall Street – strangely, funnily enough (laughs). We thought there was a way to tie those two together, I liked the idea of the questions the play was raising. My character isn’t in the play at all, he’s spoken about but he’s not actually in it. I thought it would be a fun world to talk about morality and ask questions.
This story of morality, you can pretty much put it in any situation, placing it in a political scenario must heighten the stakes though?
George Clooney: Oh yeah, I don’t really think of this as a political film, you could put this story in Wall Street, you could pretty much put it anywhere. It’s all the same issues, issues of morality, issues of whether or not your willing to trade your soul for an outcome. I never thought of it as a political film, I liked some of the things that these characters had to do, and politics certainly raises the stakes. These power games, I don’t think they’re anything new, they’ve been going on since Julius Caesar. I just think the fact that we continue to repeat them is our own definition of insanity.
Grant Heslov and I were working on a piece about a morality play, a idea of the argument of ‘do the ends justify the means at any point?’ We were in the middle of doing another piece and then this play came around, and the play took place with these really extraordinary characters, inside a Democratic primary. We felt that the stakes get raised very quickly with that, we thought that was a very interesting place to place what we had been working on. So it was sort of Grant and I taking a piece of what we were working on, and we found something that matched it that gave us a real home.
How much was the film coloured by your fathers recent experiences running for office?
George Clooney: Certainly elements of it, there’s a scene in the car with Jennifer Ehle and myself. That scene was pretty much directly a result of conversations I had with my father about running for congress. There are hands that you have to shake that you normally wouldn’t shake, it’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is. You can’t finance your own campaign unless you are independently wealthy, which my father isn’t. Even a small congressional district in Kentucky will cost you a couple million dollars to run. So you end up having to….not make deals, but you have to do all those parties and show up for all of those events, shake hands with people you normally wouldn’t particularly find attractive to do that with, there were plenty of scenes about that.
The films you’ve previously directed have been period pieces, what was it like for you to direct a contemporary piece?
George Clooney: It was nice, it was easier! I didn’t have to worry about an airplane flying through a scene, or something modern coming through. It made prepping the shoot a lot easier to do. I’m gonna try to do more of those just because the period pieces are a pain in the butt to do (laughs).
What was it like playing this candidate, what was the tricky part of that, him being this sort of brand?
George Clooney: Playing a candidate is tricky because you would think that actors have this gigantic ego, and they do (laughs) – but the ego to take these shots with your chin up, looking up in the air, politicians have a tremendous amount of ego to be able to do that. It’s very hard when the product your selling to the entire country is yourself, and your just selling the hell out of it all of the time, “I’m better than everyone else in the room.” I suppose we have to have it, we need someone who’s really good at it, but the ego was something that was really tricky to embrace as a politician because your sitting there going, “Wow, these guys really are saying ‘I’m the best,’” you don’t see that a lot.
Your films treat the audience as adults, how frustrating is it when your raising these questions that your films raise and some parts of the media seems to be more obsessed with who your walking down the red carpet with?
George Clooney: I understand both worlds, I grew up around it all (George‘s father Nick Clooney was a journalist), I understand it. I’m interested in making films that ask questions and don’t particularly provide answers – because I grew up in that era of filmmaking which took place when there was a tremendous amount of things going on, in the 60’s and 70’s you had everything – the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the women’s rights movement, drug counter-culture, and those were reflected later in film. I think there’s a lot of things going on in the US and the world right now that are starting to again be reflected in film, and I like that, I like films that do that. On the other side of it, I know what those questions are, when they come and how they come, I can handle that too, I’m a grown up – but I would rather talk about the films (laughs).
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