George Clooney Has The Nominations. He's Still Just Rosemary's Nephew.


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George Clooney in “The Descendants” (photo – Merie Wallace; Fox/Searchlight)


George Clooney’s work in 2011’s The Ides of March and The Descendants has been widely celebrated.  He is a lock to receive Oscar nods when the nominations are revealed January 24th.  In the meantime, Clooney just snagged himself Best Actor in a Drama at the Golden Globes Awards.
But perhaps it was the birth of rock music that shaped how one of Hollywood’s biggest 21st century stars perceives his acting and directing career:
“My Aunt Rosemary was the number one singer in America in 1950.  Then, in 1954, rock ’n’ roll came along.  People started asking my aunt, ‘What happened to you?’  She replied ‘What do you mean? I sing every day.’”
In hindsight, Rosemary’s nephew, George Clooney, realizes exactly what they meant.

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“I know that the studios can take my toy chest away if my movies stop earning money.”  Having turned 50 this year, the actor/director is under no illusions that the Tinseltown powers that be will allow him to continue making movies if he – like his jazz vocalist aunt – falls out of fashion and his films no longer do boffo box office.
Clooney shared his candid observations with his peers following a private screening of his latest directorial effort, The Ides of March, at the Directors Guild of America Theater Complex on L.A.’s fabled Sunset Strip.
Throughout the Q & A Clooney revealed himself to be thoughtful, compassionate, affable, approachable and very witty. Twice chosen as People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive,” Clooney was clad in what could be called “casual chic”: Blue jeans and a leather jacket over an open black shirt.
Clooney directed, co-wrote and stars in The Ides of March as Gov. Mike Morris, a candidate running for the White House. The DGA screened this political drama about a sex scandal just as the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations became public, so Ides  is eerily prescient in terms of the blame game played by the candidates’ spin-meisters.

“Ides of March” (photo Sony Pictures)


While in contrast to Ides, the accusations regarding the GOP presidential contender are of a nonconsensual nature, Clooney told an amused DGA audience that his movie’s point is “don’t fuck the interns.”
The Shakespearean named film’s relevancy again reiterates Clooney’s commitment to causes.  Clooney is a well known human rights and peace activist, who traveled to the war-torn African region of Darfur.  He bemoans the fact that little has changed and his impact was sadly minimal.  After his return he said “We’ve been able to get a lot of attention focused on the terrible situation there and nothing has changed.  It’s very frustrating.”
The Kentucky-born Clooney’s evolution from the pretty boy celebrity to becoming what he called “politically vocal” took place over a long period of time.  Pivotal events included Clooney’s executive-producing the 2003 K Street HBO series about Washington lobbyists, and his father Nick’s failed run for Congress in 2004.  In Ides, Clooney’s character Gov. Mike Morris uses speeches similar to those his father, a Democrat, delivered on the campaign trail.
While making K Street with director Steven Soderbergh, Clooney shared an office with James Carville [the sharp-tongued “raging Cajun,” who worked for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign].

“I saw some sick shit,” says Clooney.  This included witnessing part of the investigation into the Valerie Plame CIA leak case;  the Department of Justice actually took Clooney’s computer as it probed who outed the intelligence operative’s identity to the press.
But George Clooney realizes movies are an entertainment medium, not civics lessons, so what interests him from a dramatic viewpoint is “the moment politicians sell their souls, which is shitty.” Clooney observed his father’s dealing with fundraisers during his candidacy for Kentucky’s 4th Congressional district.
Meanwhile, he’s perfectly content to keep his ruminations on politics strictly confined to the big screen: “There’s tons of stuff you do; compromises. This is why I’d never run for office,” Clooney said of his own electoral ambitions.
When asked what it was like directing himself, Clooney quipped: “I’m very complimentary: ‘That was very good, George!’ It’s bad to do extra takes of yourself. But I do know what the director wants. As an actor, I know the dicky things [as a director] not to say, such as ‘do less than that.’

Ryan Gosling & George Clooney; Ides of March. Sony Pictures.


As a director, Clooney said he “learned from the people who do it the best,” citing the “Cinéma vérité of D.A. Pennebaker and the camerawork of Jean-Luc Godard. “It was best when Hollywood did it in the ’60s and ’70s.” Admits Clooney, “I wrote an apology letter to Mike Nichols because I stole a shot from 1971’s Carnal Knowledge.”
Which métier does the versatile actor/screenwriter/director prefer? “I love directing the most. It’s the most creative part.” Clooney admitted that he enjoys acting in screen romps such as the Ocean’s Eleven caper flick franchise, but added that as a filmmaker “I’ve been trying to get films made for the last 12 years that the studios don’t want to make. I want to make movies that will last.  Cinematic statements that stand the test of time.”
Little more than a month after The Ides of March was released Clooney’s next picture, The Descendants, premiered.  At the DGA screening Director/co-writer Alexander Payne said of Clooney:
“He is one the American stars I admire most. He has a real screen presence, like an old time Hollywood star. One can think of Clooney as Clark Gable in ‘It Happened One Night or as Cary Grant in ‘Notorious.’  He has the versatility of Marcello Mastroianni, with his good looks and self deprecating humor. Clooney is a classical star informed by the movies of the 1970s.” 

“The Descendants” director Alexander Payne, & Clooney. (Photo by Merie Wallace; Fox/Searchlight)


As an actor, director and screenwriter, George Clooney strives to perpetuate that independent cinematic spirit.
“When my Aunt Rosemary was asked why she was better at performing jazz when she was 72, she replied: ‘Because I don’t have to prove I can sing anymore.’”

Photo – Lester Cohen; T.V. Guide


One hopes that Rosemary’s nephew will still be playing with his toy chest – the art and craft of filmmaking – 22 years from now and beyond.


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