FAN­TAS­TIC AT 50

If pres­i­dents were elected on charm alone, Lake Como’s most fa­mous res­i­dent would be a shoo- in, writes Neala John­son

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - LEIGH PAATSCH Now show­ing Vil­lage and State cine­mas

GE­ORGE Clooney sees eguide com­ing. For the sec­ond time.

‘‘ Uh- oh. Round two? Oh, boy,’’ he shakes his head. Then he an­tic­i­pates the ques­tion: ‘‘ I know! I’m 50.’’

No, that’s not what we were go­ing to ask but it makes one thing clear: for a 50- yearold who makes movies about some very se­ri­ous top­ics, Clooney ( pic­tured) sure spends a lot of time look­ing for punch­lines.

On this par­tic­u­lar day, he charms the socks off a bunch of jour­nal­ists from around the world by largely ig­nor­ing their se­ri­ous ques­tions and in­stead mak­ing jokes about his al­co­hol in­take.

Few can play the su­per­star game like this and get away with it – Clooney is pure vel­vet. If one wanted to segue into pol­i­tics, one could say his mas­tery of the me­dia and the masses is rem­i­nis­cent of Bill Clin­ton.

It would then be a sim­ple leap to this next ques­tion: Mr Clooney, would you ever con­sider run­ning for pres­i­dent of the US?

‘‘ Oh, doesn’t that sound like fun? Doesn’t it look like fun, what Pres­i­dent Obama gets to do ev­ery day? Gosh. I can’t think of any­thing more fun.’’

Clooney is, in case the tone didn’t trans­late, be­ing sar­cas­tic. ‘‘ Um, no. I have no in­ter­est at all. None. I never have. I like the idea of be­ing able to press is­sues I think are im­por­tant and I can do that from the out­side and I can take sides. Un­for­tu­nately, in our elec­tion process, you have to make so many deals along the way it’s very hard to take one side you think is com­pletely right.

‘‘ It’s not for me. I’d have to give up a much nicer house.’’

The clos­est we’ll get to see­ing Clooney as the leader of the free world, then, is The Ides of March.

In his first film as di­rec­tor since the not- so- loved Leather­heads in 2008, Clooney stars as a state gov­er­nor bat­tling to win the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion to run for the pres­i­dency.

When his tal­ented young cam­paign man­ager ( Ryan Gosling) takes a meet­ing with a ri­val can­di­date’s cam­paign team, a moral­ity thriller plays out.

Clooney may not want the top job in real life, but of­ten, as he puts it, ‘‘ presses is­sues’’.

He spoke out against the war in Iraq back when it was ter­ri­bly un­fash­ion­able and took a can­ing for it in the US me­dia. He did not back down, hav­ing in­her­ited his ideals from his news- an­chor fa­ther Nick.

Clooney once said of he and his fa­ther, ‘‘ We’re both hope­lessly lib­eral Democrats’’.

Why is tak­ing a stand on so­cial is­sues so im­por­tant to him?

‘‘ I’ve had a lot of luck in my life and luck is only good if you spread it around.

‘‘ So you want to look out for other peo­ple along the way – it’s how I was raised.

‘‘ Peo­ple are overly kind to me about go­ing to the Su­dan and things like that and the truth of the mat­ter is, that’s what you’re sup­posed to do, you know, if you’ve been lucky enough to have suc­cess.’’

Clooney co- wrote the screen­play for The Ides of March, which is based on a play called Far­ragut North, with his long- time col­lab­o­ra­tor Grant Heslov.

Stay off Twit­ter in gen­eral if you’re run­ning for some­thing

They ar­gue that the speeches Clooney makes in the film, cov­er­ing is­sues such as ex­trem­ism, fair dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth, and the US’S de­pen­dence on oil, are more ‘‘ sound­track’’ than real commentary.

‘‘ I know it sounds silly, but it re­ally isn’t a po­lit­i­cal film,’’ Clooney says. ‘‘ It deals in­side the world of pol­i­tics, but it’s re­ally about this young man’s jour­ney.’’

Still, their con­tent seems heart­felt. Some were even based on the writ­ings of Clooney’s fa­ther from ‘‘ 20- 30 years ago, that still seem pretty rel­e­vant’’.

Clooney and Heslov went into pro­duc­tion on Ides in 2008, only to hit a ma­jor road­block: the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Obama.

‘‘ Ev­ery­one was so hope­ful that Grant and I re­alised we can’t make this movie right now be­cause peo­ple are too happy. We needed them to be cyn­i­cal. It took about a year, then I looked over at Grant and I said, ‘ I think we can make that movie now’.’’

The cyn­i­cism has cer­tainly come back to US pol­i­tics in a big way – from the bud­get cri­sis to Se­na­tor An­thony Weiner send­ing pic­tures of his pri­vate parts to young ladies via Twit­ter. No sur­prises what ad­vice Clooney of­fers to as­pir­ing politi­cians.

‘‘ Don’t sleep with the in­terns! Don’t take pic­tures of your parts and email them to any­one. Stay off Twit­ter in gen­eral if you’re run­ning for some­thing. But prob­a­bly my favourite one would be don’t touch the in­terns. Al­ways good ad­vice.’’

Be­fore Gosling started shoot­ing The Ides of March, he told eguide he was wor­ried he could ‘‘ fail them all’’ – mean­ing Clooney and his stel­lar cast of Philip Sey­mour Hoff­man, Paul Gia­matti and Marisa Tomei.

Clooney reck­ons his lead­ing man showed no nerves and that he’s the one who gets ‘‘ star- struck’’.

‘‘ I’m in­tim­i­dated by tal­ent all the time. There’s a funny thing when you’re around peo­ple who are tal­ented – you find your­self in a scene watch­ing them. But I find that to be healthy. Any­body who’s over- con­fi­dent is prob­a­bly not pay­ing at­ten­tion.’’

So is there any­thing of which the cast should ac­tu­ally have been afraid with Clooney in charge? ‘‘ I’ll hit ’ em. You know, I don’t give a s---!’’ The Ides of March is Clooney’s fourth film as di­rec­tor. He is now lean­ing more to­wards this as his full- time job.

‘‘ I want to write and di­rect as I get older; you less and less want to see your­self on screen,’’ he says. ‘‘ I prob­a­bly, in gen­eral, find it much more creative to do.’’

Yet his on- screen well has not run dry. Ides will be fol­lowed by The Descen­dants, about a fa­ther try­ing to re­con­nect with his daugh­ters. Of the lat­ter, he has said: ‘‘ If it’s not nom­i­nated for Best Pic­ture, I’ll be shocked.’’

Later next year will come Grav­ity, a 3D sci- fi epic co- star­ring San­dra Bul­lock.

As for a full- blown with­drawal from the biz, Clooney reck­ons there are too many ‘‘ things to do in life’’ to just lock him­self away in his Lake Como abode with the new girl­friend ( Stacy Keibler).

‘‘ If any­body has any un­der­stand­ing of the his­tory of what I do for a liv­ing, it doesn’t last all that long. So when they give you the keys to the toy box, you want to use it as much as you pos­si­bly can un­til they take them away . . . and they will even­tu­ally.

‘‘ I’ll just keep mak­ing the films I want to make un­til peo­ple go, ‘ Enough!’, and then I’ll sell my house and hide out some­where.’’

So if Clooney isn’t up for it, are there any other ac­tors who could fill the job of pres­i­dent? ‘‘ I would al­ways vote for Johnny Depp. You know, we could use a pres­i­dent that could swash­buckle.’’

DI­RECTED and co- writ­ten by Ge­orge Clooney, The Ides of March is a flip- sided com­pan­ion piece to Good Night, and Good Luck, the star ac­tor’s award- win­ning drama from 2005.

Set in the com­mie- spooked 1950s, Good Night, and Good Luck was a work of in­dig­na­tion. It railed against the cor­rupt and mis­guided who had found a happy home in US pol­i­tics.

Don’t let them win, the film seemed to say. The game isn’t over as long as some­one, some­where is pre­pared to get an­gry.

Set in the present day, The Ides of March is a work of res­ig­na­tion. The cor­rupt and mis­guided have set­tled on Washington as their per­ma­nent ad­dress.

So there can be no mis­tak­ing what The Ides of March has to say. They’ve won. The game is up. What’s the use of get­ting an­gry? Get with the pro­gram.

The film’s jaun­diced take on modern pol­i­tics does not mean we are in for a lethar­gi­cally cyn­i­cal drama here.

No, The Ides of March is a sharp, edg­ily in­tel­li­gent af­fair, a gilt- edged guess­ing game that knows how to keep the mind in­volved and in­quir­ing through­out.

Clooney plays Mike Mor­ris, a state gov­er­nor near­ing the end of a cam­paign which could see him be­come the next Demo­crat can­di­date for pres­i­dent.

Mor­ris is slick, sly and a south­erner. The cam­era loves him. So does the gen­eral pub­lic. In other words, he’s an­other Bill Clin­ton.

Again, like Clin­ton, Gov Mor­ris is the front­man for a back­room op­er­a­tion that does all the dirty work a clean- skin can­di­date can­not be as­so­ci­ated with.

The ris­ing star – and the most ruth­less foot sol­dier – in the Mor­ris army is Stephen Mey­ers ( Ryan Gosling), a me­dia strate­gist with all the an­swers. And most of the ques­tions in ad­vance as well.

To­gether with cam­paign chief- of- staff Paul Zara ( Philip Sey­mour Hoff­man), My­ers will do any­thing to bump his man up the queue to the White House.

How­ever, as good as Mey­ers is at his job, he may be in it for the wrong rea­sons. He still has a con­science, but Zara ditched his many years ago. So did his long­time ri­val, Tom Duffy ( Paul Gia­matti). Don’t even bother ask­ing if Mor­ris has his con­science on standby.

You can prob­a­bly see where The Ides of March will be go­ing from here.

How­ever, you may not be able to con­fi­dently pick the twisty, turny, route Clooney the film­maker has in store.

This is a fine ex­am­ple of top­i­cal, in­tel­li­gent and com­pelling main­stream cinema. Bet­ter still, it is en­ter­tain­ing at all times, too.

And re­ally, with the ex­em­plary cast Clooney has brought in for back- up, how could it not be? The smudged snapshot of pol­i­tick­ing pre­sented here stings to look at, but sticks to the truth.

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