MOVIES STREET FIGHT­ING MAN

Go on, call Ge­orge Clooney an out of touch lib­eral... he can take it — just ask ‘failed f---ing screen­writer’ Steve Ban­non

Ottawa Sun - - SHOWBIZ - MARK DANIELL

Fa­ther­hood hasn’t turned Ge­orge Clooney into a softy. In fact, the new dad, who wel­comed twins Alex and Ella with his wife Amal in July, is still ready to mix it up.

Par­tic­u­larly if the names Don­ald Trump and Steve Ban­non come up in con­ver­sa­tion.

“I like pick­ing fights,” Clooney said in a re­cent in­ter­view at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val.

His lat­est film, Subur­bicon, boasts a star-stud­ded cast (which in­cludes pal Matt Da­mon, Ju­lianne Moore and Os­car Isaac) and mar­ries an un­pro­duced screen­play by Joel and Ethan Coen with el­e­ments of a re­al­life event in 1950s Le­vit­town, Penn­syl­va­nia, when a black fam­ily moved into an all-white neigh­bour­hood.

It’s a tale, the Os­car-win­ner said, that mir­rors the racial ten­sions that are per­me­at­ing con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can so­ci­ety.

“That whole idea of, ‘We’re not big­ots, but don’t move in next door,’ seems to be fairly uni­ver­sal and we all felt those are themes that are go­ing to keep on go­ing,” Clooney said.

In the film, Da­mon plays Gard­ner Lodge, a man in love with his wife’s twin sis­ter (both played by Moore). They hatch a plan to stage a home in­va­sion, get rid of the wife, col­lect the in­sur­ance money, and live hap­pily ever af­ter. But things get com­pli­cated when an in­sur­ance in­ves­ti­ga­tor (Isaac) shows up ques­tion­ing el­e­ments of the case. The neigh­bour­hood in which they live is fur­ther tee­ter­ing on the edge af­ter a black fam­ily moves in.

For Clooney and his writ­ing­pro­duc­ing part­ner Grant Heslov, those dark comedic el­e­ments were the per­fect back­drop to in­tro­duce the more se­ri­ous el­e­ment of scape­goat­ing mi­nori­ties.

“We thought that the story worked if you could put it in some form of en­ter­tain­ment,” Clooney said. “I re­mem­bered the boys (his word for the Coen broth­ers) had writ­ten this thing called Subur­bicon a long time ago. They had of­fered me a chance to play the part Os­car Isaac plays, but it never got fin­ished and they moved on. So I called them up and said, ‘I have an idea of mix­ing these two up and hav­ing a story where ev­ery­one is look­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion.’ I thought that would be a fun way to do it. And they were like, ‘Let’s go. Let’s have some fun.’”

From there, Subur­bicon — his sixth film as a di­rec­tor — mor­phed into a piece where Clooney could ex­plore the idea “that there’s a group of white Amer­i­cans who are ter­ri­fied of los­ing their place in so­ci­ety and blam­ing mi­nori­ties for it.”

Eerie par­al­lels be­tween the film and the re­cent racial un­rest in Char­lottesville, Va., are purely co­in­ci­den­tal, but point to a dark cy­cle that still lingers be­neath the cul­tural fab­ric of Amer­ica. “With a film, you’re two years be­hind the news cy­cle,” Clooney said. “But what films can do is point to a mo­ment in time in your his­tory and tell you what you were think­ing.” Clooney, a long­time lib­eral, says U.S. pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s “both sides” line af­ter what hap­pened in Char­lottesville will be a re­mark that will leave a stain. “Black Lives Mat­ter protested for racial equal­ity,” Clooney said em­phat­i­cally. “The alt-right and white na­tion­al­ists protested — Ge­orge Clooney is ready to take on Bre­it­bart and those who shout “elit­ist” celebs for racial supremacy. They can never be com­pared. It makes me fu­ri­ous to see that com­ing from the pres­i­dent of the United States.”

He con­tin­ues: “I’m ashamed of the things I hear com­ing out of his mouth. And I can’t be­lieve that this is the same White House that had Wash­ing­ton and Jef­fer­son and Kennedy and FDR and Barack Obama. I can’t be­lieve it. I’m so ashamed of it.”

Clooney knows that there is a seg­ment of Amer­ica that dis­misses him as an elit­ist Hol­ly­wood lib­eral, but he’s quick to point out that he hails from Ken­tucky and he didn’t have a sil­ver spoon up­bring­ing.

“You want to come af­ter lib­eral Hol­ly­wood?,” he asked aloud. “I don’t give a s---. I don’t give a fly­ing s---. I don’t care.”

So he’s OK be­ing a tar­get for Bre­it­bart News, a con­ser­va­tive web­site co-founded by Steve Ban­non, Trump’s for­mer chief strate­gist. In fact, he rel­ishes it. “I like that Bre­it­bart news wants to have my head,” Clooney added. “I’d be ashamed 10 years from now if those weaselly lit­tle putzes whose voice is get­ting a lot higher every week as this pres­i­dency is start­ing to look worse and worse and worse weren’t still (af­ter me.)”

Be­sides, Clooney added, Ban­non is only a mouth­piece for the alt-right be­cause he couldn’t hack it in Hol­ly­wood.

“Steve Ban­non is a failed f---ing screen­writer,” Clooney said an­grily. “If you’ve ever read that bulls--screen­play,” he con­tin­ued, re­fer­ring to The Thing I Am, Ban­non’s in­fa­mous rap mu­si­cal, “it’s un­be­liev­able. Now, had he in some mirac­u­lous way got that thing pro­duced, he’d still be in Hol­ly­wood mak­ing movies and lick­ing my ass to come do one of his stupid screen­plays. “That’s who Steve Ban­non is.” Ear­lier this month, Clooney and his wife Amal an­nounced a $1-mil­lion grant to the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter to com­bat hate groups. The Clooneys have also taken in a Yazidi refugee from Iraq.

“Peo­ple say, ‘You’re out of touch.’ Lis­ten, I sold ladies shoes, I sold in­sur­ance door-to-door, I worked at an all-night liquor store, I cut to­bacco for a liv­ing. I grew up in that world in Ken­tucky. I’m not sep­a­rated from it in any shape or form... I know this is not a mo­ment in our his­tory that we’ll look back and be proud of. So if I’m not stand­ing on the side I be­lieve to be right, I’d be ashamed... I don’t think you’re re­ally en­gaged if you’re not in it and pick­ing fights.”

Subur­bicon opens Oct. 27. Ge­orge Clooney at TIFF. Matt Da­mon in the film Subur­bicon, above.

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