FIFTIES SHADED DARKER
Something is rotten in the state of Suburbicon. Writer-director George Clooney reveals all IT’S THREE YEARS
since George Clooney last sat in a director’s chair. Following 2014’s The
Monuments Men, his new project stems partly from his own obsessions and partly from an old Joel and Ethan Coen script called Suburbicon.
“I’d been writing a script about [1957 documentary] Crisis In Levittown. I wanted to talk about building walls and scapegoating minorities,” he says. “Themes that sadly never lose their relevance. At the same time, I pulled out a 1999 version of Suburbicon and thought the two stories were perfect to put together.”
In splicing the two scripts with creative partner Grant Heslov — “I write long hand. Grant does the typing, thank God” — Clooney’s tale peers into the idyllic American communities of 1959. If the dark side beyond white picket fences sounds very David Lynch, Clooney is drawing his inspiration directly from the period. In particular, the work of ’50s German filmmaker Douglas Sirk, whose melodramas explored the manicured lawns and apple-pie façade of
suburban life, became a touchstone.
“Specifically we looked at Written
On The Wind,” says Clooney about Sirk’s 1956 classic. “We wanted to take the picture of what we think of the 1950s and put it in perspective. It all seemed so much simpler then. Of course, it was only simpler if you were a straight white man. Everyone else had a pretty tough time.”
In Suburbicon Clooney puts a ‘straight white man’ through the mill. Matt Damon is Gardner Lodge, a husband and father whose life is turned upside down when he becomes the victim of a home invasion, while Oscar Isaac, in a role initially mooted for Clooney, plays an investigator with his suspicions around Lodge.
“Matt’s character is a man who hates his life and does something really stupid to try to fix it,” explains Clooney. “Every thing he does leads him deeper into chaos. And Gardner Lodge is not the guy you want around in times of chaos.”
Within the darkness, Clooney has indulged himself at least one moment of absurdity: the hilarious sight of Damon as Lodge pedalling away from a raging fire, on possibly the world’s smallest bicycle. “I rode around on that bike for hours myself just to make sure it was doable.” admits Clooney. “Matt showed us all of his Jason Bourne skills in riding that little bike.”
If all goes to plan, ‘The Lodge Supremacy’ may well be on the cards.
Here: The American Dream is a living nightmare for Margaret (Julianne Moore) and Gardner (Matt Damon). Below: Gardner makes an absurd getaway.