FIFTIES SHADED DARKER

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW - WORDS IAN FREER

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.

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