The gorgeous actor talks scandal, politics and Hollywood during the BFI Film Festival
- 04 November 2011
- by Sophia Hélène Price
Now I can officially say that it's almost impossible to stay calm when in the same room as the incredibly handsome
George Clooney. Whether or not you admire his acting skills, there's no denying that this gorgeous Hollywood superstar oozes sex appeal and charm. Attending the press conference for the new political drama which he directed,
The Ides of March, in which he also stars alongside the dreamy
Philip Seymour Hoffman and
Evan Rachel Wood,
George spoke to us about the making of the film, his own view on politics and why he'll be sticking to Hollywood...
How much of the film was coloured by your father's recent experiences in running for office?
There were certainly elements of it. There's a scene in the car with Jennifer Ehle and myself that was pretty much directly the result of a conversation I had with my father about running for Congress. There are hands that you have to shake that you wouldn't normally shake and it's unfortunate but that's the way it is… just to raise finances alone unless you're independently wealthy, which my father isn't. So, you end up having to show up at all those events and shake hands with people that you normally wouldn't find as attractive. So, there were plenty of scenes about that.
You've been quoted as saying that the film could have been made three years ago but there was such a period of hope and optimism in America with Obama's election. The film is out now, so has something changed?
Oh I think that the hope part of the hope message has sort of been damped down a bit. It's all cyclical and it'll change back again. I feel optimistic about the way our country works in that sense. But this is a fairly cynical look at politics and it wasn't a very cynical time in our country [three years ago]. It took about a year of working on the Healthcare Bill for that to change and for us to lose a sense of politeness. But we go back and forth and we'll get it back.
What was the trickiest thing for you about playing a politician?
The funny thing is that playing a candidate is tricky because you always think that actors have this gigantic ego, and they do, but the ego it takes to be able to pose for a photo that involves having your chin up like this [poses like a political candidate for a poster campaign]… politicians have a tremendous amount of ego to be able to do it. It's very hard when the product you're selling to an entire country is yourself and you're just selling the hell out of it all the time. You know: “I'm better than everybody else in the room…” Listen, we have to have it and we need someone who's really good at it but ego was something that was really tricky to embrace as a politician. They really are saying: “I'm the best!”
From left to right: George Clooney and girlfriend Stacy Keibler, with co-stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood, George Clooney
The film shows a side of politics where you have to trade your soul to get to the top. How Machiavellian is Hollywood?
Well, when I die I go to hell, I know that [laughs]! Actors aren't like that. The business can be that way, there's a certain cut-throat element but most of them are pretty kind to one another because you're so lucky when you get to be in position where you get to be in a film. You're very privileged and you understand that it's not just your brilliance that got you there... that you're sitting on the shoulders of a lot of happy accidents along the way. So, you recognise that in one another. And so I think that there's a certain generosity in most actors that I don't see in politics.
What do you think of British politics and is there a story you'd like to tell?
[Laughs] No! Here's the smart thing to do… come over here and start talking about British politics! I know very little about it but I love watching the House of Commons because I think it's fun. It really is! You know: “Order!!!” We don't do that and it's very fun… I can't quite figure out what happens. Every time I watch it I'm not sure who won but I enjoy watching it. But I find politics in almost every country I go to be incredibly different and incredibly similar and I'm never surprised by anything.
Notwithstanding your father's campaign, is this the very nearest you'll get to running for office in anything at all?
I think you just saw what would happen if I took office [laughs]. No, I have a very good life and I have a very comfortable existence. If I want to dip my toe into issues involved in politics, like in Sudan or Darfur… those kinds of issues where I can actually have some involvement then I'm happy to do it, and I don't have to compromise as a politician would. So, it's much nicer where I am. And they're a lot smarter than I am. I tip my hat to them.
And when the film talks about the importance of loyalty, is loyalty something you hold dear in your personal relationships?
Loyalty, yes. I find it to be my favourite quality in people. I find it to be a tremendous quality.
Do you think you have too many skeletons in your closet to run for office?
As far as skeletons in the closet, I think at some point we're going to have to start getting to the realisation and the point where you just have to start every candidate with the phrase: “Yeah, I did it!” And then just go on from there and talk about the issues because it's going to be very hard to find people who haven't smoked a joint or drunk some pond water along the way! We're in a strange state in our world where we sort of have that belief – and I have it too – that if it's written down there's got to be some truth in it. We haven't quite got to the spot where you go: “Well, it doesn't necessarily mean it's true.” It could actually be completely made up and made to look very nice. So, we have to get to the point where scandal and those kinds of things are less and less important because otherwise we won't have anyone willing to run as politicians.
The Ides of March is out now at cinemas nationwide and it's certainly worth seeing. The chemistry between the actors is extremely powerful and the gripping drama will have you questioning the story's themes long after you've left your seat...