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The Men Who Stare At Goats - George Clooney interview

The Men Who Stare At Goats

Interview by Rob Carnevale

GEORGE Clooney talks to us about some of the challenges of appearing in military satire The Men Who Stare At Goats as well as working with Ewan McGregor and handling the pressures of the press. He was speaking at a press conference held during the Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival…

Q. Were there long discussions about the tone of this movie?
George Clooney: The book, and there was a documentary done as well which was also very funny, had such a unique tone, and I thought Peter [Straughn] just nailed the script. This is a script that’s been around town for a while, and all of us have been aware of it for a bit – it was named as one of the best un-made screenplays, so we were all anxious to get our hands on it and see if there was a way we could do it. But Grant [Heslov] had the right ideas.

Q. Was there a eureka moment which caused you to be the people to take on the script?
George Clooney: These screenplays after they’ve been around for a while… even when they’re really good screenplays, things get attached to them and they get harder and harder to get made. There will suddenly be 30 producers and other people brought on, and it gets this baggage to it, that it really requires everybody being willing to come in. So, we were lucky to get Kevin [Spacey] and Jeff [Bridges] and Ewan all being willing to come in and play ball and have fun on a film that isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk. It’s not Transformers.

Q. You can’t seem to stop working with Grant [Heslov], who writes and produces and now directs you in this. What was that relationship like on set? Who’s the boss?
George Clooney: Grant’s the director, so he was the boss. That’s the fun of it… directors are the dictatorship. I had nothing but faith in him, he’s incredibly talented and smart, so I’m lucky to be his friend for almost 30 years.

Q. How was working with Ewan McGregor?
George Clooney: After the restraining order, it was really hard to actually work with him. It’s sort of shocking how absolutely fun and normal he is. We talked about the motorcycle trips he takes around the world and down through Africa. He fits into this group of actors that are really fun to work with… they’re all professional, they do all their work before they show up, and so by the time you’re on the set, there isn’t a whole lot of misery. There’s the work between “action” and “cut” and then the rest of time, you remember the rubber band fights, it’s fun. Actual food fights. I’m a big fan of his.

Q. Did you approach the character as if you were recreating a real-life person, or did you start from scratch?
George Clooney: It was whatever the script calls for. We’ve done films before, like Good Night and Good Luck, where we had a great responsibility for accuracy, but this is one where we thought there’s something funny to be had, and we could just do it.

Q. Why has it been so hard to make films about the Iraq war, and are we now in a stage where we can make films that will work?
George Clooney: Any topical subject, if it’s Hollywood, will be a couple of years later because you’ve got to write it, produce it and distribute it, so automatically you’re never going to be right on the cutting edge of stories. I think that we’ve been a little too close to the situation, and at times it’s such a polarising moment that it’s hard to make films that directly deal with that subject matter, since we’re in the middle of it still. But we didn’t think of this as an Iraq war film, it’s a very different story completely. I’ve done an Iraq war film with Three Kings, which holds up and seems to be still relevant. I think this one is just a glancing blow at Iraq, it happens to take place there.

Q. Do you believe in the paranormal?
George Clooney: I’m not a big believer in much of that. Everybody goes through déjà vu and things like that, but I’m not a big believer in many of those things. I find them to be mostly coincidence.

Q. How was working with the goats?
George Clooney: Yesterday I was a fox, now I’m working with goats. I tell you, this goat was a particularly nice goat. We spent a lot of time together. He wanted to go over the dying around me, so we worked on that for a while. The funny thing is, the goat was a great actor. He’d walk in and stare at the camera. If we could get Ewan to do that, it would help.

Q. Do you think the media’s obsession with celebrity is out of control?
George Clooney: Look, I’m the son of a newsman, I grew up around news, so I can understand the issue, which is that papers are losing subscribers and they’re getting less and less outlets… it’s a tricky thing. You’re going to have to sell papers. The problem is, there’s so little reporting anymore. Someone will write a story and it’ll be in 1,800 outlets from one person’s story. You’ll have no recourse, it’ll be false and you go: “It’s not true.” But they’ll say: “We’re not saying that… but a London tabloid has said it!” And they’re re-printing and re-printing things that aren’t necessarily true. I understand why it happens, but it’s certainly an issue.

Read our review of The Men Who Stare At Goats

Read our interview with Grant Heslov