The Descendants Interview
The Descendants Interview
The film deals with a plethora of emotions – did it have an effect on you at all?

George Clooney

Alexander’s set is such a fun place to be. There are people who like to work in chaos, and some people work better under that, and create that sort of chaos, but that makes a set not necessarily very fun. I like to work on sets that don’t have that. I feel it is more creative and more welcoming, and Alexander makes the most welcome set you have ever been on. And so there are very difficult scenes to do, scenes where you are kissing your wife goodbye, basically where you're yelling at a corpse essentially, but when you are finished it is a really friendly, fun place to be. So there isn't a whole lot of carrying things around with you, there's not a whole lot of moping around. We were just so happy to be together. We were in Hawaii – what was there to be unhappy about?

Alexander Payne

No. I was affected like an audience member is affected, but it didn’t get under my skin in some way which has changed me. I think …
How did you cast Shailene Woodley (Clooney's onscreen daughter)?

Alexander Payne

It is tough to cast young characters. It's tough to cast anyone but it's tough to cast young people. The ones who have a lot of experience often don't read as being the age that I want them to be or in fact the age that they actually are. I can’t tell you how many girls her age who read, who have a lot of experience but were seventeen going on thirty five. I wanted someone like a young Deborah Winger, who had great fire and great vulnerability. And Shailene came in to read at an audition in 2009 in New York and two minutes into her reading I knew she was the one, she just knocked my socks off. I didn’t have a second choice.
I wanted someone like a young Deborah Winger, who had great fire and great vulnerability...
Shailene, what was it like working with George and Alexander?

Shailene Woodley

Working with George and Alexander, who are two of the greatest men I've ever met in my life, I think the thing that they both brought to set, is gratitude. They were both just as grateful to be there as all of us other actors, as the other crew members, as the transportation, local guys. Everyone was so grateful to be there and the set was so comfortable too.

There wasn't an intimidation factor working with George Clooney – he's so down to earth and humble that you don't feel like you're working with someone who's above you in any way or better than you. And that's rare to find, whether you're at where George Clooney is and how many movies he's done or whether you've done no movies, like Amara Miller, who plays [younger sister] Scottie.

And Alexander, he gives you the time and the freedom to do what you want to do as an actor and if it's working, he actually tells you it's working, which is really nice. And if it's not working then he'll come up and he'll politely suggest other ways to maybe approach it and yeah, I'm just so grateful for the opportunity.
What do you look for in a film, and what appealed to you about this project?

George Clooney

First of all, I learnt after a series of very bad mistakes early on in my career, that I should probably read a good screenplay once in a while before I say yes. You can make a bad film out of a good script, but you can’t make a good film out of a bad script, so you need to start with a good screenplay. And Alexander is someone I had wanted to work with for a long time and we got the opportunity. We had dinner in Toronto and he said he was going to send me script and I had sort of decided that I was going to do it no matter what the screenplay was.

There are two things that kind of influence the choices that you make – there is the director and the script. I had been on the Batman and Robin and Peacemaker run where you, as an actor, you just take jobs. At that point, I had been on a TV series, done a lot of TV series, and I had done a couple of films and I was very excited. I called my friends saying, “I got Batman!” “What part are you going to play?” “Batman!!” “Wow!” Then I understood that I was not only responsible for the roles I was going to play but for the films that were going to be made, and the next three scripts I got were Out of Sight, Three Kings, and O’ Brother, Where Art Though. And so since then I have really tried to focus on the best screenplays as possible. You can really protect yourself as an actor by working with really good people. You can hide a lot of flaws along the way …
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Content updated: 18/10/2019 22:53

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