The Descendants Interview
The Descendants Interview
There is talk already of an Oscar nomination, how do you feel about that?

George Clooney

Yeah, that will all work out fine. What do you think? [Laughs] I have had that a few times, and been on both sides of that equation, and I have learned that whenever someone says that they are really complimenting the work. It is a very nice thing to say and it is the result of a lot of other people doing a lot of other work too. But I don’t remember who wins awards, and I have won one, or two.

What I remember is movies, I really love movies. I remember 1976 where it was Taxi Driver, All The President’s Men, Network, Bound for Glory and Rocky. I know Rocky won but I love those movies and I watch them constantly. So I am not so concerned with speculation about winning things because I enjoy being in films that last longer than their opening weekend. That is my goal. I don’t want to be the guy they wheel out when he is 70 years old and they say ‘You’ve been in 15 number one films.’ That is not my goal in life, to be the richest guy in the cemetery.
How has directing changed you as an actor?

George Clooney

I have been directing and involved in producing and the creating of films for quite a while now as well as acting. I always think in terms of what the director needs, and not just for this scene but for the film. On television, you would have a different director come in every week when I’d be doing ER. And every director that would come in would say, ‘This is a scene that really gets you, maybe you could cry a little bit.’ But if I was crying in 22 episodes it would be too much and so you have to adjust towards the long term and that also works in film. You understand that there are some scenes that you have to lose in order to win something at the end.

A good director will keep pointing you that way, but it is also your job as an actor to understand that there are scenes that you do, particularly when you are the lead, where other people get to come in and steal and you have to let them. I understand that but a good director always reminds you where those moments are.
We live in an age now where we are trying to show 500 things going on at the same time...
Some of the film’s most affecting scenes are the ones without dialogue. Is the dialogue or the visuals more important for you?

George Clooney

We live in an age and a time now where we are trying to show 500 things going on at the same time. You turn on Bloomberg and there are fifty things on there all at once. And I find that silence or stillness … if you flick the channels and find someone just staring at the camera and it is quiet, they’ll stop. That seems to be the new unusual thing. I enjoy the quiet moments in films, they are important. You have to earn them, and Alexander is very good at earning those moments. By the end of the film, there’s a scene with all three of us sitting there - you could not have done that scene, for that long, at the beginning of the film. To watch the stillness of that particular scene speaks volumes.

Alexander Payne

Visuals, by far. They are my favourite scenes to direct. In this, my favourite scene is the one where George is going along the beach and crosses paths with Brian Speers and spies on him and it cuts to the beginning of that scene where he is waiting with the three kids, but not only because there is no dialogue but also there is no music. Just the sound of the waves left a mysterious quality to it.
You turned fifty this year, how has that changed your approach to work? Do you find success difficult to deal with sometimes?

George Clooney

I hope to trend towards directing more because, as we all know, as you get older, there are less and less roles for 50 year olds. And I want to be part of this business for a long time. I remember when I was a young man living in Kentucky. We were broke, my mum was making my clothes for me, and I was doing some dull job and I remember hearing some famous actor, who will remain nameless, on television complaining about how hard it was for them. I thought ‘What a jerk!’ I thought, ‘You’re living the dream and you should enjoy that. And we should think you enjoy that because you got lucky, you got the brass ring.’

And that’s important to continually remember because I got the brass ring along the way and I am going to enjoy it. There are things that aren’t fun, and we all know them, but I am not going to complain about that to anybody. I get a very easy ride and I understand that. So I enjoy my life.
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Content updated: 22/10/2019 12:57

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