George Clooney on being an older lead
How did George Clooney handle our recent period of isolation? Aside from spending time with his wife, Amal Clooney, a human rights lawyer, and their 3-year-old twins, and editing his new film “The Midnight Sky,” he’s relied on, like many others, a text chain with pals and Zoom. He just got off one with Matt Damon and John Krasinski.
“In some ways, we keep more in touch now than we did before,” said Clooney, speaking by phone from London.
“The Midnight Sky,” which Clooney directed and stars in, is an apocalyptic sci-fi drama with some striking solitude. A thickly bearded Clooney plays an astronomer with terminal cancer living at the Barbeau Observatory in the Arctic Circle. It’s 2049.
When cataclysm covers the globe, he — and a young, unspeaking girl (Caoilinn Springall) — are potentially all that remains, along with the crew of an expedition to a Jupiter moon.
Debuting some months ago on Netflix, “The Midnight Sky,” based on Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel Good Morning, Midnight, is Clooney’s seventh film as director and his biggest scaled production yet.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the 59-year-old actor-filmmaker discussed his new movie and the arc of his career. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
AP: It’s been years since you were the lead in a film. Why?
Clooney: Things change for you as an actor. The roles that are brought to you become very different…You can try to deny your aging. You can dye your hair and get a face lift and try to still be the guy who gets the girl in the movies. Or you can accept that you’re getting older and be that guy.
The reason I got into directing and writing and producing 35 years ago was because I knew, at some point, I don’t want to be worried about what some casting director thinks of me at — I used to say 60, but I’ll move it to 65 now.
AP: You’ve always seemed especially aware of being part of a Hollywood continuum. Your Los Angeles house belonged to Clark Gable.
Clooney: When I moved to Hollywood, I went and lived with my Aunt Rosemary for about six months until she kicked me out. Then I was living on the floor of an apartment for a couple years.
But the reality was she was part of that continuum. She was married to Jose Ferrer. She’d have people over to the house: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin. And I got to spend time around that kind of world.
So, I had an understanding of the continuum in the entertainment industry. We all stand on the shoulders of the people who did it beautifully before us.
I got to be friends with Gregory Peck and would go over to his house for dinners with [Peck’s wife] Veronique. One of the most memorable nights I ever had was sitting around listening to them talk about “Roman Holiday.” It’s an amazing thing, when stars were giants.
AP: What drew you to “The Midnight Sky”?
Clooney: What I always saw in this was the idea of what regret can do to you. I always thought what he’s really dying of is not cancer, but regret. It’s killing him.
I know people who are older — older than me, even — who live with real regret. It’s deep in them. When you get older, it’s a cancer. Everyone has regrets. You hope you don’t have the ones that last a lifetime.
AP: Has working alongside Amal, while she’s in the next room waging humanitarian battles, changed your approach to moviemaking at all?
Clooney: For the last 15 to 20 years, I’ve spent about half of my day working on things other than the movie business because I have interests in other issues around the world.
But there are some funny moments. I have an office, and she has an office — and they’re kind of up against each other.
The other day, I was doing the Howard Stern Show. We’re talking about, like, a prank…And on the other side of the wall, my wife is having a conversation trying to keep Maria Ressa from going to prison in the Philippines.
She can hear me, and I can hear her. We go to dinner afterward and say, “What an insane household we live in.”