Clooney goes behind the camera to shoot an inspirational story

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Matt Baron/Shutterstock (5682911p) George Clooney 'Money Monster' photocall, Palais, 69th Cannes Film Festival, France - 12 May 2016

Together meets George Clooney, an actor who is becoming as well known for his work as a director.

In the luminescent world of Hollywood, few names shine as brightly as George Clooney. 

The dashing actor, producer and director, who has graced the silver screen with performances that have left indelible marks on the hearts of millions, now offers audiences a captivating tale with his new film The Boys In The Boat. 

After initially being bought by The Weinstein Company, the movie rights to the bestselling book by Daniel James Brown – about Joe Rantz and the 1936 Berlin Olympics eight-oar crew – were eventually picked up by Smokehouse Pictures, the production company set up by Clooney. 

The ER, Oceans and From Dusk Till Dawn star knew a lot about Brown’s book and convinced him to pass it over to him to direct. The result is something from the Clooney stable that is, in many ways, unique. 

That’s quite a statement, given Clooney’s illustrious career boasts a medley of famous roles, both in front of and behind the camera. 

Away from the bright lights and red carpets, the 62-year-old’s life is beautifully woven with family and love. He shares this world with his accomplished wife, international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, and their two cherished children. From their Studio City residence, previously owned by the legendary Stevie Nicks, to an 18th-century haven in Lake Como, each abode mirrors a chapter in Clooney’s diverse life. 

“The 62-year-old’s life is beautifully woven with family and love”

And let’s not forget their Georgian mansion in Sonning Eye, majestically sitting by the River Thames, their luxury condo nestled in midtown Manhattan, or their breath-taking $8.3million Provence wine estate in Brignoles, France. 

Yet, for all his success and wealth, Clooney remains an advocate for the integrity of cinema. In a recent collaboration with long-time friend Brad Pitt, for the film Wolves, both leading men took pay cuts to ensure their film enjoyed not only a streaming debut but a theatrical release, emphasizing their unwavering commitment to the art of filmmaking. 

Tell me about The Boys in the Boat

Oh, we’re going right in there are we? [Laughs]. Okay, let’s go. So, I read the book by Daniel James Brown. Not only did I think it was a fascinating piece of work – a truly great and inspiring story, but one I could truly get my teeth into from a director’s point of view. 

Sometimes you can have a great story that you just can’t configure into the right place on film, but this one sat up immediately. 

Daniel says how impressed he was, not only in terms of how much you knew about the story, but also because you understood why he had decided to write it in the first place.

Sure – as I say, it was an inspiring journey of nine working-class young men from the University of Washington who went on to defy the odds and grab the gold medal in rowing at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. More than that though, this is about the personal stories mixed with the wider historical context.

Daniel does an incredible job of interweaving those, drawing the reader into that world, and showing us their determination and unexpected camaraderie” 

It’s both a deeply moving and inspirational story which reminds us of the unparalleled strength found in unity. I’m really looking forward to seeing what those who’ve read it think of it, as well as Daniel himself, of course. I sincerely hope that we’ve done it justice. 

Your career has undergone a massive transformation since we first met you in ER. What’s the biggest change between when you first started out and where you’re at now?

For so long, my only concern, my full focus, was on getting a job. Any job. I needed to make money. So, when you’re at a stage in your career where you’ve had success, lucky enough to experience success, money isn’t the primary motivating factor. 

I’m very lucky that I’ve got to a stage in my life where I can work on movies purely because I want to work on them. The story we’re trying to tell, the subject matter, all that is my purpose. So that’s the most obvious contrast. 

Also working on projects that help others has been a wonderful gift to be able to give, because without anybody taking a chance on me, I wouldn’t have experienced any success. So, I think it’s very important, you have to be mindful to give back, it’s your duty in a lot of ways, and I like to do that. 

What role did you most enjoy in your career?

One of the most fulfilling roles I’ve played was Michael Clayton. It was not just the complexity of the character, but the film touched on corporate malfeasance and moral dilemmas, which are very relevant issues. 

“One of the most fulfilling roles I’ve played was Michael Clayton”

Every time I stepped into his shoes, I felt a profound connection and responsibility to portray his inner turmoil and convictions accurately. It was challenging, but incredibly rewarding. 

Who is your favourite person in Hollywood?

That’s a tough one, given I’ve met and worked with so many incredible talents. But if I had to pick, I’d say Steven Soderbergh. Our collaborations have always been seamless, from Out of Sight to the Oceans series. 

He’s not only a phenomenal director but a dear friend. He brings out the best in everyone he works with, and his passion for cinema is truly contagious. 

After going through a journey from working any job to earn, to becoming a fans’ favourite, what is your advice to those actors who are starting out their own path?

Patience and perseverance are key. It’s easy to get discouraged in this industry, but remember, every rejection is a step closer to that one yes that can change everything. Stay true to your craft, continue to learn, and surround yourself with positive, like-minded individuals. 

“Always remember why you started acting in the first place – for the love of storytelling”

And most importantly, always remember why you started acting in the first place – for the love of storytelling. Hold onto that passion, and it will guide you through. 

You’re a huge advocate for fairness, respect and equality, and have always been outspoken for the #MeToo movement… yet, as we continue to see allegations of past behaviour brought against famous personalities, are you glad at least these things are out in the open?

Although it’s not something that anyone should have to be reporting, as these incidents should never have happened in the first place, the movement was and continues to be pivotal in history. 

Now, the perpetrators, these men can and will be exposed for their crimes and no amount of silencing, intimidation or bullying will stop it. It’s not just a wakeup call for Hollywood, it’s a wakeup call for all industries and it’s a call for a society – where women feel safe and secure discussing this subject, and where predators abusing these positions will be publicly shamed and brought to justice. 

The key here is to not let it fade away. The movement is well over a decade old now and we need to ensure we continue to build on the momentum to ensure permanent change. 

How is fatherhood treating you?

It’s still really fun. They’re little kids now, we’re able to have proper conversations, they still laugh at goofy faces and fart sounds – I mean, does there ever come a time when that’s not funny? They make me feel like I’m the funniest person in the world and are absolutely the best audience and critics I’ve ever had. I never get a bad review from them! 

What do you think has been your biggest surprise since becoming a father?

Although we all travelled through our journeys in life like this, I can’t and probably never will really understand just how fully formed they are as human beings. Six years ago, they weren’t here and now, they’re both very different – he’s this little thug, this out there personality and she’s very sweet natured and dainty. 

“I want them to be happy and healthy and safe”

This is who they are, this is who they’re going to develop into and grow up to be, and we as parents just have to try our best not to mess them up [laughs]. I want them to be happy and healthy and safe and it’s our job to safeguard that to the best of our ability. And after that, it’s like rolling the dice. 

As a family you split time between many different bases – which is your favourite?

Every home holds special memories, but Lake Como has a certain magic to it. The serenity of the lake, coupled with the historic charm of the villa, provides a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle. 

It’s where I’ve had some of my most memorable moments with family and friends. The natural beauty, combined with the rich Italian culture, makes it a place where I can truly relax and rejuvenate.