As an actor, he’s played soldiers and thieves; politicians and athletes; Batman and a gentleman fox. In real life, he’s an Academy and Gold Globe Award-winning actor, producer, writer, philanthropist, political activist, notorious ladies’ man and ambassador for the United Nations. George Clooney is known for being many things, but not many people know George Clooney: The Director. While it may be the one niche for which he has no awards, Clooney has directed some praised historical films. In honor of his directorial work on The Monuments Men – being released this Friday – we present a short history of the behind-the-camera work of one of Hollywood’s most prominent stars.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
After an illustrious acting career spanning 15 years, George Clooney made his first foray into directing with 2002’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Clooney was originally set only to co-star, but stepped in to direct after nearly a dozen other directors backed out. The film was based on the biography of Chuck Barris, the creator/host behind the hit TV shows, The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and The Gong Show. The film incorporates Barris’ claim of being a secret CIA agent in the 60s and 70s, and Clooney insisted Barris be on set to consult. Clooney drew influence from directors the Cohen Brothers and Steven Soderbergh, as well as his experience with his father’s, Nick Clooney, 70s game show, The Money Maze. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind received good reviews, but was only a precursor of what was to come.
Good Night, and Good Luck
Clooney’s next directorial project – which he also co-wrote and co-starred in – was a more personal film that touched upon his liberal political leanings. The movie was so important to Clooney that he performed each of his three roles for just a dollar, going as far as to mortgage his house to complete the picture. Good Night, and Good Luck chronicles the mid-century battle between outspoken CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow and fear mongering, anti-Communist Senator Joseph McCarthy. Once again, Clooney drew inspirations from the experiences of his father, Nick, as a broadcast journalist to bring a sense of authenticity to the film. Clooney decided to make the film black and white in post-production to further the aura of realism and heighten the drama. In the end, Clooney’s hard work resulted in critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination for the director.
George Clooney’s third directorial project was the more lighthearted and comical Leatherheads. Once again, the jack-of-all-trades directed and starred in the film. He also did major work on the original 17 year-old script, taking it from a drama to a screwball comedy. However, The Writers Guild of America voted not to give Clooney screenwriting credit, prompting him to relinquish his full membership in the WGA in favor of partial membership. Clooney also again harkened back to simpler times; in this case the infancy of American football in the 20s. The film showcased Clooney’s signature screwball comedy stylings seen in O Brother, Where Art Thou? and made the whole production a breeze for the veteran star. While the film certainly wasn’t a failure, it sat in the middle of the road both at the box office and with critics.
The Ides of March
Next up for Clooney was the political thriller, The Ides of March. Once again, Clooney directed, co-wrote and co-starred in the film, and this time also helping out with producing duties. The Ides of March was his most original project yet; combining political commentary, cloak-and-dagger elements and terrific performances by a star-studded cast. The film centered on corruption during the election process, and how the public doesn’t elect politicians, but how appointments are made through shady, back alley deals built on corruption and greed. The twists and turns in the career a junior campaign manager made for a suspenseful film that was praised by critics and supported well at the box office.
Check back to the Eventful Blog this Friday for all the news on George Clooney’s most recent directorial project, The Monuments Men!