George Clooney shuns Oscar buzz

by Patrick Camara Ropeta, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Oct 26 2011 11:37 AM | Updated as of Oct 28 2011 12:53 AM

LONDON - Hollywood star George Clooney shrugged off talk that he is already a top contender for next year’s awards.

The Oscar-winning actor spoke at a press conference in London while promoting two of his latest movies, ‘The Ides of March’ and ‘The Descendants’, at the 55th BFI London Film Festival (LFF).

“I don’t pay attention to that,” he told the press, including ABS-CBN Europe. “I’ve been on both sides of that equation a few times now, and what I have learnt about it is whenever someone says that, they’re complimenting the work and for that you say ‘thank you’. It’s a very nice thing to say. It’s the result of a lot of people doing a lot of hard work.”

Buzz has been building about Clooney’s chances at next year’s awards season after his latest films were widely praised by critics.

“I don’t remember who wins awards,” added the 50-year-old Clooney who won an Academy Award (Oscars) for Best Supporting Actor in 2006 for "Syriana." He has also received numerous nominations and awards, from the BAFTA, Golden Globe, Emmys, and Screen Actors’ Guild Awards.

“I’ve won one, or a few, but what I remember are movies. I really love movies. I remember 1976 [at the Oscars] was ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘All The President’s Men’, ‘Network’, ‘Bound for Glory’, and ‘Rocky’. I love those movies, and I watch films like that. I love films," he added.

Height of politics

The political thriller "The Ides of March" is Clooney’s fourth directorial effort, having previously directed "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," "Good Night and Good Luck," and "Leatherheads."

On his reasons for going behind the camera, the actor-turned-director explained: “You want to be able to be creative in this industry. Whether you’re interested in directing or writing, it’s an incredibly creative process. Acting is one element in a film, and directing is sort of painting, using all of those elements like sound, music and camera-work. Putting it all together is really creative, fun and exciting. I like the risks involved when doing that.”

Set in the cut-throat world of American politics, the film stars Ryan Gosling as an idealistic junior campaign manager wrapped in ambition and desire in the morally-complicated process of the US presidential election.

“There are hands that you have to shake that you wouldn’t normally shake,” observed Clooney, whose own father, American television newscaster Nick Clooney, ran for a seat at the US Congress in 2004. He lost the election, but the experience gave both father and son greater insight into politics.

“It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is. You can’t finance your own [campaign] unless you’re independently wealthy, which my father isn’t. And even a small congressional district in Kentucky would cost you 2 million dollars to run. You end up having to make those bargains and attend those events where you shake hands of people who you wouldn’t normally find attractive to deal with.”

The former "ER" star plays a presidential candidate in the film, alongside critically acclaimed actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood and Paul Giamatti.

Extraordinary struggles of an ordinary man

Clooney is also starring in "The Descendants," a comedy drama following the struggles of a man, whose wife suffers a serious accident, and the unraveling of the dysfunctional relationships in their family.

“This one is different because it’s much more emotional and much more attached to the family. I found it challenging only in the sense that I wanted to serve the material very well. It’s a tricky piece. It’s kind of a coming-of-age film, but unfortunately, the person coming of age is a 50-year-old man," he said.

The indie-style film, directed by Alexander Payne, was shot on location in the islands of Hawaii. Hawaii was not portrayed as a typical hyper-paradise, which in itself becomes an interesting feature in the film.

“I like the moodiness evoked by rain and the darkened sky,” said Payne, who directed "Sideways". “I thought it was wonderful to start with that palette to subvert people’s visual pre-impressions of it. And actually what I wanted to see was Honolulu, rather than Hawaii. I have never seen Honolulu in a film, and the film deliberately starts with the montage of street life in downtown Honolulu.”

Beyond box-office

With the Oscar buzz already in full swing, and the release of two new films, Clooney is reminded of his own prerogative in filmmaking.

“I’m not so concerned with speculation about winning things, because I really enjoy being in films that last longer than an opening weekend. That’s my goal in life,” he revealed.

“I don’t want to be at these events at 75 years old saying, ‘I’ve opened 15 films to number one’. That’s not my goal in life - to be the richest man in the cemetery.”