THR Actor Roundtable: George Clooney's Worst Job, Nick Nolte's Thoughts On Death, and Who Has 'Rage' Issues

George Clooney's career that involved hammertoes, Christopher Plummer's "awful" "Sound of Music" role, Christoph Waltz never likes his own work: No topic was off-limits as six of the season's big talents loosened up to talk role models, fame and fear of failure.

 

PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes of THR's Actress Roundtable 2011

THR: Was shifting from the stage to film difficult?

Plummer: Not really. As a young actor on the screen, I was very bad. One is always thinking of how you look when you're young. You're always conscious of the profile; you're so conceited. I thought that was all that movies were about. It wasn't until I hit the drunk stage of my life, in my 40s, that I suddenly had fun on film playing character roles.

Brooks: Drinking is the key?

Plummer: Yeah. John Huston's [1975 film] The Man Who Would Be King. I thought that was terrific.

Clooney: Drunk through the whole thing, were you?

Plummer: Poor John Huston. He had emphysema very badly by that time. But he was such a marvelous character. He had an oxygen tent on the set, but he always had his cigar with him.

Clooney: That always works well.

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THR: George, is acting fun, or is it hard work?

Clooney: I cut tobacco for a living in Kentucky -- that was hard work. I sold insurance door to door -- that's hard work. Acting is not hard work. If you're lucky enough to be sitting at a table like this, you've been very lucky in your life. You caught the brass ring somewhere along the way. I've known a tremendous number of talented actors who didn't get opportunities. Is it hard work? It's long hours, but nobody wants to hear you complain. I remember I was selling women's shoes at a department store, which is a lousy job. It sounds like it'd be great, but it wasn't elegant shoes. It was 80-year-old women [saying], "That's a hammertoe!" You're like, "I don't want to see that!" I remember I would hear of famous stars complaining in Hollywood about how hard their life was -- I didn't want to hear that. So I don't find it difficult. I find it challenging, and sometimes I'm very bad at it, but I don't find it hard.

THR: Do you think you were bad and have become better?

Clooney: I think scripts make people better. Direction makes people better. You can find a lot of projects where actors were tremendously good in one project, but you'll see them not work necessarily well in others. I think scripts make a huge difference in that department.

THR: Did you always know you wanted to act?

Clooney: I figured it out right after I finished cutting tobacco. My uncle was an actor named Jose Ferrer. He came to Kentucky to do a movie when I was 20 with his son Miguel Ferrer, also a wonderful actor. I was an extra for about two months on the set -- they got me a gig. Then Jose said, "You ought to go to Hollywood and be an actor."

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