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

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THR: What makes a great actor?

Plummer: The great rage. Someone who can lose their temper suddenly, very quickly, and frighten the shit not just out of the person he's playing with but the audience as well. That's the rage. Mr. Oldman has that. Then, the ability to make classic roles seem so modern and fresh.

Oldman: He does that. (Points at Clooney.)

Gary, do you agree you have the great rage?

Oldman: I think a few ex-wives would agree.

Brooks: Fifteen minutes before we started, he was yelling at the hairdresser. (Laughter.)

Clooney: There's an element of that even in comedy. You'll see that kind of rage. It doesn't have to be angry. Watch Joel McCrea in [Preston Sturges' 1941 film] Sullivan's Travels, and there is this sort of throbbing undercurrent that's always going around.

Oldman: Albert has that, too. I've certainly seen it in Mr. Nolte.

Brooks: I think it's an additional thing also, especially in movies. The actors who have always been the most affecting to me are the ones that allow me to interpret on my own. There are some actors that give you 100 percent, but they don't let you get in. They're working; you see them working. There are other actors that are instinctively laid-back. It's really like a painting. I mean, why should any work from a modern artist sell for millions of dollars? It's only because people are standing there and they're thinking what this means to them. The same thing happens with a good actor.

Clooney: Good singers will do that. I used to say to Rosemary: "You're 70 years old and can't hit any of the notes you used to hit. Why are you a better singer?" She goes: "I don't have to prove I can sing anymore. I just serve the material."

THR: Do you have any regrets?

Plummer: There are a couple of parts I think I'd like to have played that I didn't get. I made a little success in London in Becket, the play about [Thomas] Becket and King Henry II. I was furious when Peter O'Toole, my friend, got [the lead role in the movie, 1964's Becket]. Son of a bitch.

THR: Have you ever thought of doing something other than acting or directing?

Brooks: I wanted to be an eye doctor for a few years.

Plummer: I started studying the classics as a pianist.

Brooks: Do you still play?

Plummer: When drunk, yes.

Clooney: I'm going to his house.

Brooks: Can I go home with you? You have more fun than me.

Plummer: I'll think about it and let you know.

Nolte: A lot of what we discussed is the decision of whether to live in real life or not. I certainly prefer not to be in real life. It's horrifying. The Cold War and the bunkers and all that shit that was laid on us as kids, it's just not anyplace I wanted to be. So I felt at home when I hit the stage. I prefer it to the horror of real life.

Brooks: Nick, that's a good title for your autobiography.

Nolte: What, Whore of Real Life? I think it was my fifth wife …

Clooney: No, no -- Horror.

Nolte: Oh, the horror!

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About THR's Roundtable Series: The Hollywood Reporter continues its annual series of exclusive discussions among the year's most compelling film talents. As awards season unfolds, look for upcoming roundtables with producers and animation filmmakers, and go to The Reporter's website to watch videos of the full discussions.

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THE PERFORMANCES

Albert Brooks, Drive: Brooks takes a 180 from his comedic persona to play a brutal crime boss opposite Ryan Gosling in the violent thriller.

George Clooney, The Decendants, The Ides of March: Clooney directs himself as an ambitious presidential candidate in Ides and stars as a lawyer forced to deal with his comatose wife in Descendants.

Nick Nolte, Warrior: After a career spanning five decades, the gravel-voiced Nolte co-stars in the mixed martial arts drama as an alcoholic father seeking redemption from his two sons.

Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Oldman, who came to prominence in 1986's Sid and Nancy, leads an ensemble cast as a veteran spy in the adaptation of the John Le Carré novel.

Christopher Plummer, Beginners, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Plummer steals scenes as a terminally ill man exploring his homosexuality in director Mike Mills' drama Beginners and appears in David Fincher's adaptation of the Stieg Larson novel.

Christoph Waltz, Carnage: The Austrian uses a convincing American accent in Roman Polanski's adaptation of the play God of Carnage. It's a far cry from his role as a Nazi commander in Inglourious Basterds.