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.

Reinvention is a hallmark of great actors, so it's fitting that several of the talents invited to participate in The Hollywood Reporter's annual Actor Roundtable have distinguished themselves in 2011 by playing against type. Famed comic Albert Brooks, 64, embodies a ruthless criminal in Drive; regal screen presence Christopher Plummer, 81, lets loose as a flamboyant gay man exploring his sexuality at age 75 in Beginners; and Christoph Waltz, 55, so effective as a Nazi commander in Quentin Tarantino's 2009 hit Inglourious Basterds, plays a suburban American father in Carnage. They joined George Clooney, 50 (The Descendants, The Ides of March), Nick Nolte, 70 (Warrior), and Gary Oldman, 53 (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), at Smashbox Studios in West Hollywood on Oct. 24 for an hourlong discussion that touched on Nolte's personal struggles, what Oldman said when asked to play Charles Manson and why Clooney prefers acting to selling women's shoes.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Do you have a pet peeve about scripts that will make you stop reading immediately?

Nick Nolte: By page two, you know.

George Clooney: Pretty much by page four or five, it's got to get you.

Albert Brooks: The first speech that's over two sentences, where you actually have to see writing, if those start to sound false, then it's over.

Christopher Plummer: Do you have a habit of going right through to the end to make sure you're in the last scene?

Clooney: You're just looking for the sequel. (Laughter.)

Brooks: The computer tells you everything now. What part are you playing? Larry. The computer says you're on six pages. Well, Jesus, I'll just read Larry.

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THR: Is there any role you would not play?

Clooney: Larry. (Laughter.)

Gary Oldman: Ten or 15 years ago, someone approached me to play Charles Manson. I just felt, out of respect to the family, I'm not interested.

Nolte: There's too much karma around that. It's way too heavy. You know, I used to cut off the top of my trucks, and that's the same thing [Manson] did. So the police used to stop me a lot. They called him Chuck.

Clooney: Chuck, to his friends.

Nolte: Then they'd stop me and say, "Are you related to Chuck?" I always pled the Fifth.

Brooks: Nick, you got stopped for a lot of things. I never knew about that.

Nolte: Yeah. I didn't tell you everything, Albert.

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THR: Is there a role you've played where the character has really stayed with you? Christopher, you've played King Lear.

Plummer: Yes, that haunts you.

Clooney: Literally.

Plummer: The first part's all right. But the second act, once he's on the heath, forget it. Then it becomes an entirely other play. It's a play about Gloucester and Edmund, and you're sitting in your dressing room getting stoned, waiting to come on again. Then you come on, finally. The audience says, "Hey, that looks like King Lear. Forgotten all about him." It's not the magisterial play they all say it is -- not the second act, anyway.

THR: What's the toughest role you've played?

Plummer: The part in The Sound of Music. It was so awful and sentimental and gooey. I had to work terribly hard to try to infuse some minuscule bit of humor into it.

Brooks: You mean you didn't believe everything you said?

Plummer: Oh, shut up.

Nolte: Albert's actually got some experience in that territory.

Brooks: What? Escaping from Nazis?

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