George Clooney, Director

6:00 AM PST 12/17/2011 by Stacey Wilson
Saeed Adyani/Sony Pictures

The Golden Globe-nominated helmer of The Ides of March reveals the toughest part of directing yourself, the book he recommends for other actor-directors and why his film is not a "message movie."

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: You produced a series for HBO in 2003 called K Street, which offered an insider's look at a fictional bipartisan consulting firm in Washington. How did the show inform your  approach to the heavy political themes in Ides?

George Clooney: It informed almost every element of the political story in Ides. Spending 16 weeks working with real-life consultants James Carville, Mary Matalin and Michael Deaver, and working with consultants and lobbyists on a daily basis was incredibly helpful.

THR: Your Ides co-writer and friend Grant Heslov said your approach to adapting the play for the screen was to "open it up," as opposed to condensing, which one would have to do in adapting a novel. What tricks specifically did you employ to bring the play to life?

Clooney: We added plot points that didn't exist, such as the showdown scene in the kitchen between my and Ryan Gosling's characters. And we also added new characters that didn't exist, including who I play, Governor Mike Morris. Those were the main elements of expanding the film.

THR: How tricky is it to balance a large ensemble cast, especially one that includes powerhouse actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and Ryan Gosling?

Clooney: It is actually not tricky at all. In fact, it's very easy! When you have actors as talented as they are, it is your main job as a director to not screw it up.

THR: What is the most difficult aspect of directing yourself? 

Clooney: That you can't do more takes on yourself than you do on the other actors.

THR: The film offers a disturbing look inside a contemporary campaign. What message do you hope audiences walk away with?

Clooney: We didn't write the movie to send a message. We wrote it to be entertainment in the vein of the kinds of entertainment that I grew up watching in the 1960s and 1970s, which means subject matter that is relative to today's issues.

THR: What advice would you give to other actors who are looking to transition to the director's chair?

Clooney: I think I'm the last person to give people advice, but I would say they should read Sidney Lumet's book on directing, Making Movies, and work on finding good scripts. You can certainly make a bad film out of a good script, but you can't make a good film out of a bad script.

THR: You've helmed a handful of films, including Confessions of a Dangerous Mind; Good Night, and Good Luck; and Leatherheads. How has your approach evolved over the past decade?

Clooney: Much the same as my acting, I'm constantly trying to learn and improve as a director. But this is all with the understanding that I will never be completely satisfied.

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DOUBLE THREATS: If Clooney earns an Oscar nom for directing Ides, he will join these actors-turned-directors who have also earned noms and wins. (* denotes win)

Woody Allen

  • Annie Hall* (1978)
  • Interiors (1979)
  • Broadway Danny Rose (1985)
  • Hannah and Her Sisters (1987)
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors (1990)
  • Bullets Over Broadway (1995)

Warren Beatty

  • Heaven Can Wait (1979)
  • Reds* (1982)

John Cassavetes

  • A Woman Under the Influence (1975 )

Kevin Costner

  • Dances With Wolves* (1991)

Clint Eastwood

  • Unforgiven* (1993)
  • Mystic River (2004)
  • Million Dollar Baby* (2005)
  • Letters From Iwo Jima (2007)

Mel Gibson

  • Braveheart* (1996 )

Ron Howard

  • A Beautiful Mind* (2002)
  • Frost/Nixon (2009)

Robert Redford

  • Ordinary People* (1981)
  • Quiz Show (1995)

Orson Welles

  • Citizen Kane (1942)
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