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Stepping offstage

THE ENVELOPE

George Clooney, who starred in 'The Descendants' and 'The Ides of March' this year, is looking forward to working more behind the camera.

December 22, 2011|John Horn

Payne, who declined to cast Clooney in "Sideways" (he chose Thomas Haden Church instead), said he felt Clooney was exactly right for "The Descendants."

"I was eager to work with the guy. He's so affable, and everyone who's met him just thinks the world of him," Payne said. "He was perfect for the part. He wasn't perfect for Jack in 'Sideways.' He wasn't the right guy. This one: right look, right temperament, right age, right degree of fame that could propel an American commercial narrative film -- just the right guy. And, boy, was I lucky."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, December 24, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
George Clooney: In the Dec. 22 edition of The Envelope, an article about George Clooney said that the actor's film "Gravity" would open in May. The Alfonso Cuaron-directed film is expected to open Nov. 21, 2012.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, January 03, 2012 Home Edition The Envelope Part S Page 3 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
George Clooney: In the Dec. 22 edition of The Envelope, an article about George Clooney said that the actor's film "Gravity" would open in May. The Alfonso Cuaron-directed film is expected to open Nov. 21, 2012.

In selecting Clooney as Matt King, Payne had to believe that moviegoers could imagine a woman married to him would not only be unfulfilled but also cheat on her husband with "Scooby Doo's" Matthew Lillard. But Payne says she did so only because Lillard's Brian Speer paid attention to her when her spouse didn't.

But King learns from his shortcomings. He "finds love and forgiveness by accepting his role in his failures," Clooney says. "And I thought that was a very tough and interesting thing to play."

Tough and interesting are apt descriptions of "The Ides of March" as well, a movie with so many commercial disadvantages that Warner Bros. declined to back it and Clooney and Heslov had to personally sell the independently financed movie territory by territory at the American Film Market in Santa Monica last year.

The film's candidate, Mike Morris, appears to be Clooney in a nice suit -- he's unapologetically liberal (as president, he'll eliminate the internal combustion engine), charismatic and, you might at the outset believe, steadfastly principled. But a young campaign strategist (Ryan Gosling) uncovers a skeleton in the Morris closet, and all of a sudden he's revealed to be as inauthentic and cynical as most actual politicians.

Even if the movie was not a commercial and critical smash (although Gosling has an outside shot at supporting actor attention, as do Clooney, Heslov and Beau Willimon for adapted screenplay), it sharpened Clooney's interest in directing. "Directing is infinitely more creative, as is writing, and it's more fun to do," says Clooney, who hasn't yet decided which movie he will helm next.

Besides the planned Smothers Brothers movie, Clooney and Heslov are producing "Argo," a thriller about the Iranian hostage crisis directed by and costarring Ben Affleck; "Our Brand Is Crisis," a feature film remake of the documentary about South American politics; and the serial killer story "The Monster of Florence."

But first Clooney aims to tend to himself, repairing damage, dating back to an injury while filming "Syriana," to his back, neck and right arm. "I'm just going to be a mess. I am falling apart."

In Hollywood, though, he couldn't be healthier.

Envelope writer Sam Adams contributed to this report.

john.horn@latimes.com

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