George Clooney on Oscar Whisper Campaigns, Writing a ‘Gravity’ Scene and Spielberg's Reaction to the Movie (Exclusive)

George Clooney on Oscar Whisper Campaigns, Writing a 'Gravity' Scene and Spielberg's Reaction to the Movie (Exclusive)

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“I think right now what you have is snarky people on the Internet who just want to debunk anything,” Clooney tells TheWrap

George Clooney spoke with TheWrap Wednesday about movie accuracy, Oscar whisper campaigns and his behind-the-scenes role in a pivotal “Gravity” scene. The interview follows:

Are you concerned that people are picking apart movies that are based on true stories, like “Captain Phillips”? Are the whisper campaigns in the Oscar race starting earlier?
It’s becoming less effective, I think. There is this is weird thing starting to go on where everyone is fact checking movies. If you fact check “Lawrence of Arabia,” I’m fairly sure that what T.E. Lawrence wrote wasn’t pure history. He made up battles and characters. “The Great Escape” is just an amalgamation of a bunch of different characters; there weren’t any actual Americans in real life.

I watched “Captain Philips” the other night. First, that guy (director Paul Greengrass) is a great filmmaker. The last act of that movie is as harrowing as anything you’ll see.

Also read: ‘Gravity,’ ‘Captain Phillips’ Face Inaccuracy Charges – Have the Oscar Whisper Campaigns Begun?

“Gravity” is a work of fiction. This notion that Sandy couldn’t have floated from one place to another – it’s called a movie. We’re in a really weird place where we’re focusing on shooting holes in minute details of a film that’s based on a real story. Go through the list of movies that went through best picture – “Patton,” “Gandhi” – I can find things not completely accurate. The point is it’s a film.

Do you think this is a whisper campaign?
It’s too early to think it’s a whisper campaign. I think right now what you have is snarky people on the Internet who just want to debunk anything. There’s a backlash against movies that are unbelievably well-reviewed.

Also read: Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson Defies ‘Gravity’

Are you worried about this coming up for “Monuments Men,” which is also based on a true story?
No. In doing “Monuments Men” we wanted to give some of these characters flaws, and they’re real people. We’re not going to give a drinking problem to someone who really existed, because that’s not fair. But I wanted to tell a story.

So clarify for us this scene that you apparently wrote in “Gravity”? (Spoiler Alert)
That’s not what Alfonso said. [Ed. note: The actor is referring to an interview director Alfonso Cuaron did with Vulture earlier this week] He said I wrote a piece for him. I didn’t write any scene. That scene was there from the minute I was handed the script.

The problem they were having was afterward. They were struggling with how they tell people Sandy wants to live instead and I said maybe she talks to her little girl, and says, “Mommy loves her.”

Also read: Lost in Space With Sandra Bullock: Alfonso Cuaron's 10 Laws of ‘Gravity’

Alfonso is such a sweet guy. He hands out credit to everyone all the time. I sent him the scene as I was leaving London. I said — “Maybe this helps. Maybe this will fix the problem.” He said they shot a version of it.

Are you surprised at how well the film is doing?
We tested this two years ago. We tested it a year ago. There was great deal of concern at the studio at every level that it would be a very expensive art film. Alfonso just shrugged his shoulders and got to work.

I’d look at him every six months and say, “Are you OK?” It was killing him. It was a very frustrating process for him. He stuck with it. I couldn't in a billion years dream of doing what he did.

Also read: How ‘Gravity’ Revolutionized Visual Effects and Blasted Sandra Bullock Into Space

I was talking with Spielberg the other day. He said, “I can't speak after seeing this movie. What were you guys doing?” I said, “We didn’t know. We were floating with this weird equipment. A computer geek was behind our heads. Alfonso and Chivo (cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) were running things — they knew what they were doing, we’d say this was crazy.

How is “Monuments Men” going?
I’m working on the score with Alexandre Desplat. Then I’m going to London to Abbey Road to record with London 100-piece orchestra.

Were trying to do the movie in the vein of war films – but you don’t want it to sound like the “Great Escape.” Done in the ‘50s, ‘60s, they all had own sort of life. You don’t want to do a replica. You have to do new version. It’s been bit of a dance.

If we get the tone right it will be a really fun film. The guys were great. Cate Blanchett is fantastic. We don’t have to do jokes: When you have Bill Murray and Bob Balaban in the frame together, it’s just fun.

In the last scene of movie I have my father play me as an old man.

Do you have thoughts on the government shutdown?

I think at some point in the very near future, cooler heads have to prevail. There are so many good solid Republicans who don’t have any interest in this at all. I think at some point (John) Boehner is just looking for a way out to save some face. Hopefully they’ll find their way.

See video: Stephen Colbert on Government Shutdown: Defunding Obamacare Is a Compromise

The last time we had government shutdown we didn’t have bloggers, Twitter for everyone to talk about it. Perhaps now you have all that, it may cause a great deal more, “OMG, the world is coming to an end,” and perhaps our record has never been to default on debt. I feel that in all probability things will get resolved. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt the world economy because of a law they don’t like.

If they don’t like the law, let it go through, let it fail massively.

Are you worried that Obama will cave?
I’m not worried about that. No such thing as caving on Obamacare. I don’t think that’ll happen. Doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It’s all amplified in echo chamber of information. As this goes, cooler heads will prevail.

Worst thing that can happen on Republican side is this health care can work. Most of my friends on the right, and I have many, have no interest in the country or even health care failing. They'd love it if worked. This is their program.

Did you ever hear from Dan Loeb after chastising him in public?
I never heard from him. I was surprised.

Also read: Daniel Loeb Slams Sony Entertainment Execs for Summer Flops, Poor Oversight

We live in an industry where movies are going to succeed and fail, and it can be as simple as this weekend the playoff games are two major cities, and all of a sudden no one goes to movie. You can have best reviewed film and no one sees it.

There’s no understanding to the biz, except to do the best you can. And the guys who do it for a living are pretty successful. To come form outside and have a solution is ridiculous.

  • grace

    It's easy for Mr. Clooney to say Obamacare is a good thing, he's not in a position where being FORCED to pay over $400.00/month, or face penalties that are enforced via income tax, will be a hardship.

    Again, why are we going to an actor for comment on civic issues?

    • A.L. Hern

      Apart from the misrepresentation of your $400/month figure, were this country still in the grip of the every-man-for-himself, dog-eat-dog non-healthcare system Republicans are fighting tooth-and-nail to return us to, you would be “forced” to risk your life and finances by forgoing health insurance coverage in the likely unrealistic hope that disease or injury would never strike you or your family.

    • Mick

      Why are people going to listen to a random commenter on the internet talking about civic issues? His opinion is just as valid as anyone elses. If you don't want to listen to what he says, then ignore any portion of an interview that contains political topics. The interviewer didn't seek out George for comment on the government shutdown, they decided to ask some questions on those topics *after* the questions that they were really wanting to get answered. It is his opinion, which everyone is entitled to. Doesn't mean you have to like it, or even acknowledge it, but don't blow it out of proportion.

  • Wowee Warren

    $400? Under Bush and what I'm paying now for insurance, I'm forking over more than $24,000 a year! All because of a pre-existing condition I've had since I was 16 and which never came back again. Obamacare is long overdue, and I for one am glad it's arrived. Now if we can just get some great consumer, banking and employment regulations set down so the country can get back on track without political criminality and corruption. . .

    • Jerry Schroeder

      Your pre-existing condition? What was it AIDS you dick sucking queer!?

  • Bluebird

    FYI to TheWrap: This article has lots of spelling/grammar mistakes, including in quotes. I'd email someone directly but don't know how/where.

  • A.L. Hern

    “'The Great Escape’ is just an amalgamation of a bunch of different characters; there weren’t any actual Americans in real life.”

    Well, yes there were; in fact there were three times as many American POW's — 7500 — interned at Stalag Luft III as British (2500). The film fails to give a sense of how vast the camp really was.

    While it's true that there was no American nearly as central to the escape efforts as Steve McQueen's Hilts character, many Americans participated in the planning and digging, only to be transferred to other camps before the escape could be put into effect.

    The film does have gaps in logic, some convenient, and others that leave one shaking one's had at the failure of the actual POW's to take certain seemingly obvious factors into consideration, especially astonishing in light of the meticulous and extreme care they took in other areas.

    George is right, though: in the end you're telling a story; it's your only mission, and you have to engage and move diverse audiences, all over the world, six times a day. That “The Great Escape” managed to do that at the time of its original release and has continued to do it in the five decades since is an enduring testament to the decisions made by those who conceived and crafted the film from a raw mass of historical material and recollections.

  • Jerry Schroeder

    Gawd I hope clooney DIES of CANCER this weekend. Spielberg too that “F”..*..*.ucking “J”EW!