Entertainment: 'I lacked talent': Clooney on the career that nearly kept him out of acting - - PressFrom - Australia
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Entertainment'I lacked talent': Clooney on the career that nearly kept him out of acting

08:30  15 may  2019
08:30  15 may  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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" I only lacked talent ," he adds, laughing. "That's the thing that kept me out of it." Instead, Clooney became an actor , rising to prominence in the 1990s "If you're going to direct something that's going to take a year and a half out of your life, it has to be something that you're willing to take a risk on

" I only lacked talent ," he adds, laughing. "That's the thing that kept me out of it." Instead, Clooney became an actor , rising to prominence in the 1990s playing Dr Doug Ross on the medical drama ER between 1994 and 1999, and from there bouncing into a career as a leading man in film, notching up

'I lacked talent': Clooney on the career that nearly kept him out of acting© Philippe Antonello/Hulu George Clooney in a scene from the new adaptation of Catch-22.

In bringing Joseph Heller's iconic novel Catch-22 to the screen almost six decades after it was published, director, producer and actor George Clooney says the passage of time has given it new meaning.

'I lacked talent': Clooney on the career that nearly kept him out of acting
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A story once steeped in the post-World War II sensibilities of the 1950s seemed to find a contemporary resonance, he says, touching on themes such as mental health and battlefield trauma, which are now dealt with more openly.

Sensibilities change, says Clooney. "Sometimes that's what dates films and television shows. And sometimes it makes them more prescient.

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" I only lacked talent ," he adds, laughing. "That's the thing that kept me out of it." Instead, Clooney became an actor , rising to prominence in the 1990s playing Dr Doug Ross on the medical drama ER between 1994 and 1999, and from there bouncing into a career as a leading man in film, notching up

" I only lacked talent ," he adds, laughing. "That's the thing that kept me out of it." Instead, Clooney became an actor , rising to prominence in the 1990s playing Dr Doug Ross on the medical drama ER between 1994 and 1999, and from there bouncing into a career as a leading man in film, notching up

"This is one where, I think, the reason the book is a classic is because the basic standard tenets really sort of remain," Clooney adds. "Which is, shit rolls downhill, authority is to be made fun of, red tape and bureaucracy particularly, and war is insane. All those things."

The series, like the book, follows the exploits of the fictional 256th Squadron, based on the island of Pianosa in the Tuscan Archipelago, off the west coast of Italy.

Clooney, whose production company made the series, plays the parade-obsessed training officer Scheisskopf.

For many people, Clooney included, Catch-22 is remembered as a book that was read in their youth, typically off a high school required reading list.

"It's hard reading, it took a while," Clooney says. "But at the time it felt like the kind of writing, the style of writing that we hadn't seen much of. We've seen some of that style copied since then. But it's nice when you go back and read a book 40 years later and it doesn't let you down."

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The 58-year-old actor/producer says he frequently sits down to watch a classic film with his wife, the human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, only to discover it has not aged well.

"My wife is considerably younger than me, and I'll say, oh, you've got to see this film, it's one of the greatest films you've ever seen, and we watch it, and it's terrible," he says.

With Catch-22, Clooney says, the reverse was true. "As a young man, you're supposed to read it. And the fun part is, as an old man, it was nice to read it. And I wasn't let down."

When Clooney first read the book, he had no idea he would ever be in a position to bring it to the screen, he says.

At the time his ambition was to go into broadcast journalism, following in the footsteps of his father, Nick Clooney, who had been a news presenter on regional US television and later hosted a morning news magazine program.

"That was what my father was doing and that's what I wanted to do, and I studied that at school and paid attention to that," Clooney says. "I only lacked talent," he adds, laughing. "That's the thing that kept me out of it."

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'I lacked talent': Clooney on the career that nearly kept him out of acting© Philippe Antonello/Hulu A scene from Catch-22. Instead, Clooney became an actor, rising to prominence in the 1990s playing Dr Doug Ross on the medical drama ER between 1994 and 1999, and from there bouncing into a career as a leading man in film, notching up two Oscars, one for his performance in Syriana in 2006 and the other as co-producer of the best film winner Argo in 2012.

"My family, my parents' generation are storytellers," Clooney says. "They grew up with radio, and radio is where storytelling ... not where it came from, but where it was the last of that great generation of storytellers, The Shadow and characters like that. My father is a great storyteller also, so it seemed like a natural turn."

There is a tendency to anoint the proliferation of limited series on television, and in particular work like Catch-22, with its venerated source material, the windfall of the so-called golden age of television when the small screen has emerged as the dominant form of screen storytelling.

"But you read so much bad stuff," Clooney says. "There's 430 scripted television shows out this year. Great for actors. Unbelievably great for actors. And for some clearly, this is the golden age of television. Some of the TV I see it's as good as anything I've ever seen. But there's a lot to sift through to get to those things.

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"If you're going to direct something that's going to take a year and a half out of your life, it has to be something that you're willing to take a risk on, you want it to be something that's worth doing," he says. "I've been lucky in my career and I've had some things that have been very fun and easy, and then you go, what's the next level?

"We got handed six scripts [for Catch-22] that I thought were spectacular," Clooney says. "And I thought, well, I'd like to see that show. And I'd like to be involved in that in whatever way I can. Our main job in this is to supply six hours of escapism and entertainment. And hopefully do a good job with that."

Historically, war stories have been told on television and in film two ways: either as the war-is-hell assault on your senses in the style of Saving Private Ryan, or as the wry and dry war-is-weary comedy, such as the book-film-television series tryptch M*A*S*H.

In Catch-22, Clooney says, "you're actually in a different branch completely".

"This is a classic novel," he says. "Probably considered to be one of the classic American novels of all time. And it's a story that a lot of people look back fondly at, and have read recently. It's sort of standard reading for a lot of them."

Because of both its intensity and its nuance, Clooney says, it needs time to make its impact meaningful.

"You couldn't do it in two hours," he says. "We kill a lot of people and it's not always so nice the way they die. When you kill them in the movie, you don't get to learn who Art Garfunkel's character is, or who Martin Balsam's character is. You don't get to learn who they are.

"In a six-hour piece, where you can learn about one of the characters who ends up getting killed, their deaths actually have some resonance," he says.

"The beauty of being able to tell it in a longer form is why we wanted to do it, it's a classic, and we thought it would be terrifying to take on. And for us that's the best kind of thing to take on."

Catch-22 premieres on Stan on Saturday, May 18.

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