George Clooney Is the Man
I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s a role model or even someone I idolize. He's not even a man-crush. But George Clooney is someone I respect and admire. It all started for me on September 2, 1997, a few days after Princess Diana died. Clooney held a press conference to call the paparazzi to task, saying it was their fault she was dead, that they were reckless, and not just in this case. The way he delivered his remarks that night — in a forceful and passionate manner, his words clearly thought-out — so impressed me that I was instantly made a fan, and I’ve never forgotten that night. From that moment on, George Clooney was my hero.
Over the years, Clooney has continually stepped up to the plate in times like that. He doesn’t exploit his celebrity like some folks do, but rather he uses it to his advantage to, for example, gather friends and colleagues for telethons following 9/11 and the tsunami in southeast Asia. When his motives are contested, by cynics such as Bill O’Reilly, he stands up for himself and his intentions, challenging people like O’Reilly to do the same as he is doing. Clooney is a man of principle and he won’t let anyone question his intentions.
He’s also a loyal, good friend and he just oozes cool. All you have to do is watch a movie like Out of Sight or Ocean’s 11 for proof of this. Clooney makes being him — or acting as a guy very much like him (or so we’re led to believe) — look easy.
Perhaps that’s why anytime there’s a profile written about Clooney in Esquire or GQ or any such men’s magazine, it tends to be about the same basic things: how great a guy he is, how loyal he is to his friends (and vice versa), and how much fun he’s having being George Clooney. And I don’t care that these articles are all basically the same; I read them all. I also see any movie he’s in — even Solaris, a really weird sci-fi romance that I didn’t understand but still somehow liked. I think.
Anyway, my reason for writing this ode to George is that I saw his new movie, Good Night, and Good Luck tonight. It was a sneak screening; the movie doesn’t open until mid-October. Good Night basically tells the true story of the two months during which CBS News anchor Edward R. Murrow stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy and challenged him about his anti-Communist efforts. The film was shot in black-and-white, and it’s a somewhat slow moving but purposefully-told examination of what happened when one member of the media stood up to a government figure whose actions were, up to then, going practically unchecked.
Clooney’s in the film, but as he did with his directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, he has a non-showy supporting role that doesn’t distract from the matters at hand, and the great performance of the lead actor (in this case, David Strathairn).
Without going into the details too much, my immediate reaction to the film was something along the lines of being impressed, not just because it’s a well-acted and well-made movie. I was impressed mostly because you could just feel Clooney’s passion in every frame. It’s a black-and-white historical movie, not exactly an easy sell, but you just know it’s a movie that Clooney felt he had to make because he had something to say about our present-day government and our television news organizations. And you know it’s the kind of movie Clooney would like if he were a critic.
Clooney makes an effective point with this movie, using Murrow as a symbol for the type of newsman that just doesn’t exist anymore. For that matter, the type of news broadcast that doesn’t exist anymore. (The closest thing we had was Peter Jennings, some might say.) On his See It Now programs, Murrow spent the full broadcast delving into one topic, and in the instances with Murrow, he editorialized and made plain that he didn’t approve of McCarthy’s tactics.
But at the same time he was on his crusade, Murrow was also battling pressure from the network to cut back, to make the news more entertaining. For a while, he also hosted a celebrity interview show called Person to Person, and there’s a scene in the film where he’s interviewing a celeb, while watching news on another monitor. It's obvious that doing the fluff show reviles him.
The son of a news anchor, Clooney clearly reveres Murrow and his role in the history of journalism, By movie’s end, you can’t help but feel the same way about Murrow. Having studied this period in a “News on Film” class I took in college, the story of Good Night was familiar to me. But Clooney’s film reminded me of just how passionate he can be when he believes in something. Good Night is definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. I highly recommend it.