Hollywood star George Clooney has been in London this week to talk about his latest two movies, The Ides of March and The Descendants, which both received their UK premieres at the 55th BFI London Film Festival.
Based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, The Ides of March is a story of betrayal and blackmail in which Clooney plays Governor Mike Morris who is running to become a US Presidential candidate.
Despite winning plaudits for his portrayal of the Presidential hopeful, Clooney says he has no intention of running for office himself.
Speaking at a festival press conference on Wednesday, he told journalists: “I am able to dip my toe into issues involved in politics, like in Sudan or Darfur. Where I can have some involvement then I’m happy to do it, and I don’t have to compromise as a politician.”
He also dismissed suggestions that cinema influenced political change, saying that films “usually hold a mirror up to [an event] after it’s happened. We don’t really lead the way.”
He revealed that parts of the film had been influenced by his father’s experiences of running for office.
“Theres a scene in a car that was pretty much directly a result of conversations I had with my father…there are hands you have to shake that you wouldn’t normally shake, and it’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is.”
Clooney said although his character doesn’t appear in the stage version, he was attracted to the story because he’d been “working on a morality play, probably more along the lines of Wall Street and I liked the idea of the questions the play was raising.”
Discussing the challenges of the role he said: “Playing a candidate is tricky because you would think actors have this gigantic ego, and they do, but…politicians have a tremendous amount of ego.
“It’s very hard when the product you’re selling to the entire country is yourself and you’re selling the hell out of it all the time.”
Although he declined to offer any advice to real life politicians, he revealed: “I love watching the House of Commons, I think it’s fun, it really is. I can’t quite figure what happens, every time I watch it I’m not sure who won but I enjoy watching it.”
On Thursday Clooney spoke to journalists about The Descendants, a drama which mixes tragedy and comedy to great effect.
Clooney plays Matt King, the last trustee of a family trust responsible for a vast parcel of land on Hawaii.
Trapped between community objections to potential development and family pressure to monetise the land, King’s orderly family life turns sour when his wife is involved in a serious accident.
Discussing his approach to playing in a film which portrays such mixed emotions, he said: “I found it challenging only in the sense that I wanted to be able to serve the material really well.
“It’s a tricky piece, the movie starts with basically the death of his wife and it’s kind of a coming of age film. Unfortunately the person coming of age is a 50-year old man!”
Clooney said he was attracted to the role in part because he’d wanted to work with Director Alexander Payne “for a long time”.
Asked about his ambitions to win awards, he said: “I’m not so concerned with speculation about winning things because I really enjoy being in films which last longer than an opening weekend.”
He suggested the trend of his career would be towards directing more, noting that “as you get older there are less and less roles to play and I want to be part of this business for long time.”
On the subject of success, he said: “I remember when I was a young man living in Kentucky and my ma was making my clothes for me.
“I can’t remember what I was doing but it was some dull job and I remember hearing some famous actor on television complaining about hard it was for them and I thought: ‘the jerk, you’re living the dream and you should enjoy that and we should think you enjoy that because you got lucky, you got the brass ring.’
“I think that’s an important thing to continually remember, I got the brass ring so I’m going to enjoy it.
“There are things which aren’t fun and we all know them, but I’m not going to complain about that because I get a very easy ride and I understand that.”
The Ides of March will be released in UK cinemas on 28 October. The Descendants will be released in early 2012.
The 55th BFI London Film Festival (supported by American Express) continues until October 27th. Go to bfi.org.uk/lff for booking details