“Having George (Clooney) as the director and doing a major role didn’t hurt,” admits “Good Night, and Good Luck” co-scripter/producer Heslov. But even with Clooney’s bankability, getting a serious-minded film off the ground wasn’t going to be easy.
“We always knew we wanted to do it in black-and-white, which costs more, and we knew we wanted David Strathairn to star,” says Heslov. Neither were exactly big selling points. Warner Independent passed, until Heslov and Clooney went to Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban at 2929, who had previously teamed with the pair on the film “Criminal.”
They also partnered with eBay founder Jeff Skoll’s Participant Prods. “They have a mandate to make films that have some sort of social impact and relevance,” Heslov explains. “They’ve also done ‘North Country’ and ‘Syriana.’ We were very ambitious,” “Fortunately, George shoots very fast. And David is unbelievably prepared.”
One of the biggest production headaches, which Heslov handled personally, was finding all the archival footage used in the film. Not just the McCarthy hearings and Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s television appearances — he appears entirely via existing footage — but everything on every TV screen in the film.
“There were scenes where there were 20 monitors and 10 different things going on at once. It was a logistical nightmare,” Heslov admits. “And the footage was in all different formats. It was quite a project.”
Heslov also selected the two “Person to Person” interviews used in the film — fluff pieces that are clearly a waste of time as far as Murrow is concerned. “I started watching them all. And when I saw the Liberace one, I called George at home and played it over the phone. That ended up being exactly the right piece. It all comes down to luck.
“George and I made exactly the movie we had imagined,” Heslov says, “without having to make any compromises. That’s a testament to George and his strong vision. We’re so grateful to the guys with the dough and Warner Independent for letting us have our say.”