Clooney, McGregor talk 'Goats' at Venice

Usually it’s the charismatic movie star persona of George Clooney that steals the show, but Tuesday it was Italian Mediaset television personality Mauro Casciari who tried to eclipse the Clooney aura by disrobing at a press conference for “The Men Who Stare at Goats.”

Clooney, who stars in Grant Heslov’s offbeat comedy about U.S. army research into developing psychic powers for military advantage, kept his trademark cool.

Confronted with a large, near-naked male body clad only in white underpants painted with the slogan: “George, choose me!,” Clooney cooed: “You stay there, we’ll get back to you,” before adding in an aside to the rest of the audience, “There’s a little ambulance on its way here.”

The incident satirizing the effect Clooney has on women was in keeping with the tone of a press conference in which little of substance about a film apparently largely based on truth was revealed.

Clooney and co-star Ewan McGregor kept up the banter about what fun they had shooting the film, while director Heslov opted to play it straight with answers to questions dominated by monosyllabic “yes” responses.

Asked if the film had a message for its audience — it closes with McGregor’s character dematerializing as he leaps through a wall — Clooney quipped: “Dancing is good, do as much drugs as possible, get high and fly helicopters.”

Heslov added: “The idea is that times are not great and yet in spite of all that we are still getting guys that believe in something.”

In the festival’s only opportunity for the international press to question Clooney — he is only doing individual interviews with local press — the Hollywood star ducked queries about his romantic involvement with Italian pinup and TV presenter Elisabetta Canalis, and joked that research for his role in the film, as a member of the U.S. Army’s First Earth Battalion, meant he could read minds.

“Shame on you!” he teased one Japanese woman journalist, “ I know what you are thinking!”

As for Clooney’s bandaged hand, he told the press that “I broke my hand in a car door at home. I’m not proud of that. I’m getting stupider in my old age.”

It took Jon Ronson, the British writer on whose book the film was based and who co-wrote the script, to introduce some semblance of reality.

Ronson, who was not part of the press conference, told Variety that “60%” of the film was true — and that the army really had experimented with training troops to stare at goats, willing their hearts to stop.

“All the stuff you feel is true in the film, is,” Ronson added.

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