Actor-director preems political drama on the Lido

George Clooney dominated the day at the Venice Film Festival where “The Ides of March,” his drama-thriller about cynical American politics, drew positive buzz and provided the Lido with a strong launch.

Pic’s stars strutted down the balmy red carpet of the Palazzo del Cinema, where “Ides” inaugurated the refurbished Sala Grande screening venue.

During the opening ceremony Biennale prexy Paolo Baratta proudly noted that the original Sala Grande had been broken in by “Shall We Dance,” the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musical in 1937.

The fest’s storied past is a recurrent theme on the Lido this year.

At the opening presser artistic director Marco Mueller was asked about Venice’s rivalry with Toronto — which has its classy new Bell Lightbox movie palace.

Mueller immediately touted the supremacy of the Lido’s historic catwalk.

“American distributors tell me that the Venice red carpet has the power to generate the right types of images to get worldwide visibility,” he said.

“We put films on the path to wider recognition.”

Clooney, in top form, fielded questions from journos, one of whom asked him if he had ever considered running for president.

“There’s a guy in office right now (Barack Obama) who is smarter than almost anybody you know; who is nicer, who has more compassion than almost anybody you know, and he’s having an almost impossible time governing,” said Clooney.

“Why would anyone volunteer for that job?,” he quipped.

Pic stars Ryan Gosling as a press secretary to a Democratic governor with presidential aspirations, played by Clooney, who becomes embroiled in an escalating game of sex, power and horse-trading.

But Clooney took pains not to frame “Ides” as purely political.

“You could literally put it on Wall Street, or you could put it pretty much anywhere; and it’s all the same sort of issues.

“It’s issues of morality; it’s issues of whether or not you are willing to trade your soul for an outcome,” he said.

Pic is produced independently by Exclusive Media Group and Cross Creek Pictures on a $12 million budget, financed mostly by foreign investors to whom Clooney pitched the movie, fearing that the politics would be too American.

“But then we found, when we started to show this around internationally, that every country has some form of a sex scandal that they can relate to. It seems to be a very universal theme,” he said.

“Ides” opens in the U.S. Oct. 7 via Sony, while Italy’s 01 Distribuzione will release it in January.

Also on the Lido tubthumping “Ides” were stars Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, and Marisa Tomei, while Gosling did not make the trek.

Click here to read Variety‘s review of “The Ides of March”

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