George Clooney the director would have preferred if George Clooney the actor could have taken some time off instead of pulling double duty and co-starring in the political thriller “The Ides of March.”
Yet the director had to admit the actor was pretty perfect for the part of a progressive presidential candidate whose authenticity eventually comes into question.
“He’s the right age and shares similar beliefs,” says screenwriter Grant Heslov, who, with Clooney, adapted Beau Willimon’s play, “Farragut North,” for the screen. “You’ve got to believe the guy’s bright enough, and I think you get that with George. He’s comfortable speaking in public, and has logged more than a few hours in front of a microphone.”
“We knew we were walking a fine line with the similarities,” Heslov adds, “but in the end, because he’s not who he seems to be, that mitigated some of those resemblances.”
And made it more fun for Clooney the actor to inhabit the man’s custom-tailored suits.
“A lot of people bring preconceived notions about George into the movie,” Heslov says, “so we get to play with that with the turn at the end, which we set up throughout the movie with scenes like the quiet one with him and his wife in the SUV. It gave you a certain feeling about him as a husband and a man, and then we turned that on its head.”
While writing the movie, Heslov says he and Clooney drew some from the 2004 congressional run Clooney’s father, Nick, made in a conservative Kentucky district. Campaigning to replace an outgoing moderate Democrat, Clooney lost to conservative Republican Geoff Davis.
“His father had to compromise in ways that George never thought he’d have to do,” says Heslov, who also produced “Ides” with Clooney and Brian Olive. “But in politics, it’s almost impossible not to make compromises — not necessarily to the degree, obviously, in our film, which is heightened. If you’re in politics, you have to make trade-offs.
“And that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Heslov adds. “If the guys in Congress were compromising now, we might be getting something done.”