Should Capitol Hill be looking to Hollywood for better scripts?
Actor George Clooney thinks that while Democrats have accomplished a great deal for the U.S., they "have done a terrible job so far" of getting this through to Americans.
At a recent Los Angeles screening of the political thriller The Ides of March, which Clooney co-wrote, produced, directed and stars in, I asked him what he thinks American politics could learn from Hollywood.
"[Democrats] are the worst at explaining what it is they do," Clooney said. "Whether you're a Republican or Democrat, the Republicans laugh at Democrats at how bad they are at selling what their guy does."
And when it comes to certain subjects, Clooney is astonished: "Republicans can sell the shit out of it. They're good at it," he said. "Hollywood could teach a lot to politicians about how to sell, which they don't do very well at all."
Democrats should consult experts who know how to really move people and find out how motion picture studios get people into theater seats, according to Clooney.
"Meet with Harvey Weinstein," he said.
One of the most successful studio heads in history, Weinstein of The Weinstein Company knows what people want to hear and see. He's the mastermind behind such films as Pulp Fiction, Gangs of New York, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Aviator, and The King's Speech, which famously secured the Best Picture Academy Award in February over favorite The Social Network.
Clooney isn't purblind when it comes to affairs of state; he's expressed his leanings over the years and personally knows President Barack Obama. Many wonder if he'll ever jump in the ring for real.
Earlier this year, he noted that his debauched past precludes him.
"I didn't live my life in the right way for politics," he told Newsweek.
But then there's Oscar, considered the top win by most in Hollywood. No doubt dealings go on behind the scenes among campaigns vying for box office power and the big bucks a cinch or even a nomination can deliver.
Clooney has received two Best Actor nominations, in 2010 for Up in the Air, and in 2008 for Michael Clayton. He won Best Supporting Actor for Syriana in 2006, the same year he was nominated for Best Director and Best Writing, Original Screenplay for Good Night, and Good Luck.
Of campaigning for the golden statue, the actor recently told Marie Claire that he felt "unclean."
"By the time it's over, you want to do something that makes you feel better," he said.
When I asked him what aspect of filmmaking -- producing, directing, acting or writing -- excites him the most, his reply was diplomatic and humble.
"I really enjoy all of it," he said. "I get to work with some of the best in the business...I just feel lucky enough to get to participate, so I don't really pick one. I try not to screw things up too much."
Audiences will be glad Clooney sticks to doing what he does best: making fine entertainment. Ides is the beau ideal of casting, and boasts a crisp script as well as daedal plot coils and shadowy shots reminiscent of 1960s cinema stylings.
Clooney portrays modernly debonair, straight-forward Mike Morris, a governor prepping for the Ohio Democratic presidential primary taking place on the ides -- the 15th -- of March.
With the looming date of which to beware (as Shakespeare, of course, warned in Julius Caesar there would be grand betrayal by conspirators), the dangling possibility of hard-won career aspirations realized post primaries places ambitious press secretary Stephen "Stevie" Myers (Ryan Gosling, at his career best) into superego free fall after one false move involving Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), the there's-more-effrontery-where-that-came-from campaign manager of Morris's opponent.
Amid a tug-of-war over a key endorsement from Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright), Stevie is soon staring down tumult and at the center of power plays whipped around by reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei), Duffy, and Morris's campaign manager, Paul Zara, who is portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman with such convincement one can just about smell the cheap coffee on his breath.
Finding her high heel smeared in the gasoline about to be lit on fire is Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), a fresh-faced campaign intern whose father is Democratic National Committee Chairman Jack Stearns (Gregory Itzin).
But the final, megawatt face-off goes down between the two people who have the most at stake when and if the ends truly justify the means, with a secret of severe malfeasance between them that would not only upend the campaign but also many lives.
The film draws from Beau Willimon's Farragut North, a play loosely based on Howard Dean's 2004 Democratic primary campaign.
As for nonfiction politics of late, it remains to be seen if Democrat and Republican candidates can create smarter, more appealing campaigns in the year ahead that have voters heading to the polls with as much eagerness as when they hit up the cineplex.
One line Stevie delivers in the movie is what many Americans might be thinking of the flannelmouths currently in office, especially given the scandals and massive mismanagements over the past several years: "When you make a mistake, you lose the right to play."
Are you listening, Washington?
The Ides of March opens nationwide Friday, Oct. 7.
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