Is it wrong to love this W Magazine cover shoot with George Clooney? I don’t expect this kind of “high concept” and “weird” pictorial from Clooney. If someone had suggested this for Brad Pitt, yeah, I could see that. But George? I never would have thought. Somehow, he makes polka dots look chic and charming. The idea behind the shoot is four different (female) artists take on Clooney in different ways – the polka dots are from Yayoi Kusama. George covers the December/January issue of W because of The Monuments Men, which got pushed back until February. So, George is early to the party but not unwelcome. You can see W’s slideshow & full interview here, and here are some highlights:
How George chose to do The Monuments Men: Grant Heslov (George’s producing and writing partner) read the book and “Grant and I had been talking about doing a movie that was a little less cynical than what we normally do,” he said, citing films such as Argo (for which Heslov, Clooney, and Ben Affleck won the Academy Award for Best Picture this past February) and Michael Clayton. “We tend to like cynical films because we find them more interesting. But we wanted to do a movie where the good guys win and you’re fighting the ultimate bad guy—Hitler. This was a story that nobody had heard about.”
Cultural iconography: “I grew up Catholic, and there were always religious icons that I’d see in church. The cross and the altar were big parts of my life. But when I was 10 years old, my father took me to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. I remember walking up those stairs and looking at this carved piece of marble that had nothing to do with a carved piece of marble. That statue said something to me about us as a society. In The Monuments Men, we question whether saving art is worth a life, and I would argue that the culture of a people represents life. When the Taliban destroy incredible pieces of architecture and art, or when American troops don’t protect museums in Iraq, you are seeing people losing their culture. And with the end of a country’s culture goes its identity. It’s a terrible loss, down to your bones.”
Hitler loved art: “Yes—he wanted to build a Führer Museum. He had a model of it in the bunker with him! He wanted to steal all the great art in the world, and he was well on his way—during the war, he collected 5 million pieces. He also destroyed works he termed “degenerate art.” The Nazis took amazing Picassos and Klees and Mirós and burned them in the garden outside the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris. They wanted to prove that they were illegitimate and had to be destroyed. Hitler pulled off the greatest art heist in the history of the world—luckily, some of that art has been recovered.”
What if Hitler was a better painter? “Yes, he was a failed artist in Vienna. In the film, we show a couple of his watercolors. If he had only been a little bit better at painting, history might be different.”
Movie endings: “Watch the end of It’s a Wonderful Life, the Frank Capra film. You can’t end a movie that way anymore—today, Lionel Barrymore, the bad guy, would be hauled away in handcuffs. But Capra doesn’t do that. Barrymore just goes on home, and that’s it, the end. We forget about him and forgive him because Capra’s idea of a perfect ending was “living well is the best revenge.” I tend to like endings that would never happen in today’s movies. In 2013, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid wouldn’t end the way it does. I’ve shown that movie to young kids who just love the film, and then you come to the last scene—a freeze-frame of Butch and Sundance getting shot—and their mouths drop: “No, no, no, no.” Films from the ’60s and ’70s end in shocking ways. And that’s why we love them—those movies broke all the rules.”
Working in Gravity: “Truthfully, I was constantly in motion. The trickiest part was learning to speak quickly and move 50 percent slower because you are in space. It was not fun in the machinery—I have a bad back and a bad neck, so that part was not fun. But you have to step back and look at my life. I’m lucky enough to get to work on these projects.”
His cinematic crush: “When I was a kid, I was in love with Audrey Hepburn. I watched Roman Holiday when I was 11, and I thought she was as elegant as anything I’d ever seen. And I fell madly in love with her. I also always loved Grace Kelly. I mean, when she comes out of the water in To Catch a Thief, I thought, That’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
Tracey Emin also does some “art” with Clooney where she gets him to answer 15 of her questions. One of the questions is “Who is or was the greatest love of your life?” And Clooney says, “I haven’t met her yet.” That’s getting a lot of coverage, but my favorite cheeky answer is “Do you talk when you make love?” Clooney replies: “Only on the phone.” So… Clooney isn’t a talker? I can see that. Now, Benedict Cumberbatch is a talker. So is Tom Hiddleston. I bet they don’t shut up at all in bed.
Photos courtesy of W Magazine.