The Coen brothers, George Clooney and much of the Hail, Caesar! crew hit town today ahead of the film’s opening duties which officially kick off the Berlin Film Festival tonight. Clooney was here a few years ago with another ensemble piece, Monuments Men, and can be relied upon as a cut-up during these press events. Today was no different, although the proceedings also took a very serious turn.
Clooney, who is known for his humanitarian work in Darfur — and is married to a human rights attorney — was confusingly grilled by a member of the press corps who wanted to know what “concrete” things he was doing to help with the current refugee crisis.
The actor had already noted he has a sit-down with German Chancellor Angela Merkel tomorrow to “ask what we can help with.” But he visibly bristled when the journalist insisted. He countered, “I spend a lot of time working on these things, so it’s odd to have someone stand up and say, ‘So, what do you do?’” He asked the woman, “What is it specifically that you have done for the refugees?”
The Coens were similarly questioned with Joel saying, “It’s a very important issue that I would be very interested to see movies address.” Both Coens were co-Presidents of the Cannes Film Festival jury last May and Joel noted, “The film that got the Palme d’Or was about refugees (Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan) that we liked a lot. It had a lot to contribute to that discussion. But it’s absurd to say, if I may say so, that anyone who happens to be in public life, to point to a figure and say, ‘You should be telling this particular story.’ It’s a misunderstanding of how stories get written and made.”
Another journalist, who came with a heartfelt plea and a Picasso poster dedicated to the actor, wondered if Clooney would ever make Syriana 2 “because we have so much war.”
Clooney replied, “It would be tricky” to do a sequel, but “there is a lot that has gone wrong as we all know and a lot of conversations being had and that should continue to be had, not just in the film community. Unfortunately, the thing in the film community is that we react to situations rather than lead the way. News stories happen and it’s a couple of years before you make a story about it. I’ve often struggled with the idea of trying to find ways to make a film about Sudan and Darfur, but I haven’t been able to find the proper script. I think those stories are best told now in the news media. They’re not told enough, certainly in our country. It’s a political period in our country so we’re not talking enough about things that are going on around the world.”
He told the man who asked about Syriana, “It’s hard to find a good script for anything and you don’t want to do it badly because you only get one chance. I appreciate the request and it certainly doesn’t fall on deaf ears.”
There was also some time for fun, however. Clooney said, “I’ve done four films (with the Coens) and every time they send me a script, I’m always a knucklehead.” Of his part in Burn After Reading, he said, the role was “the biggest jackass in the world with a sex toy in the basement.” The Coens, he recounted, told him they wrote the part with him in mind. “I have greatly enjoyed how much they make fun of me.” But, he said, conspiratorially, “They’re not really brothers. It’s all bulls***. They’re first cousins.”