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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: George Clooney

‘August: Osage County’ pic gets shiny new name: George Clooney

June 18, 2012 |  2:25 pm


EXCLUSIVE: The movie version of “August: Osage County” already has a heavyweight pedigree in Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, who are playing the two lead roles in the adaptation of the Broadway drama.

Now the film’s credits are getting even glitzier. George Clooney has joined the movie as a producer, according to a person familiar with the project who was not authorized to talk about it publicly.

Clooney and producing partner Grant Heslov will produce the film, which is being directed by John Wells and financed and distributed by The Weinstein Co. The A-list actor-filmmaker, who has a relationship with Wells dating back to their “ER" days, will be heavily involved offering creative input. He is not expected to star.

A Weinstein Co. representative was not immediately available for comment.

The movie -- which is also being produced by Steve Traxler and initial Broadway producer Jean Doumanian -- is set to begin shooting in the fall for a potential 2013 release.

Tracy Letts’ black comedy about a few weeks in the lives of a dysfunctional Oklahoma family centers on Violet Weston (Streep), a drug-addled matriarch who doles out barbs and truths, as well as a motley crew of family members, particularly oldest daughter Barbara (Roberts), a control-freak professor who finds her life falling apart. When it was first staged several years ago, it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, a Tony and a Drama Desk award.

Deanna Dunagan and Amy Morton incarnated the Violet and Barbara roles, respectively, on both Broadway and the West End; Estelle Parsons and Shannon Cochran played the parts when the show came to Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre.

Letts is adapting his own play for the screen. The male actors have yet to be cast in the movie.

Clooney is making a habit of bringing serious plays to the big screen. Last year he was the driving creative force behind the film adaptation of Beau Willimon’s political stage drama “The Ides of March.”


Theater review: 'August, Osage County'

Could 'August, Osage County' finally jump to the big screen?

Critic's Notebook: When going from stage to screen, things change in between


-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: 'August, Osage County' at the Ahmanson. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Obama's dinner guests at Clooney's: Details on lucky winners

May 10, 2012 |  2:40 pm

Clooney white house
The two Obama supporters who won tickets to Thursday night's campaign fundraiser for the president at George Clooney's house apparently had about 72 hours to prepare for the soiree after learning Monday they'd been selected.

Karen Blutcher, a 45-year-old mother from Florida, said in a brief phone interview that she had just flown into Los Angeles this afternoon. The Obama supporter has a 5-year-old son with Down syndrome and works for a public utility company in St. Augustine, Fla. She invited her husband, Patrick, a former military man, to be her guest.

The other winner, Beth Topinka, is a 55-year-old science teacher from New Jersey who grew up in Ohio and moved to New Jersey as an adult. Her son served in the U.S. Navy and attended Penn State on the G.I. Bill. Her husband, Jerry, a jazz guitarist, comes from a Republican family but voted for Obama in 2008.

According to his official website, Jerry Topinka is not new to celebrity culture. He's opened for David Benoit, guitarist Martin Taylor and managed the 2000 U.S. and Canadian tour of Academy Award-winning Indian musician A.R. Rahman. Perhaps he brought his guitar for tonight's event.

Blutcher and Beth Topinka were among thousands of people who contributed to the president's reelection campaign with the hopes of nabbing a golden ticket to the star-studded fundraising event tonight. Hollywood VIPs are paying $40,000 apiece to attend the party.

After speaking briefly to a reporter by phone, Blutcher said she had to take a shower and referred further inquiries to a spokesperson. The Obama campaign declined interview requests for the two winners.


Steve Lopez: Clooney's Obama party full of 'Hollywood hypocrites'

George Clooney's Obama fundraiser uses star power with a twist

Obama fundraiser: Two chosen to dine with stars at Clooney's house

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: George Clooney walks toward the podium to speak to the media March 15 at the White House. He met with President Barack Obama to discuss the current situations in Darfur, Sudan. Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images

Obama fundraiser: Two chosen to dine with stars at Clooney's house

May 10, 2012 |  1:10 pm

Barack Obama and George Clooney

Tonight a science teacher from New Jersey and a communications coordinator from Florida will be treated like Hollywood celebrities. Beth Topinka, a teacher from Manalapan, N.J., and Karen Blutcher, a public relations employee for a utility company in St. Augustine, Fla., won tickets to attend a fundraising dinner for President Barack Obama at George Clooney's Studio City home.

Their husbands will also attend the affair, which is expected to draw such entertainment industry luminaries as Robert Downey Jr., Barbra Streisand, Tobey Maguire and DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, who organized the dinner with his political advisor Andy Spahn.

Tickets for the dinner cost $40,000 per person, and the night's event could raise as much as $15 million for the Obama campaign. Proceeds for the event will go to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee authorized by Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties. 

The two winners were among tens of thousands of Americans who contributed donations averaging $23 for a chance to win a ticket to the high-profile soiree. They will dine on food served by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and will hear Obama discuss policy among his loyal contributors.


Obama's dinner guests at Clooney's: Details on lucky winners

Steve Lopez: Clooney's Obama party full of 'Hollywood hypocrites'

George Clooney's Obama fundraiser uses star power with a twist

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Then Sen. Barack Obama, left, with George Clooney arriving for a National Press Club event in Washington in 2006. Photo credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Oscars 2012: 'The Descendants' wins for adapted screenplay

February 26, 2012 |  7:27 pm

The Descendants
"The Descendants" writers Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash won the Oscar for adapted screenplay at the 84th Academy Awards on Sunday night.

The film stars George Clooney as an embattled father of two who learns that his comatose wife has been cheating on him. Payne, Faxon and Rash based the screenplay on Kaui Hart Hemmings' novel.

The film also won the Writers Guild of America award for adapted screenplay and two Golden Globe awards (lead actor for Clooney and best picture in the drama category). Payne, who also directed and produced the Hawaii-set film, previously won a directing Oscar for the film "Sideways."

Oscars: Red Carpet | Quotes | Key Scenes Ballot | Cheat Sheet | Winners

"The Descendants" writers beat out "Hugo" writer John Logan; "The Ides of March" writers George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon; "Moneyball" writers Steven Zaillian, Stan Chervin and last year's champ Aaron Sorkin; and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" writers Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan.

The Academy Awards are taking place in Hollywood and are being televised live on ABC. They are presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose membership was recently examined in depth by the Los Angeles Times.

For more Oscars breaking news and analysis, check back on 24 Frames.


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

Follow the Oscars live on Twitter

Timeline: Eight decades of Oscar history

— Nardine Saad

Photo: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Nick Krause in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight.

Oscars 2012: Streep and Clooney top the Twitter charts, volume-wise

February 26, 2012 |  9:00 am

An old show biz adage says that any publicity is good publicity. But when it comes to, say, Oscar buzz, we might ask which is more important: quantity or quality. The Los Angeles Times’ interactive Oscar Senti-Meter attempts to measure both by analyzing opinions about the Academy Awards race shared in millions of public messages on Twitter.

Developed by The Times, IBM and the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, the Senti-Meter (available at latimes.com/sentimeter) combs through and catalogs a high volume of tweets each day and uses language-recognition technology to gauge positive, negative and neutral opinions shared in the messages. It also tracks the number of tweets.

This installment of the Senti-Meter looks at aggregate data from Dec. 21-Feb. 20, and suggests that the films, actors and actresses talked about most on Twitter aren’t necessarily the most beloved. Focusing on tweets captured by the Senti-Meter about the nominees for best picture, lead actor and lead actress, it was Meryl Streep, star of “The Iron Lady,” who had the largest volume of tweets, 217,945, indicating that she was by far the most popular topic of discussion.

Oscars: Cheat Sheet | Key Scenes | Pundit's picks | Ballot

For comparison, Streep’s volume was more than six times that of her male counterpart, George Clooney (“The Descendants”), who led nominated actors with 36,277 tweets, and just over 38% more than “Hugo,” the leading best picture nominee.

Although very large numbers of people tweeted about Streep over the last two months, the Senti-Meter also indicates that tweets about fellow nominee Viola Davis, star of “The Help,” were more positive on average than those about Streep. Positive sentiments are calculated by the Senti-Meter and expressed as numerical values, and Davis ranked highest of the five lead actress nominees. Streep had the least positive sentiment.

The Senti-Meter can’t generate reports about the reason (or reasons) why tweets about Davis were more positive than tweets about Streep. But one possibility is that people were big fans of Streep as an actress but not necessarily of “The Iron Lady” as a film.

For example, a tweet captured on Jan. 21 read: “Saw Iron Lady last night. Meryl Streep deserves the Academy Award, but story is missing an arc.” “The Help,” meanwhile, ranked higher for positive sentiment than “The Iron Lady,” suggesting that Twitter users preferred Davis’ film overall. A typical tweet, captured Feb. 3, said: “The Help is a warm and touching film. Viola Davis is excellent in it. Fully deserves all the accolades.”

In the race for best picture, “Hugo” fared similarly to Streep: It was the film with the highest volume of tweets (followed by “The Artist”) but scored lowest for positive sentiment among the nine nominees. “Midnight in Paris” ranked highest for positive sentiment, followed by “The Help.”

The film tweeted about least was “The Tree of Life,” which was released back in May, long before the hoopla of awards season, and has polarized critics and audiences. It is something of a dark-horse candidate. As one tweet put it: “The Tree of Life was a beautiful and poetic film, but so exasperating.”

Among nominees for lead actor, Clooney had the highest volume, but once again someone else ranked higher for positive sentiment: Jean Dujardin of “The Artist.” (Clooney ranked second.) A Feb. 18 tweet about Dujardin gushed: “A real actor can captivate an audience even without making a sound. (An Oscar for Jean Dujardin, please.) #TheArtist.”

Gary Oldman, of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” had the lowest positive sentiment. Despite a number of tweets congratulating Oldman on his first Oscar nomination, it’s possible that his overall sentiment was dragged down by the folks who found “Tinker, Tailor” either boring or confusing. A Jan. 25 tweet offered this haiku-like appraisal: “Tinker Tailor Spider Spy: Confusing. Finest men in their finest suits. Gary Oldman.”

Come Oscar night, it will be interesting to see who goes home with the gold — the one talked about most, the one with the most positive sentiment or one of the underdogs. Only time will tell.


Oscar Senti-meter: Russell Crowe and Miley Cyrus pump up the volume

Oscar Senti-meter: a BAFTA boost for Dujardin and Streep

Oscar Senti-meter: Your tweets on Michelle Williams and Meryl Streep

-- Oliver Gettell

George Clooney, Alexander Payne talk family drama, 'Descendants'

February 9, 2012 | 11:30 am

The other night at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, George Clooney and Alexander Payne discussed their movie, "The Descendants," and its place among "classic family dramas from Oscars past and present." At least, that's how the American Cinematheque billed the event, and they went to the trouble to put together a five-minute reel featuring clips from "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Ordinary People," "Terms of Endearment," "On Golden Pond" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" that was shown before the film.

Since writer-director Payne had told me in an interview last month that he doesn't see many contemporary American films, as the moderator, I was curious just how much he'd have to say about the movies in question. Short answer: Not a whole lot. He did just see "Kramer vs. Kramer" last year, liked it and noticed some parallels between Dustin Hoffman's suddenly single father and Clooney's "backup parent" in "The Descendants."

Then Payne matter-of-factly mentioned that he'd never watched "Ordinary People," and you could hear a loud gasp from the sold-out audience. "We all have gaps," Payne said, shrugging his shoulders. Just in case you were wondering, he has never seen "Beaches," either. Don't look for these gaps to be closed any time soon. He'd much rather be rewatching an Ozu movie, thank you.

Clooney, the Merry Prankster to Payne's prickly pear, was, naturally, more forthcoming. He remembered being 19 years old and seeing Timothy Hutton in "Ordinary People" and thinking seriously for the first time about an acting career. He marveled at Hoffman's manic French-toast-making scene in "Kramer" and called "Mockingbird" a "profoundly important" film to him on a number of levels.

"Atticus Finch ... there was a reluctance to his heroism that I always loved," Clooney said. "And Gregory Peck was the quintessential leading man."

Clooney was at his Lake Como home in Italy with friends the night Peck died. He rounded up his friends and their kids, led them into his screening room and put on "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"And the minute it came on, all these kids were like, 'Oooow ... God! It's black-and-white!' And they immediately hated it. And I was like, 'Shut the ... up.' But it was great because it took them about 15 minutes to get into the rhythm of it, and by the end, they didn't want the movie to end. They were scared. They were scared of Boo Radley and they were caught up in that story. It's such a compliment to that idea of storytelling really does work. And it's something we can't lose sight of as we move into 3-D and everything else we do."


George Clooney on directing: 'Forward momentum' is important

Alexander Payne on directing: casting is 'first among equals'

Alexander Payne: Machinery of filmmaking mars 'intimacy of a shoot'

— Glenn Whipp

George Clooney vs. Brad Pitt: Who has more awards heat?

February 3, 2012 |  3:01 pm

PittmoneFans of George Clooney and Brad Pitt tend to feel strongly about their respective A-listers; for every "Good Night, and Good Luck" a Clooney-ite will lob, a member of the Pitt Crew will come back with a "Curious Case of Benjamin Button." And so it goes.

It’s rare enough when an awards season brings one movie from each superstar; it’s even less common to get a pair of films from each of them. But 2011 yielded just that, with Pitt starring in and producing “The Tree of Life” and “Moneyball,” and Clooney starring in “The Descendants” and starring in, producing, directing and co-writing “The Ides of March.”

Which of the two has more awards season heat? We turned to The Times’ Heat Meter system, which tallies points for nominations and awards from specific organizations — in any category — that a person has received throughout the season. Turns out the contest has been as dramatic as the pennant race in “Moneyball.”

Pitt jumped off to a big lead thanks to accolades from the New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. Clooney made up some ground once the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nominations came out, then leapfrogged Pitt after winning the lead actor in a drama prize at the Golden Globes.

The Oscar nominations, though, have made the race close again, with Pitt picking up best picture points as a producer on "Moneyball." Now it’s anyone’s game as we head into the Oscars: Pitt trails Clooney by just nine points in our Heat Meter rankings.

For a complete look at the heat index by various films and personalities, visit The Times' landing page for all things Heat Meter.

--Steven Zeitchik


Heat Meter: Who's hot and who's not?

Oscars: Geoge Clooney, Brad  Pitt might be their own worst enemies

Heat Meter: 'The Help' gets a SAG boost, but is it enough?

Photo: Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in "Moneyball." Credit: Sony Pictures


Martin Scorsese on being reviewed: 'You can't be bothered'

January 25, 2012 |  1:03 pm

There are certain external indicators filmmakers can look to when trying to evaluate the quality of their work — positive reviews, triumph at the box office, awards gold — but even these are imperfect measures. So how and when do filmmakers know if they've made a good movie?

At the recent Envelope Directors Roundtable, Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants"), George Clooney ("The Ides of March") and Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close") addressed that question.

"I have a problem: I always think it's good," Hazanavicius said of his work. "So I think I'm not a good judge, really." But, he added, "What's true one day in October on a set, it's not the same truth four months later in an editing room. So I try to trust what I wrote, to trust what I storyboarded and to let things happen on set."

Payne said he has confident days and not-so-confident days: "Some days I am Orson Welles," he said. "Other days I am the worst loser, impostor, know-nothing, wannabe filmmaker in the world. I believe both with equal conviction."

Scorsese added that it's important to focus on the work and have confidence, without paying too much attention to concerns like movie reviews. "If you read the good ones, you might believe those, and if you read the bad ones, you certainly believe those," Scorsese said. "At a certain point, you've got to work."

Check out their full conversation in the video above.


Directors Roundtable: All seven videos

Directors Roundtable: An anxious, joyful art

Oscars 2012: Scorsese, Hazanavicius, Payne vie for best director

— Oliver Gettell

Oscar nominations: Clooney, Jean Dujardin among best actor picks

January 24, 2012 |  5:57 am

 George Clooney is among Oscar nominees for 'The Descendants.'

George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt and Demian Bichir are the nominees for lead actor at the 84th Academy Awards, it was announced Tuesday morning.

Heading into the race, Clooney, who took home a Golden Globe last week for his starring turn in Alexander Payne's family drama (and best picture nominee) "The Descendants," appears to be the front-runner.

The 50-year-old actor-writer-director-producer earns his third lead actor nomination for his role as Matt King, a middle-aged man trying to become a better father after his wife suffers a grave injury in a boating accident. Clooney also received an Oscar nomination Tuesday morning for adapted screenplay for the political drama “The Ides of March,” which he directed.


French actor Dujardin, however, might be able to unseat Clooney in the category. The 39-year-old Parisian star of best picture nominee "The Artist" is a first-time Oscar nominee for lead actor as George Valentin, a silent screen superstar whose career falls apart with the advent of the talkies. Last year, he won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival for the black-and-white silent movie and he’s also received a Golden Globe for lead actor in a motion picture comedy or musical.

Brad Pitt earns his second lead actor nomination, this one for his portrayal of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane in the baseball drama "Moneyball" (another best picture nominee) while veteran British actor Oldman picks up his first Oscar nomination for his portrayal of ace spy George Smiley in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."

Perhaps the most surprising inclusion on the list was Demian Bichir for the little-seen film "A Better Life." The Mexican actor who immigrated to the United States some 20 years ago to pursue English-language roles played an East L.A. gardener, an undocumented immigrant who’s doggedly pursuing the American dream. Bichir was also nominated for a SAG award for his performance.

The Oscars will be handed out Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. ABC will broadcast the ceremony, which veteran Billy Crystal will host.

The following video is from the Envelope Directors Roundtable. Here, filmmakers George Clooney ("The Ides of March"), Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants") and Martin Scorsese ("Hugo") sat down with The Times' John Horn at the recent Envelope Directors Roundtable and talked about the importance and challenges of assembling a good cast.


And the nominees are...

PHOTOS: 84th Academy Awards nominees

Pals Clooney, Pitt are rivals; ‘Artist,’ ‘Hugo’ dominate

Photo: George Clooney in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight

George Clooney on directing: 'Forward momentum' is important

January 23, 2012 |  6:40 pm

Whether a director is trying to coax a nuanced emotional performance or a death-defying stunt from an actor, earning their trust is an important part of the job.

Filmmakers George Clooney ("The Ides of March"), Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants") and Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist") recently visited the Envelope Directors Roundtable and discussed how crucial trust is on a set and how they establish it.

Clooney, who has worked on both sides of the camera, offered a different perspective. As an actor, he said, he inherently has faith in directors whose work he admires. "If I've seen movies of yours that I like and think are good," he said, "then I automatically have a trust."

One of the challenges Clooney has faced in his transition to directing has been earning that same measure of trust with his own casts. "That's a tricky thing to do," he said, but he attempts to do so by keeping things moving, having a point of view and being confident in his choices. "If actors smell blood in the water, the first thing they do is sort of take over," he said.

Hear more of what Clooney and his peers had to say in the video above, and check back tomorrow for a new video from the roundtable.


Alexander Payne on directing: casting is 'first among equals'

Stephen Daldry: Young Thomas Horn is 'a proper leading man'

Martin Scorsese: Doing just one shot makes a fine 'first half-day'

— Oliver Gettell


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