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Why George Clooney abandoned ‘cynical’ filmmaking after ‘difficult’ few years
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Why George Clooney abandoned ‘cynical’ filmmaking after...

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George Clooney has moved away from self-declared ‘cynical’ filmmaking with his new film The Boys in the Boat after success as a director with the likes of The Ides of March and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

The Boys in the Boat tells the real-life story of the underdog University of Washington rowing crew and their personal hardships as they fought to represent the United States at the 1936 Olympics during the Great Depression.

Clooney, who is an Oscar-winning actor, and has also been nominated as both a writer and director, was nevertheless a bit nervous about tackling the movie, based on Daniel James Brown’s book of the same name.

‘I loved the book – and it was a huge, massive bestseller, so that was a little daunting. But we’d also done Catch-22, so we’d been in famous books before,’ he told at the UK special screening of the film in Mayfair on Sunday.

Discussing what it was that made him say yes to the project, Clooney pointed to the comfort of the film’s formula and how he feels it worked for him to break away from more sceptical films.

‘This is an old-fashioned movie, an old-fashioned sports film that kind of rallies the troops together,’ he continued.

George Clooney sees his latest movie as breaking away from his past ‘cynical’ filmmaking (Picture: Amazon Studios/Warner Bros) The Boys in the Boat charts the real-life story of the working class University of Washington rowing team that represented America at the 1936 Olympics (Picture: Amazon Studios/Warner Bros) Clooney was supported by his wife, human rights barrister Amal, at Sunday’s rainy red carpet (Picture: Dave Hogan/Hogan Media/Shutterstock)

‘We’ve had a very difficult time in the world for the last few years, and I’ve done a lot of cynical films – I like them, I’m drawn to them – and this felt not cynical at all. And I liked to do something like that.’

He also shared how he has used his success as an actor, in everything from Gravity, recent rom-com Ticket to Paradise, Ocean’s Eleven and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, to help him in his directorial career.

Although he joked that ‘wrangling is easy’ when it came to actors, he explained the surprisingly simple realisation that had helped him.

‘The trick, the one main thing you can pay attention to, is how to treat actors.

‘I think when you haven’t been an actor and you’re a director, a lot of times you don’t understand what they need. And sometimes it’s just to tell them to be faster! Because as an actor, I really appreciate a director that says to me, “You can do it faster, and it’ll work better.”’

(L-R) Producer Grant Heslov, Joel Edgerton, George Clooney, Callum Turner and Bruce Herbelin-Earle pose for photographers (Picture: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Warner Brothers)

Among The Boys in the Boat’s cast are Joel Edgerton as coach Al Ulbrickson, Callum Turner, who plays rower Joe Rantz, and Bruce Herbelin-Earle as Shorty Hunt.

Turner has loved Clooney as an actor ever since first watching him in vampire-crime flick From Dusk Till Dawn, as well as Steven Soderbergh’s Out Of Sight alongside Jennifer Lopez, which the Fantastic Beats star ‘adored’.

He also praised the 62-year-old as a ‘phenomenal’ filmmaker.

Have your say in the comments belowComment Now The film’s stars’ first experiences of Clooney involved watching Good Night, and Good Luck, as well as From Dusk Until Dawn (Picture: Warner Independent Pictures)

‘So, to be directed by him was special – I learned a lot about acting. We really built the character together and looked at people like Spencer Tracy and Gary Cooper, and it was just a real fun process,’ he shared with

For Herbelin-Earle, Good Night, and Good Luck was his introduction to Clooney, via his parents.

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Callum Turner leads the cast as rower Joe Rantz, who juggles hardships in his life as he trains to row (Picture: Amazon Studios/Warner Bros) Joel Edgerton plays the team’s coach (Picture: Amazon Studios/Warner Bros)

‘I remember just being mesmerised by this black and white film that seemed actually quite modern; it was a great film to dive into and watch.’

The Free Rein star and model, 25, also considers the ‘personable’ Clooney to be just as fans would expect – and hope – him to be.

‘He actually is very much like his characters – he’s smooth, he’s cool. His directing style isn’t much different, and it was great to be there, to be just hanging around – and the stories he told on set… it was great fun,’ he added.

‘I never felt nervous around him, he has this real ease about him that makes you feel super comfortable. And as a director, you have to bring that confidence out of your actors – they’re there to do a job, [so] let them do it and encourage them. But I think to be cool and chill and a real-life person in front of them is really, really important – and that’s what he brought.’

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Turner, 33, agreed with his co-star’s assessment of Clooney being charming and relaxed, revealing: ‘We would wrap at two or three in the afternoon every day – we did then have to go out onto the water and row again for another hour!’

For The Boys in the Boat actors portraying the men’s eight, there was a lot of gruelling training involved to ensure they gelled as a team, as well as coming across convincingly as an Olympic-standard crew.

‘We all knew the task at hand,’ explained Herbelin-Earle, who was also grateful for their physio and trainer for ‘gradually’ increasing the intensity of their workouts.

The physical training for the film was gruelling, both before and during shooting (Picture: Joe Maher/Getty Images for Warner Brothers) It’s the ninth movie Clooney has helmed as director (Picture: Cameron Smith/Getty Images)

‘He didn’t put us in the deep end right at the start because he realised that the body is like a sponge, it needs to gather its own energy in order to grow, and so in terms of the training, everything was very strategic and it worked really well.’

However, that doesn’t mean it was easy-breezy for the actors to convince as talented rowers, with Herbelin-Earle saying they ‘gritted [their] teeth’ and that ‘some of it was s**t’ – but ‘all in all, it was such a great experience’.

For War & Peace star Turner, he admits that the most unexpected thing about his time working on The Boys in the Boat is that he ‘fell in love’ with rowing.

‘I didn’t think that I would, especially while I was doing it! With hindsight though, I realised that it’s one of the most wonderful team sports ever. I miss doing it, and I miss doing it with the guys that were in the boat.’

The Boys in the Boat will be released in cinemas in the UK on January 12, 2024.

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