George Clooney on The Midnight Sky: “To be directed by other actors is a terrible thing”

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Halfway through the shoot Midnight sky, Felicity Jones made a life-changing discovery: she was pregnant with her first child. Assuming that would be an obstacle to filming, she nervously approached her director, George Clooney, to break the news to him.

“I was afraid of losing my job,” says British star, whose films include the Star Wars prequel Rogue One and The theory of everything. “This is happening more than ever.”
After making sure the actor was happy to stay and finish the film, Clooney and producer Grant Heslov decided to remove all traces of his baby bump using a nifty camera and CGI. Accomplished job. That was until Clooney reviewed the footage and, a few days later, abruptly changed his mind.
“They came to my trailer and said it would work so much better if my character was actually pregnant,” she says. “We made minor changes and continued in this course. It made absolute sense for the story.
Jones plays Sully in the Netflix movie, one of five astronauts returning home after two years in deep space in which, unbeknownst to the crew, a global catastrophe made Earth uninhabitable. It’s Clooney – also featured – whose scientist Augustine Lofthouse must find a way to warn them to stay away. In turn, the addition of Jones’ pregnancy gives the film, along with its portrayal of a crumbling ecosystem, what might otherwise be missing: a beacon of hope.
Felicity Jones et David Oyelowo dans ‘The Midnight Sky’

(Netflix)

There was, of course, another turn of events that no one could have predicted; In the final weeks of filming, the first cases of Covid-19 outside of China began to be reported. Suddenly, the film’s post-apocalyptic setting seemed recognizable, even though the source material for Lily Brooks-Dalton, the 2016 novel Hello midnight, had been published years before.
Clooney, relieved to have narrowly avoided the delays the virus would have caused, sent the film to editor Stephen Mirrione in February. After watching it in isolation, he realized that the themes of loneliness had taken on new life. Clooney previously described the film as “unfortunately very timely”. David Oyelowo, who plays the father of Sully’s unborn child, says the film’s main question – what gives meaning and value to life – is “interesting at all times” but “feels more relevant with it. what we are going through right now ”.
The result makes it a strange watch. Which makes Midnight sky even more baffling is Clooney’s decision to keep the disaster at his heart a mystery – there is no great explanation or revelation; it could just be our own Earth for decades to come. the Ocean’s Eleven star shares his hopes that the world will return to some form of normalcy in 2021. “Humanity is currently experiencing a real problem with this pandemic,” he said. “We miss being in contact with people. The only thing I can say about it is that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we will go through it.
How does the Hollywood star spend her time locked out? “I do the laundry, mop the floor, wash the dishes and change the diapers,” he told the Independent and another press, flashing that Clooney smile. “Not my diapers; I have children. The actor, 59, has three-year-old twins with Amal Clooney, the international human rights lawyer he married in 2014.
Netflix hopes Midnight sky will be another Christmas hit after the success of the December releases Bird box (2018) and actor Michael Bay from last year 6 Underground, with Ryan Reynolds. Clooney is the latest in a long line of directors to release his film on the streaming service (see also: Alfonso Cuarón, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher) and, in the long-standing debate over whether films should to be seen in theaters or at home is the Netflix team.
“We have hundreds of additional jobs,” he says. “When I started acting in 1982, there were 64 TV shows and about 40 of them needed actors, so finding a job was much more difficult. But there is a lot of work to do now and Netflix is ​​a big part of it. They will make films that I used to do with small independent studios; the films I want to make – Good night and good luck, Confessions of a dangerous mind, Michael Clayton. I don’t make tentpole movies, so it’s exciting to have a place on Netflix where I can go. ”
It must be said that the film includes several scenes that would arise more effectively on a cinema screen. Still, early reviews predicted nominations in several technical categories at the 2021 Oscars, which would be a pleasant coup for Clooney given he considers Midnight sky – his 46th film as an actor and seventh as a director – his most difficult to date.
Does he have trouble directing his fellow actors? “I have to try to face it gently because it’s a wall you don’t want to go through,” he says. “I’m doing something that really shouldn’t be done. I’ve had a few actors do it for me, and it’s a terrible thing.
Fortunately he was able to get away from Midnight sky without any criticism. Rather the opposite. Jones co-star Kyle Chandler the Friday night lights Emmy Award winner, also worked with Clooney on the Hulu 2019 adaptation of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK. He describes working with him as a joy. Oyelowo notes, “I imagine George is leading the way he would like to be led. He prevents difficult things because he thinks about how he would handle them as an actor. It also helps when you have a director who has been in Gravity and Solaris playing an astronaut. Meanwhile, Jones is particularly fond of his organizational skills: “He had a good time so we finished at a sociable hour, which shouldn’t be underestimated.”
Kyle Chandler and George Clooney in between take on “The Midnight Sky”

(Philippe Antonello / Netflix)

Clooney – acting in her first film since 2016 Money monster – shares screen time with only one actor: Caoilinn Springall, seven years old. The newcomer plays Iris, a mute young girl with whom the miserable Augustine finds himself unexpectedly stuck. In a sense, Midnight sky brings things full circle for Clooney, who took his big hiatus in the mid-1990s playing pediatrician Doug Ross in the long-running medical drama EAST. I wonder what working with child stars has given him over the past 25 years.
“For a while, it taught me not to have children, but I blew it out,” he quipped. “When I was on EASTI played a womanizer and I was drunk – but he loved children. At the end [of each episode]I’d be like, “Hey, nobody’s touching that kid!” So I could get away with doing a lot of vile things. In Midnight sky, I didn’t have to smile. I didn’t have to make people feel like everything was going to be okay. I could be cranky and angry because I had this kid to take care of, which is a redemptive quality in cinematic storytelling. This facilitates performance. ”
The filming on location also contributed to the authenticity of his performance. A scene filmed in extremely cold Iceland in mid-October sees Augustine going through a snowstorm to reach another communication station. As the snow heats up, he stops to take his bearings – and within seconds, his face becomes impossible to see as it becomes completely covered in snowflakes and ice. This is just one of his character’s many near-death experiences in the film; it turns out that Clooney has had a few brushes of it himself over the years.
George Clooney as Augustine in ‘The Midnight Sky’

(Netflix)

“I had a couple of them,” he says. “I had one time in South Sudan where we pulled over and we had guns stuck to our heads – they wanted to steal our truck. I also had an accident in Italy a few years ago where I hit a guy at 70mph and thought that was it. But I was lucky there. I flipped through the air and ended up landing on my knees. I could have landed on any other part of my body and be dead. Clooney adds that his wife no longer allows him to ride a motorcycle.
“You learn how fragile life is,” Clooney says – and it’s that discovery that seems to permeate Midnight sky. Perhaps it was this lesson that not only drew him to the project, but helped him make his swift and professional decision to make Jones’ pregnancy part of the fabric of the story. Jones smiled, grateful for the result. After all, being pregnant on set had big benefits. “I was able to sit down a lot,” she recalls. “People also brought me a lot of chocolate cake. I have never been so well cared for in my life. I highly recommend it.
Midnight sky is available to stream on Netflix from December 23

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