London’s Park Lane is a very sophisticated, attractive and wealthy area. Even to just take a stroll down this illustrious avenue one feels as if they ought to own at least a couple of yachts. The whole area consists mainly of hotels (and I’m not talking about Holiday Inns here) and expensive boutiques. I was on my way to one of London’s finest hotels, The Dorchester, to meet a gentleman for whom yachts and boutiques were no strange things.
George Clooney was in town to promote ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’, an animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, at the London film festival. He plays the leading role of Mr. Fox alongside Bill Murray, Meryl Streep and, rather oddly, Jarvis Cocker who makes a cameo as, Petey, an untalented musician.
Clooney had turned up in a fine grey suit and had clearly not had his fashion sense altered by the more casual fox. “I don’t think I share much with Mr. Fox. I’m certainly a lot taller than him” he said peering down at the half metre tall model next to him. I wanted to know why he chose to do the film. “Listen, I just showed up for the pay check. No, for me this was a really fun part to play. I remember reading the script and saying to Wes (Anderson, the movie’s director), I love it and I’m thrilled and happy to be doing it. I don’t know who will see it, it’s for grown-ups but also for kids, you never know how that plays out. He just said to me it doesn’t matter lets just have some fun and make a movie.”
A lot of people seem to be worried about film adaptations of Roald Dahl’s work. Many in the past did not meet with Dahl’s approval so there was a certain amount of pressure involved in making this new film. “This has been an incredibly well known book for a long time to a lot of us, and it was an opportunity to work not only on the story, but also a chance to work with Wes, so I was very excited about the whole process.” Clooney had good reason to be excited by the process. Before shooting began Wes Anderson, in his typically leftfield approach, took the cast out to a farm in England to become their respective animals. “It was a very different process to normal. We were often out in the middle of nowhere, doing sound effects, rolling around fields, playing in barns. We didn’t have a wolf so Bill (Murray) played the wolf and so we filmed it on a cell phone. I believe the animators used that footage later on create the wolf. The whole thing was a lot of fun.”
Whilst Anderson was writing the script for ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’, he wanted Cary Grant to play the lead. This was clearly problematic and so he chose George Clooney thinking him to be the Cary Grant of today. I suggested this to George “Wow”, he looked surprised at the thought, “I think Cary Grant will be turning in his grave at that suggestion”.
There’s no doubt that Clooney has charm and looks equal to Grant’s and yet he is still unmarried and without children. As Mr. Fox is a strong paternal figure in this film, I wondered whether this had given him any aspirations of having his own children. He paused for quite a while, “Yes it has” He paused again and then smiled “I’m going to adopt some of Brad Pitt’s kids”. Only a few hours after we met, he presented his new girlfriend, Italian actress and supermodel, Elisabetta Canalis, at the film’s premiere.
Clooney has three films showing at this year’s London film festival.
As well as Fantastic Mr. Fox he also stars in ‘Men Who Stare at Goats’ and ‘Up in the Air’. He was very keen to tell me why he enjoyed the film festival so much. “I was here a couple of years ago with Goodnight and Good Luck and there’s a level of pride in film here that is really fun. They truly enjoy it. It’s a great place to bring a movie and see if it will last beyond the opening weekend.”
There wasn’t much time left so finally we spoke about the possibility of doing more animated films in the future and the smaller workload compared to most films. “I have to say in fairness, it’s a little unfair that I’m here. We worked for a few days out on a farm, running around and generally having fun. The rest of the team worked for over a year and a half on this, so in some ways, me being here is a little silly.”
He got up and walked out back into the world of paparazzi and media junkets. Even though Clooney had denied any similarities between himself and Mr. Fox, to me, it appeared that he was every bit as smooth and charming as his character.