The title character in Michael Clayton could be a guy who's watched George Clooney movies and thinks, Yeah, that's me. I can pull off the shadiest deals and never lose my cool.
But life isn't like that not in writer-director Tony Gilroy's corporate thriller about a lawyer and compulsive gambler whose financial and family entanglements tighten like a noose around his heart. It's a tribute to the actor within the movie star that Clooney looks haggard, visibly depleted. One more mistake and Clayton could explode, or evaporate.
"All actors like broken people," Clooney says. "It's infinitely better than being the hero." It's also more demanding to anchor a movie in which nuance trumps melodrama. "In this film, everybody doesn't have to get got. You're buying tiny bits, increments of what makes us all human," he says.
Clooney knows that his luck is as golden as Clayton's is rotten. "Without ER," he says, "I got none of this. But once I realized that I'd be held responsible for my movies, not just the performance in them, I started picking movies that I wanted to do and getting them made when no one wanted to make them." His mission improbable: "To force the studios to do movies that they don't want to do." Oh, some mogul will bankroll those ornery indie projects. As long as they star George Clooney.
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