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PITT: Jaws came along and proved you could make huge money with blockbusters, and it set this thing in motion that has lowered the subject matter. People like George have been getting good stuff out there, but it's an industry that pushes people out on the big stage too fast, before they're ready, and it eats them up as well. It's a different kind of arena now.
BARKIN: Think about it. Do we know anything about Robert Redford's children? Does he even have any?
DAMON: I worked with him, and I don't know.
PITT: I have four, if you haven't heard.
As we're talking, there are paparazzi in boats out in the harbor taking pictures. Having just been through the celebrity muck of Cannes, who gets it the worst?
CLOONEY: There's no question, it's Brad.
PITT: Well, exponentially, with us together ...
CLOONEY: But even before he was with [Angelina Jolie], we used to chum the water with him.
PITT: This is not a joke. They used to send me out to take the hits.
CLOONEY: We were at the airport in Italy. So I walk off the plane, and it's "Hey, Giorgio!" And I go, "Look! Brad Pitt!" and they're gone.
DAMON: You described it once as "People were stepping on our faces trying to get to Brad."
PITT: Ah, well, I don't take it as a compliment.
What other leading men do you like?
CLOONEY: I like Clive Owen a lot. Did you see Children of Men?
DAMON: That was my favorite movie last year.
CLOONEY: Me too.
DAMON: One of the most underrated actors right now as a leading man is Christian Bale. He turned in two great performances last year. He was great in The Prestige, and he was great in this movie called Harsh Times.
BARKIN: I like the very young Ryan Gosling.
CLOONEY: That couple--he goes out with Rachel McAdams ...
BARKIN: Splitsville. Don't you read Us?
CLOONEY: Well, those were two of the most talented young actors I've seen in a long time.
They're not dead.
BARKIN: And they should never have broken up--just for the sake of their careers.
What was it like being the only woman in the cast?
CLOONEY: You're a woman?
BARKIN: I tried to pack 14 of you into just a few weeks. It's a lot of ground to cover.
CLOONEY: If there's anybody who could do it ...
BARKIN: I started with Carl [Reiner] and worked back from there.
CLOONEY: Only fair. He could go at any minute.
This is your first big movie in a long time ...
BARKIN: It's my first movie in a long time. You don't have to qualify that.
O.K. It's commonly held that roles get better for men in their 30s and 40s and significantly worse for women. Do actors talk about that discrepancy?
DAMON: It's a terrifically unfair business.
CLOONEY: It hasn't been equitable in a long, long time. It's incredibly unfair. You don't see a lot of 60-year-old women with 20-year-old men onscreen.
PITT: You will in Benjamin Button. [Pitt is currently shooting The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, in which his character ages backward.] Sixty and 20 to be exact.
CLOONEY: You're playing 20? Really?
DAMON: There's a lot of CGI.
[To Pitt and Clooney] Is it true that you were the last two actors up for the hitchhiker role in Thelma & Louise?
CLOONEY: It was pretty embarrassing. They brought Brad and me in, and they just made us take our shirts off and stand there for a while, and then they picked Brad.
PITT: That is absolutely not true.
Did you know each other at that point?
CLOONEY: I knew him afterward.
DAMON: "Hey, that's the f___ing guy that took my job!"
CLOONEY: My friends said, "You want to see Thelma & Louise?" And I'm like, "F___ Thelma & Louise!" But it was fairly obvious when you saw the movie why I didn't get it, 'cause Brad just knocked it out of the park.
PITT: Aw, they were just grooming you for Batman.