April 23, 2014

Oscars: Grant Heslov on George Clooney, awards and “The Ides of March” – AWARDS ALLEY


By Sean O’Connell
hollywoodnews.com: Last night, George Clooney picked up a Best Actor trophy from the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association for his performance in Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants.” But on Sunday, Clooney’s attentions will be divided between Payne’s human drama and his own political thriller.

That’s because “The Ides of March,” which Clooney helmed and also appears, is up or four Golden Globes nominations including Bets Director – Motion Picture, Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance By An Actor (for Ryan Gosling) and Best Screenplay.

“It’s always nice to be recognized by people for the work that you do,” Clooney’s co-writer, Grant Heslov, told me during a recent conversation. He has worked with the Oscar winner every step of the way on “Ides,” “Leatherheads,” “K Street” “Goodnight and Good Luck,” and more. Ahead of Sunday’s Globes telecast, Heslov called to talk about their inspirations, his favorite monologues, and how Clooney has changed as a storyteller. Here’s Grant Heslov:

HollywoodNews.com: There’s a barbecue joint down in South Carolina named The Smoke House. It is one of my absolute favorite places to go when we’re on vacation. Please tell me you and Mr. Clooney named your production company, Smoke House, after a BBQ joint.

Grant Heslov: [Laughs] Well, no, but there’s a bar and a restaurant right across from Warner Bros. called The Smoke House. It’s a great watering hole that has been there forever. We named it after that, because that’s the place where we used to go and drink all of the time.

HollywoodNews.com: I love that. That’s hilarious. OK, on to “Ides,” which earned $53 million at the global box office to date. I think that’s a healthy number, but were you hoping for more?

Well, we still haven’t opened in a bunch of foreign territories, so we still have a ways to go. I think we’re going to be more than OK. Don’t forget, the film only cost $12.5M.

HollywoodNews.com: The critics did respond in kind, though. The film has an 86% Fresh rate. General audiences appeared to think this movie was going to be too political, though, which it wasn’t meant to be. Did you feel that you were fighting an uphill battle in terms of marketing it to a politics-weary audience?

Yeah, because we weren’t setting out to make a political film, as you know. It’s set in the world of politics, and it’s hard to get by that. But as you said, once people saw it and the word got out, it’s much more of a morality tale than a political film.

HollywoodNews.com: It plays like a paperback page-turner, where you are compelled to keep reading at the end of each chapter because you need to see what happens next.

Good, because we definitely intended that.

HollywoodNews.com: From your perspective, how has Mr. Clooney evolved as a director from “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” to now?

I think that he’s just becoming more and more sure-handed. Like anything, the more you do it, the better you are going to become. Your shortcuts become stronger. You hone in more on the kernel of truth that we’re always looking for. There’s an economy to the way George works anyway, but I think with each film, he has managed to whittle that down. It’s sort of like distilling in a way. Does that make sense? All of his talent and his knowledge distills into the project.

HollywoodNews.com: And does it help to have a partner with A-list clout to push through obstacles in the production process?

Yeah, with the two of us, we have a working tag team. In this particular film, we didn’t have any of those issues because we didn’t make the film at the studio. They came on after the fact to help distribute. But that’s the other reason why you make a film with a cast like that for $12.5M, because they let you make the film that you want to make.

HollywoodNews.com: Thank you for bringing up that stellar cast. Everyone gets a memorable monologue. Do you have a favorite, either for the way you wrote it or for the way it was delivered?

I actually like Marisa [Tomei’s], when she’s in the restaurant, in the first bar scene with Ryan [Gosling]. It’s just the two of them, and she talks about, “When did you buy into all of this crap? You know better.” That whole speech is probably my favorite.

HollywoodNews.com: She is kind of his bullshit checker.

Oh yeah, for sure. Exactly.

Awards Alley brings you the best Oscar coverage. Click below to read our exclusive interviews with:
- Harvey Weinstein
- The cast of “The Artist.”
- Kenneth Branagh for “My Week With Marilyn.”
- Bennett Miller talks “Moneyball.”
- Sir Ben Kingsley and Chloe Grace Moretz for “Hugo.”
- Tilda Swinton for “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”
- David Fincher, Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”
- Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer for “The Help.”
- Tate Taylor for “The Help.”
- Woody Harrelson for “Rampart.”
- Gavin O’Connor for “Warrior.”
- Gary Oldman and Colin Firth for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”
- Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody for “Young Adult.”
- Steve McQueen for “Shame.”
- Glenn Close for “Albert Nobbs.”
- Seth Rogen and Will Reiser for “50/50.”

For complete Oscar and Film Festival coverage, visit our Awards Alley for the latest news items, reviews and interviews all season long.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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