George Clooney talks aging, being a “character actor” – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell Brad Pitt mentioned it in a recent cover story: He was glad to be past the “pretty face” stage of his career because he found aging more interesting.

There’s a “Benjamin Button” joke in there somewhere. But his comments shine a light on a distinct problem still plaguing Hollywood. How do actors continue to find engaging parts as they grow older? Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford moved behind the camera. Other stars began producing passion projects in an effort to carve out memorable parts.

In this week’s Parade cover story, “Ides of March” and “Descendants” star George Clooney addressed the issue with his trademark brand of self-deprecating humor, calling himself “a character actor” at this stage of his career.

“I look at myself onscreen and go, ‘I don’t look like I did when I was 40 — I know that,'” Clooney said. “The people I’ve respected most in the industry over the years — Paul Newman, for instance. I just loved the way he handled growing old onscreen.”

But those who’ve seen Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” — specifically Clooney’s layered performance as a disheveled yet well-meaning father — also understand that the actor probably couldn’t have delivered as compelling a performance had he tried to play Matt King, say, 10 years ago. The actor’s life experiences continue to inform his decisions in front of the camera. He knows when to be quiet, when to rise up to a scene, and when to listen to the actors in his scene.

Clooney’s work behind the camera, which started in 2002 with the underrated “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” probably also has helped him refine his acting techniques. But at this stage, as evidenced with his fantastic political drama “The Ides of March,” Clooney’s also just an outstanding talent scout, and he’s great at picking strong support in key roles.

As for “Ides,” Clooney revealed to Parade why he had to wait to get the film in front of audiences.

“We were in preproduction on this film in 2007, before the Obama election,” he said. “And then we realized that a good portion of the country was elated with what happened in that election, so we had to shelve the movie until people were cynical again.

“I didn’t think it would be quite this quick,” he added with a laugh.

“Ides” will be in theaters on Oct. 7.

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