(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – They waited in the rain for hours to catch a glimpse of George Clooney, the star of Hail, Caesar!, the Coen brothers’ latest movie, which was the opening feature at the 66th Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival, last week.
Clooney fans called out to their idol as he walked inside the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Thursday to attend a press conference that was the official opening event of the festival. Clooney, the two directors and the film’s other stars – Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton (whom moderator Anatol Weber called “the queen of the Berlinale”) and newcomer Alden Ehrenreich – were all at the event.
The famously reticent Coen brothers mumbled their way through the first few moments.
When the moderator asked what movies they would be making if they had been working 65 years ago in the era when their Hollywood farce Hail, Caesar! takes place, Ethan Coen repeated the question quietly, while Joel, quipped, “We have time for one more question.”
Gradually, they warmed up, as Clooney, who plays a Charlton Heston-like movie star in Hail, Caesar! (which opens in Israel on February 18), mugged his way through the event looking larger than life in a black turtleneck and leather jacket.
“Wearing a skirt is fun,” said Clooney, when asked about the costumes his character wears in the movie-within- a-movie, in which he plays a Roman gladiator.
He also joked: “They’re not brothers, it’s all bullshit, they’re first cousins,” and said that every time they send him a script (he has also starred in the Coen brothers’ movies O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading) they always ask him to “play knuckleheads... I didn’t think this character would be so stupid.”
At times, Clooney tread uneasily between the role of adored movie star and serious humanitarian, since he is known for his work to bring aid to those who have suffered during the conflict in Darfur and a host of other causes. He bristled when a journalist asked what he had been doing to help with the migrant crisis.
“It’s sort of an odd thing to have someone stand up and say what do you do,” said Clooney, who pointed out that “[I] spent a lot of my time working on these things” and that he was planning to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and some migrants. He then challenged the questioner to describe what she herself had done to help.
Clooney added that he would like to make a movie about Darfur, but that it was hard to find a good script about the situation there.
The Coens, however reluctantly, answered a few questions.
Joel said the movie was “by design, a rather romanticized version of Hollywood in the 50s... [Hollywood was] a factory for making movies, a machine for making movies, that was such a beautifully designed thing, there was an element of... affection and admiration for it... I’m not sure how we would have functioned in that environment.”
Channing Tatum, meanwhile, talked about how nervous he was doing the elaborate dance routine he performs in the movie.
“They buried the lead when they gave me the script” by not making it clear how long the scene would be, he said, but added that he would have done anything to work with them. “I would never have jumped off a cliff blindfolded for anyone else,” he said.
Asked about current American politics, a subject they rarely comment on directly, Joel said: “Donald Trump possibly getting elected gets more into the realm of the surreal.”
A few moments later, the press conference was over, leaving fans outside cheering Clooney and Tatum and those inside contemplating how much fun the Coen brothers might someday have satirizing President Trump.