BEVERLY HILLS, California — George Clooney is a big-time movie star. An Oscar winner. People’s Sexiest Man Alive — twice.
But then there’s this: After thousands of interviews over the years, I’d like to think I’m immune to celebrity charms. But, seriously, is George Clooney the most charismatic star on the planet or what? (And do you think he’d like to be my friend?)
I gave it a shot when I sat down with the “Leatherheads” director/star to discuss his love for old-timey movies, “Return of the Killer Tomatoes,” Batman and the Coen brothers . Bonus: Find out what he thinks of his singing voice, what superhero he’d still like to play, and more.
MTV: This has been bothering me since I saw [“Leatherheads”] — what in the heck is a pig in a poke?
George Clooney: It’s a little personal. [Laughs.] I stole those lines from, I think, “Ocean’s Eleven,” and I still don’t know what they mean. A Crusty Bob? I just think that they’re funny.
MTV: “Leatherheads” is another of what I would call your “golden age” movies. One gets the impression you think you were born in the wrong decade.
Clooney: I like looking back at those movies every once in a while, I think they were pretty fun to do. They’re easier to do, certainly, because they’re sort of very black-and-white, so to speak. And they are easy to play off of.
MTV: Talking about looking back — everyone these days is falling over backwards trying to anoint you the new Cary Grant.
Clooney: Yeah, Cary Grant right now, and he just did this in his grave [plays dead and rolls over].
MTV: See, I was gonna say Humphrey Bogart. You strike me as more of a roguish outsider.
Clooney: I like that.
MTV: But is there someone you look back on and say, “Man, I wish I had his career”?
Clooney: You know, there are a couple of guys that never get talked about in film. William Holden never gets talked about. I loved his career. He had great movies and a great, really interesting career even into his — you know, “Network,” one of his last films he made, it was a brilliant film. And I liked Joel McCrea. In early films he made me laugh a lot.
MTV: It’s weird, because we have so many nostalgic looks at baseball — what took football so long?
Clooney: I know, isn’t it weird? It’s a funny thing. I was looking at that when I first started looking at this film. One of the major reasons to do it was that it was a world that we actually haven’t played in really. “Jim Thorpe – All-American” in [1951 was about it], so we haven’t really seen it, so it seemed ripe for the pickin’.
MTV: You get into some fights with John [Krasinski] in this film.
Clooney: Yeah, I kick his ass.
MTV: Tell me this: When was the last fight you got in?
Clooney: This morning.
MTV: How’s the other guy look?
Clooney: Not good, you know, ’cause I had three other guys hold him down. I’m old. I had someone hold him down and I cracked him in the knees with a baseball bat.
MTV: I notice you are conspicuously absent from the singing of “Over There” in that scene in the bar [in “Leatherheads”], and I know you were dubbed in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” So just how bad is your singing voice?
Clooney: Honestly? There are dogs in Russia that are barking when I sing. [Laughs.] That’s the only thing that could hear me. My aunt Rosemary was quite the singer, one of the great singers of all time. I did not get that gene. My mother that can’t sing at all, she screwed up all that genealogy.
MTV: Given that, what’s more likely: that I get you to sing something or that you make a cameo in the “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” movie they are remaking?
Clooney: I saw in the trades where it said, “Spawning the sequel ’Return of the Killer Tomatoes,’ which launched George Clooney’s career!” It’s like, “No, that was a job I got, but it didn’t catapult me to fame right after that.” But I would do the cameo for that before I sang. On MTV, you don’t want me singing.
MTV: I got Morgan Freeman to sing.
Clooney: You did? You’re very good. But I’ve been to parties — he sings all the time.
MTV: You’ve been very self-deprecating about your role as Batman [in “Batman & Robin”], but I read that you entertained the notion of playing another comic book character in “Fantastic Four.”
Clooney: No, nobody every asked me or talked to me about “Fantastic Four.” There was a moment there back in the mid-’90s where we were talking about doing the Green Hornet, but that didn’t come together. I think the superhero part of me [has died], unless we’re doing Geritol Man, who, you know, comes over and poops in his pants. I’m Geritol Man — can’t quite fly.
MTV: I ask because Michael Keaton said if there was ever an old Batman, he was throwing his hat in the ring. But that’s not you?
Clooney: He should do it. I would like to see Michael Keaton in that role, because he would do it well. Actually, I even had an idea for a Batman where he sort of wakes up — he is in the hospital — and he wakes up and looks around and there’s Jim Carrey and Jack Nicholson as the doctor, and you pan down and it’s Michael Keaton with his hair all white and the whole thing was a dream.
MTV: You’re doing two more films coming up with the Coen brothers. Aren’t you tired of carrying around those no-talent [losers]?
Clooney: The problem is, my timing with those guys is never quite right. I did “O Brother” right after they won the Oscar for “Fargo,” and then I did “Intolerable [Crruelty]” right after “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” and now I’ve done “Burn After Reading” right after they’ve won three Oscars. I feel like I am just their goat, their mule.
MTV: Is [the Coen-scripted] “Suburbicon,” the next project you’re directing?
Clooney: No, no, I wanted to do that. We haven’t really pulled that one. I haven’t stolen that one away from them yet. I think they are going to do it. I think they are going to direct it, but I love that project. I have a part in it that I would love to play.
MTV: I know nothing about it.
Clooney: It’s weird, nutty. There’s nothing to explain what it is except it’s a Coen brothers film, so it’s insane. I get clubbed to death with a tire iron, and it made me laugh. But “Burn [After Reading],” I don’t even understand what it is [either]. We have no idea what we’ve done. The only thing I feel confident about is, as bad and goofy and dim as I am in the movie, [Brad] Pitt might be dimmer, and that makes me know I have a little cover.
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