At this point in his career, almost 30 years after he started acting, George Clooney has become not only one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, but a regular competitor at each year’s Oscars. This year’s Academy Awards nominations, his sixth and seventh, for “The Descendants” and “The Ides of March” represent the diverse work Clooney is now known for and the many different roles he takes on.
Clooney’s journey to Sunday night’s 2012 Oscars took a familiar path through the festival circuit with releases in the second half of the year, one carefully engineered to spell awards success, but the two films that got him there and the work he did cover a wide spectrum in filmmaking.
“Ides of March” took shape late in 2010, when Clooney signed on to wear three hats for the film: actor, producer and director. His fourth directorial effort to date, the political drama follows a young junior campaign manager (Ryan Gosling) as he struggles with the moral dilemmas of supporting a presidential candidate, played by Clooney.
Based on Beau Willimon’s play “Farragut North,” the script for “Ides of March” earned Best Adapted Screenplay nominations for the original author, Clooney and his frequent collaborator Grant Heslov. Though Clooney’s well-known political affiliations and beliefs stood in the foreground, the man himself took more of a backseat, limiting his onscreen role to a few keys scenes.
During awards season, the film made a small mark, after debuting to only mildly positive reviews. It did, however, take a spot on the National Board of Review’s top 10 of the year and earned four Golden Globes nominations, including Best Picture (Drama) and Best Director.
In “The Descendants,” Clooney took a familiar spot as leading man, but the role of Matt King required him to be anything but his usual model of suave confidence. As a soon-to-be widow, Clooney fully adopted the dopey mantel of an Alexander Payne hero in the tradition of Paul Giamatti in “Sideways” and Matthew Broderick in “Election.”
But unlike his predecessors as a lead in one of Payne’s films, Clooney’s character remained almost entirely sympathetic throughout the film, thanks in large part to the believability of the acting. He effortlessly took on the role of an utterly clueless father with good intentions, helping make “Descendants” such a true and touching film.
In the week leading up to Oscar night, Clooney stands neck and neck with fellow nominee Jean Dujardin as the favorite. It would be Clooney’s second win for acting, his first coming in 2006 as supporting actor in Stephen Gaghan’s “Syriana.”
However Sunday’s ceremony might shake out for Clooney, he has proven himself a mainstay for the Academy Awards, and — whether he’s acting, directing, writing or producing — someone who will continue to appear on shortlists for years to come.
The MTV Movies team has the 2012 Oscars covered! Stick with us for everything you need to know leading up to the awards show, and on Sunday, February 26, tune into MTV.com at 5:30 p.m. ET for our three-hour red-carpet live stream and updates on the night’s big winners.