Clooney reels in award nominations

2011-12-20 00:00

LOS ANGELES — It’s nerve-wracking to act alongside George Clooney — and he knows it.

Last Wednesday night, following TheWrap’s screening of The Descendants at the Landmark Theater, actors Shailene Woodley, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard and Nick Krause — along with producer Jim Burke — talked about working with the film’s leading man on the family drama.

“It was a challenge to be in some feisty arguments with him. He’s a good arguer,” Woodley said during TheWrap Awards Screening Series discussion moderated by Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman.

The 20-year-old actress, who plays the rebellious older daughter of Clooney’s character, is up for Golden Globe, Independent Spirit and SAG Awards, and recently won a National Board of Review prize for her role in the film.

“He goes out of his way to make you feel comfortable as an actor,” Woodley said. “It was exciting for me to learn from him, and have to raise the bar and rise to the occasion.”

For his role in The Descendants , Clooney recently won the National Board of Review award for best actor, and has been nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award and a Golden Globe for best actor in a drama.

For their own part, Woodley, Greer and Lillard, along with Clooney, Beau Bridges and Robert Forster, have been nominated for the SAG Award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture. Nominations were announced last Wednesday morning.

“I read about it on TheWrap,” said Lillard, who was on crutches following surgery a couple of days earlier. He also revealed that he almost didn’t audition for the role of real-estate agent Brian Speer in Alexander Payne’s film.

“I’ve been in most of the bad movies ever made,” said the actor, who is best known for his roles in Scream and Scooby Doo. “I had no confidence whatsoever that I’d get the part. A script of this ilk is not in my wheelhouse.

“My biggest fear was that I’d be the joke of the film,” he added.

The actor who earns the most laughs in The Descendants is actually Krause, who plays the happy-go-lucky teen Sid. Krause said he taped his early video audition for the role on a cell phone. “I have it somewhere, but it’s pretty embarrassing,” he said.

Woodley said she found out she landed the role of Alex King after getting a phone call from Payne. “I still have the voicemail saved,” she said.

The actors and Burke raved about the directorial skills of Payne, who is up for two Golden Globes. “He’s so intimate, standing there next to the camera; he’s a part of a scene almost,” Greer said, recalling one of the film’s final scenes. “When he says ‘cut,’ it doesn’t feel like the mood changes.”

Set in Hawaii, The Descendants follows the unpredictable journey of an American family at a crossroads.

Matt King (Clooney), a husband and father of two girls, must re-examine his past and navigate his future when his wife is in a boating accident off Waikiki. He awkwardly attempts to repair his relationship with his daughters — 10 year-old precocious Scottie (Amara Miller) and rebellious 17 year-old Alexandra (Woodley) — while wrestling with a decision to sell his family’s land.

• The Golden Globes will be presented on January 15 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, hosted by Ricky Gervais. —



Oscar winner George Clooney, a current awards-season favourite with The Descendants , has added another project to his packed upcoming movie slate. Clooney and Smokehouse Pictures partner Grant Heslov will produce a movie about the Smothers Brothers and their groundbreaking TV series.

Clooney and Heslov are teaming with Sony to turn David Bianculli’s 2009 book Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour into a film.

Bianculli confirmed the project on his site, TV Worth Watching. He called Clooney his “dream choice” for the movie adaptation of his book about the Smothers and their 1967-1969 variety-hour series.

His dream casting choice? Neil Patrick Harris as Tommy Smothers.

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour , which counted Steve Martin and Rob Reiner among its writers, drew the ire of CBS censors by including social commentary about the Vietnam War and politicians. It was cancelled by the network in 1969.

“First, I’m thrilled on behalf of Tom and Dick, whose story deserves to be told and retold, and whose efforts to inject topicality into scripted TV comedy in the sixties led very directly to the sort of thing Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher are doing today,” Bianculli wrote.

“But I’m also thrilled because, when the book was still in galleys and I was asked by the film-division agent at my literacy agency to name my dream film-maker for a Smothers Brothers movie, I said two words. One was George. The other was Clooney.”

Bianculli, a TV critic and Rowan University professor, said he uses Clooney’s Oscar-winning film Good Night , and Good Luck , and live remake of Fail Safe in his courses.

Brian Hecker and Craig Sherman will write the screenplay for the Smothers movie. They are also co-writing Atari, a biopic about Atari founder Nolan Bushnell.

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