(KGET) — George Clooney ended his short hiatus from acting in a big way. He not only agreed to star in the Netflix film “The Midnight Sky” but also asked to direct the production when no director was attached to the project. This double blast of Clooney can be seen via the streaming service starting Dec. 23.
“The Midnight Sky” is based on the 2017 book, “Good Morning, Midnight,” by Lily Brooks-Dalton. The adaptation of the book unfolds in a near-future world where a generally unexplained event is wiping out all life on Earth.
Clooney had reached a point in his life where he no longer needed to act to pay the rent. And, the closer he got to turning 60, there was less chance he would be cast as the guy who gets the girl. He only would return to work if a strong project came along and that happened when Netflix sent him the script for “The Midnight Sky.”
“I just liked the idea of the conversations it was having about what we were capable of doing to each other and whether or not this whole experiment of mankind is worth the fight,” Clooney says. “The argument was made – and I think answered in the script – that yeah, it’s worth the fight.
“We may not get out of it alive but we will get out of it intact. I really loved the idea of that.”
This story unfolds through Augustine (Clooney), a lonely scientist in the Arctic who stays at his post to find a way to stop Sully (Felicity Jones) and her fellow astronauts from returning home after a lengthy mission to Jupiter. The scientist must do this while protecting a young girl (Caoilinn Springall) who he discovered after all others had left the facility.
“The Midnight Sky” is the first acting job for Caoilinn but Clooney has nothing but praise for the very young Irish actress. Even when the production was filming in freezing temperatures in Iceland, Caoilinn was able to do her scenes in one take.
Clooney looked at hundreds of young performers to play the role including Caoilinn’s twin sister. He laughingly points out that she does only have one line in the entire film but he was still impressed with what she was able to do without speaking.
At the same time Clooney was shepherding his young co-star through the filming, he had to make sure he was getting the best performance he could from himself. Clooney found that process easy because as both the director and star he always knew what was needed to make a scene work.
The challenge was finding the strength and energy to do the work in the harsh conditions. Clooney’s character is dying which meant he couldn’t be in the kind of top physical shape needed to handle all the acting and directing duties.
Clooney describes “The Midnight Sky” as one of the most physically demanding roles he’s ever tackled. He did get heavily battered and bruised while filming “The Perfect Storm.”
“I’ve done a few films where I’ve gotten knocked around a lot but this one was trickier because he’s dying. Usually when you are directing a film, you work out for a few months to get in really good shape because you are kind of the general and you have to carry all these people up the hill,” Clooney says.
Clooney has been acting for more than 40 years but he didn’t start directing film or TV projects until the 2002 movie “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.” His other directing jobs have included the feature films “Good Night, and Good Luck” (earning him an Oscar nomination) and “The Ides of March” plus episodes of the TV adaptation of “Catch-22.”
He’s very cautious when talking about how physical it is to work on a movie or TV project. Clooney points out that when he was younger and growing up in Northern Kentucky, he would cut tobacco. He thinks about how hard that work was when the subject of how difficult it is to act is mentioned.
Clooney tackles a directing job like a general leading an army. He’s found the key to a successful production is to be willing to depend on those he is leading.
“What is important – as an actor or a director- is that the people who are there feel that they are listened to and are part of this process because there are 300 people working there,” Clooney says. “Everyone is working together to try to make the same project and so they should feel respected and having fun.
“When we get to do the job that we get to do – which is to act like kids quite honestly – we should enjoy it because we are the lucky ones. I believe that sets should show that. It’s hard work but you should do it with a sense of joy.”
Clooney has found that this is not hard to accomplish because his experience has been that everyone working on a project is happy to be part of the process and very proud of the work they are doing. All he had to do was guide that energy of making “The Midnight Sky” into a project that made him happy that he decided to get back in front of the cameras.