You're not sure what to expect when George Clooney and Renée Zellweger walk into the room. You have images of them both in your mind, which they shatter instantly. Yes, George is suave and charming in a blazer and jeans, but he's also much slighter than you expect. And while Renée is cute as a button with that trademarked scrunchy face, not to mention sharp tailoring from her cropped blonde hair to her form-fitting black dress, she's also more formidable than you expect, with a strong, sexy laugh. But they're relaxed and chatty and, as they verbally bounce off each other, it's like watching a comedy double-act, as about half of what they say is pure silliness...
Why this film now?
George: After Good Night and Good Luck and Syriana, every film I was sent to direct was an issue-driven film. At some point the issues start to become bigger than the films you're doing, and you really don't want to do that if you want to direct. I wanted to do a comedy. But with romantic comedies in general -and it's the reason I've avoided them - we sort of know how everything ends all the way down. So it's about where you put it, and if it's worth the journey. I'm a big fan of the old screwball comedies, and I thought that, without trying to mimic them, it was a good time to do something different. I also sort of feel like you want to keep playing with things, to figure out what you're good at and what you're not.
The terror is that you get stuck with people thinking you're only allowed to do one thing. I'm interested in a lot of different genres and a lot of different kinds of filmmaking. Sometimes I do it well, but I enjoy the process, and there's something exciting about being in the position where you can say I'm going to make this film and people will make it. But it doesn't last very long in your career. You don't get that very long. So while you have the toys, you want to be able to play with them all before they make you put them back in the box and move to the SAG retirement home.
Renée: Which will be next summer.
George: Thank you.
You did a polish on the script
George: I spent the summer two summers ago in Italy, which is a good place to do that, it's where we did Good Night and Good Luck the year before. I spent the summer working on it with Renée in mind to play the part. And it's easy to write when you have somebody particularly as talented as Renée to write for, so that was part of the fun.
Did the screwball comedy style attract you to this role?
Renée: Absolutely not. I'm completely ignorant of cinema history and this fellow here had to educate me a bit. We had screenings instead of rehearsals most of the time, where this boy made sure I was familiar with the style of the time, in terms of delivery and how the actors interact with one another. And I just liked it - it was just a good script, believe it or not.
George: Renée was not the first choice.
Renée: No, I was excited: finally a proper place for my vivacity! You know, it had nothing to do with him, obviously, or the script, or the other costars in the film. Who'd want to hang out with John Krazinski? [laughs] No seriously, it's dream-come-true stuff. It's a challenge. And I didn't want to get hit anymore, so I did my homework at night so the director would not disapprove and come after me.
George: I never did it with a closed fist, though. Always the open hand.
Renée: Yeah, and the wardrobe was good for that: lots of layers, scarves hats. Oh, and I had nothing else to do.
George: Boy, when Nicole turned it down and you took it...
Renée: And then that other one, she was pregnant.
George: Halle Berry.
Renée: And the other one's pregnant. And that other one too.
George: They're all pregnant. You've got nothing but work coming to you, you know?
Was there any improvisation, or was the sparkiness scripted?
Renée: We didn't really have a script.
George: And in fact that's not Renée's actual voice. Glenn Close did all of her looping. Every word of it.
Renée: Yes, it would have been Halle Berry, but she was pregnant. And as for improv, I tried to stick with the script so George wouldn't smack me, because I had enough of that for dropping my lines and forgetting things.
George: I can't remember, but I don't think there was anything improvised.
Renée: Only occasionally, small moments. It was more how we played with the words than adding anything.
George: I kept putting those old man jokes in the script, because this was a project I was looking at doing 10 years earlier, when I would have been about the right age to be too old to be playing football.
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