Hitfix’s Drew McWeeny (formerly of AICN) now has a legendary reaction to Up in the Air – the “shaking and crying” reaction people sometimes get. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had it while watching The Kite Runner, A Beautiful Mind, and a handful of other movies usually involving children getting hurt, humiliated or permanently maimed. But Up in the Air seems to be hitting a particular type of person especially hard – the grown-up boy-man, the first generation to grow up with the internet. So maybe that is what the movie is about anyway – I don’t know, I haven’t seen it but I’m curious to know what people who aren’t in this kind of realm think. Either which way it doesn’t matter because that particular kind of person seems to be in the control booth now anyway. All of this to say that Drew had “a moment” in Toronto that apparently had party-goers, fanboys, wanna-bes, and anyone else you can throw into the hat jealous of his half-hour interview, or chat, with George Clooney:
As I went looking for a drink that wasn’t loaded with vodka or white rum, no easy feat at this event, I walked up the steps right where Clooney was standing, and he looked right at me. That famous smile flashed and he put out his bandaged hand. “Hey, how are you?”
I was surprised, but I shook his hand, trying to be careful with it. “Uh, doing well, thanks. I’m not sure you’ll remember, but…”
“Oh, of course. Ain’t It Cool.” Back in 1999, Harry and I visited the set of “Fail Safe,” George’s live-television production of the classic Cold War story, and we spent an afternoon with him. Later, I ended up becoming friends with someone close to him, and we sort of tagentially had that mutual friend for a while. Sure enough, that’s the name he mentioned next, and then he said, “It’s Drew, right?”
Color me impressed. I told him how surprised I was that he was able to pull the name up like that, and he asked me about what I’ve been up to since the last time I saw him. I was struck by two things as we small-talked at first. One, he actually seemed to be asking, not just being polite, and that is rare from anyone at a party like this, much less the guy everyone in the room is staring at while trying to look like they aren’t. Two, I could sense that the people who had been working to form the subtle roadblock around Clooney were agitated by my having somehow breached that perimeter.
We started talking about “Up In The Air,” and I just confessed my full reaction, including the unexpected flood of tears after the film had already ended, and he seemed delighted to hear it. He gushed about Jason Reitman, both as a filmmaker and as a person, and he told me that he felt like his public persona made him the only actor who could properly play the part, an observation that is very knowing on Clooney’s part. He knows how people see him. He knows he’s thought of as the Permanent Bachelor, the ultimate guy’s guy. And to some extent, he’s cultivated that image. But he said as he read the script for “Up In The Air” the first time, there were lines that his character says that he had actually said in his personal life. That hit him hard, and he realized that this was a chance to “look in the mirror,” so to speak, make a movie that acknowledges that what looks cute at 30 might not look as cute at 50, and that you can be Warren Beatty (as an example) at 20 or even 40, but at 60, you just can’t pull it off. It’s not charming anymore. It’s just sort of sad. Knowing that, he felt like making this film would tackle these ideas head on, and that him playing it would lend the film an extra edge of friction, because audiences would be wondering how much of this is him.
My two thoughts immediately, because I’m a bitter and cynical person underneath it all, was twofold. The first, must be nice. Must be nice to be George Clooney. Must be nice to work with the best directors, be gorgeous beyond compare, tool around Italy on a motorbike with beautiful women, live in a mansion at Lake Como, be the defacto homecoming king of Hollywood, leader of the cool crowd, best friends with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. Must be fucking nice.
And the other part of me thinks, hold up Drew. Clooney is a brilliant strategist. Remember Almost Famous? That’s the thing about celebs pushing a movie. You never know if they are just doing their job or if they genuinely like you. I’ve seen some of my friends deal with this conflict. And to tell you the truth, most of them think they’ve made a genuine friend. Either way, it’s all good. The movie is great, Drew had “a moment” all are envious of and the space shuttle landed safely in California yesterday.