It takes a certain type of guy to get on a stage in front of 2,000 people and wax poetical on himself for two-plus hours without coming across like a self-centered schmuck. And after Friday’s Modern Master Award presentation I can say this much: I’m 90% certain that George Clooney is not a schmuck. Left to field questions – tirelessly pitched by film critic extraordinaire Leonard Maltin – and to watch his career projected in front of him, Clooney found much to laugh at, and was kind enough to share his ruminations with the packed house before him.
Between joking about the profound implications of the early-’90s mullet and how he “almost single-handedly destroyed” the Batman franchise, Clooney chatted about his contemporaries. “You want me to name names?” he inquired while discussing the egocentric nature of the business. “I’ll say it right now, I don’t like Julia Roberts. I don’t like her and I don’t think she’s pretty. Her and Brad Pitt – he doesn’t like her either,” he said sarcastically.
Looking back to past efforts, Clooney appeared proud at times and laughably bitter at others. In what was perhaps the highlight of the evening, Clooney went on a mock tirade about the cinematic disaster that was 1997’s “Batman & Robin.” “I saw this other ‘Batman,’ this new one. It’s bullshit. I could have done [the] dark, tortured shit … but [Joel] Schumacher told me Batman was gay,” he joked.
But after reminiscing and playing the part of the angry actor, Clooney took the time to divulge a couple of trade secrets (“What have I stolen? I steal from everyone”) and – momentarily – stand atop his soapbox. “Agree or disagree with the issues, you can’t be called antipatriotic for asking the question,” he said after watching a clip from the Oscar-nominated “Good Night, and Good Luck.” The last of a series of film and TV snippets that were shown during the ceremony, the scene from “Good Night, and Good Luck” prompted a long and insightful discussion about McCarthy, political filmmaking and Clooney’s “friend,” Bill O’Reilly.
At the night’s close, fellow star of “Good Night, and Good Luck,” Grant Heslov, was put in charge of handing the award over to his buddy. In true slapstick fashion, the two embraced, then feigned innocence when the award snapped in half. “It’s funny how you pursue approval … then when you get it, you don’t know what to do with it,” Clooney remarked as he cradled his broken trophy. “But I enjoy it.”