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George Clooney Prefers Swimming in a Suit to Skinny-Dipping

George Clooney's political drama Ides of March, the fourth film he's directed, arrives in theaters tomorrow, starring Clooney as a presidential candidate and Ryan Gosling as an eventually disillusioned member of his staff. The film has been getting some Oscar buzz (Harvey Weinstein sure likes it, though odds look better for Clooney's The Descendants), and we caught up with him at the film's premiere last night. We spoke about Weinstein's support, his political future, Gosling, and skinny-dipping at his house in Como.

Harvey Weinstein, who usually only has something nice to say about his own film, was full of nothing but accolades for Ides when we caught up with him the other night. He said it should be nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director.
He’s got a plan, doesn’t he? Harvey’s got a plan out there somewhere. He’s trying to set me up somehow. I showed Harvey the film about two weeks ago, he saw it, and he wrote me a really nice e-mail about it. I think he likes it a lot, and it’s a very nice thing for him to say.

Do you have any Oscar picks in return?
Have you seen The Artist? That’s unbelievable.

Some of the speeches your character gives in this film sound like what you would say if you were actually running for office.
You know, those speeches were inspired by my dad [Nick Clooney, who ran in 2004 for a Congressional seat in Kentucky]. Those were ideas he used to write about [when he was a journalist].

Would you ever want to run for office?
No, I wouldn’t. Only because I have a job, I like my job, I’m good at my job. And I don’t want all those strings attached. I want to take a side and not worry who I tick off. And I don’t want to cover up anything I’ve done. It’s the cover-up that gets you in trouble. It’s so different, being a politician. If an actor fails at something, nothing terribly bad happens, other than they don’t have much of a career. If a politician fails, he can end up in a lot of trouble. It’s so much worse for politicians.

Not that this is even close to a sex scandal, but apparently there’s been a lot of skinny-dipping going on at your place in Italy ...
It’s part of my process! After we finish a film, everybody jumps in the lake!

The way Marisa Tomei was telling the story, Charlie Rose of all people instigated it? How did that happen?
It’s a tradition at my house. Charlie Rose, let me tell you — first we got Walter Cronkite to jump in, then I got David Gergen to jump in. I used Walter Cronkite to get Gergen to jump in, and then I used Marisa [Tomei] and Evan [Rachel Wood] in the lake to get Charlie Rose to jump. But really, no, we weren’t skinny-dipping. Some people do skinny-dip, but it’s funnier if I go upstairs and put a suit on, and then I jump in the lake.

And why wasn’t Ryan Gosling invited to this skinny-dipping fest?
He was working! That’s why he’s not here tonight. He was off prepping for filming Gangster Squad. I mean, when I was an actor the same age he is, I had no sense of how to work the way he works. I had a mullet and was in a bad sitcom! I couldn’t do any of the things he does. He’s one of the best of his generation. Don’t tell him I said that.

You two look eerily alike in that poster behind you
[Grins.] Same height? Same hair? Mr. Tall and Handsome. I’m told he’ll grow out of it.

Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images