Fans and pop stars alike have long pictured him in the Oval Office. After he married UN lawyer Amal Alamuddin last fall, bookies doubled the odds that he’d make his bid for the presidency any day. But despite years of whispers to the contrary, Oscar-winner George Clooney—America’s favorite twinkly-eyed gentleman movie star, Hollywood’s preeminent humanitarian—set the record straight on his political aspirations while promoting his latest politically-charged film, Our Brand Is Crisis.
Asked whether he’d ever run for office during a press conference in Beverly Hills, Clooney laughed. “I’ve been asked that for almost 20 years now and the answer is just, no,” said Clooney, who produced the campaign satire about the damning role American political consultants played in the 2002 Bolivian election. “Who would ever want to live like that?”
Forget paparazzi and tabloid hounds; the politician’s life, lamented one of the world’s most famous stars, sounds way too rough.
“I’m friends with a lot of those guys and I just think it’s hell,” he said. “I commend people who go into public service because it’s such a horrible way to get elected, it’s such a horrible time while you’re in office, it’s more polarized now than arguably since the Civil War in many ways, and I think people will argue over things that they believed in 6 years ago or 8 years ago because it’s not their guy saying it.”
“So, no, I wouldn’t want to be in politics. I have no interest in it… I have every interest in being involved from the outside and trying to get things done that are important to me.”
Among those causes important to Clooney is Darfur, for which he’s addressed the United Nations, made the documentaries Journey to Darfur and Sand and Sorrow, and formed the advocacy organization Not On Our Watch with humanitarian pals Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and the late Jerry Weintraub. His activism in the name of human rights in Sudan famously got him arrested in 2012. The UN designated him a Messenger Of Peace, which sounds just about tantamount to receiving angel status on earth.
Maybe Clooney will change his mind by the year 2020, when he might run against (or… alongside?) early bird candidate Kanye West. Or during the next cycle, when just-announced presidential hopeful Lindsay Lohan will actually meet the minimum age requirement to deliver on the hashtag promise of #lindsaylohan2020.
The son of newsman and journalist Nick Clooney, the Syriana Oscar-winner watched his dad run for Congress in 2004, repping Kentucky’s fourth district. The elder Clooney lost by a 10 percent margin. The next year George Clooney nabbed a Best Director Oscar nomination for his McCarthy-era political drama Good Night, and Good Luck.
Clooney said his personal political agenda started at a young age as a result of several tumultuous events that rocked America. “We grew up in a time where you had the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam movement, the drug culture, the counter culture, the assassinations,” he recalled. “All of us were [politically involved], it was just part of your DNA.”
In Our Brand Is Crisis, Clooney’s Gravity co-star Sandra Bullock plays “Calamity” Jane Bodine, a volatile consultant brought in at the eleventh hour to help an unlikeable Bolivian presidential candidate turn his campaign around. “Who could use the fictional Bodine’s help more, Hillary or Trump?” Bullock was asked. “They’re actually doing really well on their own,” she answered diplomatically.
Onscreen, Billy Bob Thornton plays Bullock’s nemesis Pat Candy, a bald, coolly composed master strategist based on James Carville.
Carville was officially uninvolved in the David Gordon Green-directed adaptation. But Clooney and producing partner Grant Heslov flashed back over a decade to the day they witnessed the madness of the political machine up close and personal while working with Carville and Mary Matalin on the short-lived HBO political series K Street, which featured the real-life consultant couple.
“We basically, for 14 weeks, shared an office with Mary Matalin and James Carville… Mary at the time was chief of staff for Dick Cheney,” said Clooney. “We were in the office when they came in and they taped up our computers for the Justice Department because of the Scooter Libby thing, so we were around watching really interesting things happen on the ground as they happened.
“It’s really funny to watch political operatives. It’s really interesting to watch that process, and the behind-the-scenes conversations,” he continued. “We take things much more personally than they do. These guys could work for other sides. And they do, often! I’ll get really angry at something that somebody says and a politician won’t get angry at all—it’s just part of the game that they play, then they go out and have a drink and laugh. So it’s so much more fun to watch how it works as an industry and see that it is an industry, that it isn’t just this passionate belief system.”