George Clooney knocks the ball out of the park with his second directorial effort (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was his first) about newscaster Edward R. Murrow’s public confrontation with Senator Joseph McCarthy when the diabolical Senator was ruining lives and careers under a banner of an anti-Communist ideology.
In rich black and white, Clooney uses a limited number of strictly indoor locations to convey Murrow’s insular world of newsroom television from which the highly revered newsman spoke directly to 40 million Americans every night. Clooney’s rigorous attention to detail presents the audience with a consummate depiction of the media speaking truth to power via one honest man with more integrity than any single person working in media or politics today.
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: Did your choice to make this movie have anything to do with how much your father revered Murrow?
GEORGE CLOONEY: It started, obviously, because I grew up on a newsroom floor watching my dad work with reporters like Deborah Dixon in Cincinnati, Ohio, and watching them piece a news show together. Murrow was always the high water mark that everyone aimed for. So it was my love of that and it was certainly a tip of the hat to my dad and the sacrifices that he made over the years.
What do you think journalists aim for now?
I think there a lot of great journalists out there. I don’t find much fault in the journalists. In general, I think everybody would like to break a good story. I think the problem is the same problem that Murrow fought in 1954, and that my father fought in 1974; that is a continuous and diligent fight. It’s not a simple answer. I understand the problems of delivering to shareholders, and the market is getting smaller, and the money is getting less. But it has always been, and it will always be, the battle between corporate and information. It’s complicated, and I don’t know great answers to it.
As one of Hollywood’s most outspoken liberals, is it plausible to think that George Clooney will one day be running for elected office?
That’s ridiculous. I think I should run on the, “Yes I did it” ticket.
“Yes, I was the sexiest man alive?”
No, worse than that. It starts with, “And I drank the bong water.”
Do you think that the movie is also about the state of television today?
We thought it was twofold in a way. It’s not just the state of television today, because it’s been a fight that’s gone on forever. It was about the responsibility of the Fourth Estate to constantly question power no matter who was in power. My father went after Jimmy Carter with the OPEC nations raising the price of gas and he went after Gerald Ford for pardoning Nixon. It was his job. He believed that authority, or government, unchallenged and unquestioned corrupts. And we’ve proven over a long period of time that it’s not unpatriotic to ask questions.
The other thing we thought was important was to talk about the dangers of allowing fear to erode away civil liberties because that’s always a dangerous step. We [America] do it every 30 years or so and we panic. Usually someone capitalizes on that for their own gains, and then we fix it because of newsmen. Without them, we don’t have a civil rights movement or we don’t have a women’s rights movement or an anti-Vietnam movement. It’s newsmen; so that’s why it’s important to talk about. MTW