George Clooney has spoken out about some of the unique challenges of being an actor-director.
The two-time Oscar winner, who has starred in all seven films he has directed to date, said the experience can lead to “horrible” moments.
Clooney, 59, said the situation only works if the director has a real and honest relationship his or her fellow actors.
Speaking during an 80-minute virtual talk held on Tuesday night to mark the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2020, he said: “What a horrible, egotistical thing to have to do.
“If you and I were doing a scene as an actor and actress, and we are talking and doing the scene, it would be a horrible thing for me to say ‘maybe you should say your line a little faster next time, and do it with a little more sadness at the end’.
“It’s a terrible thing for an actor to say to another actor, and yet I would be doing a scene with an actress [as director on set] and be talking and then go ‘cut’.
“It’s a wall you really hate to break, so you have to have a really have a solid understanding with the actors.”
The star told the Q+A host, presenter Edith Bowman, that he was initially drawn to the idea of directing because he “always liked the idea of having more control over everything”.
His directorial projects have largely been critically acclaimed, with the exception of 2008 flop, Leatherheads.
The self-penned McCarthy-era set film, Good Night and Good Luck, was nominated for six Academy Awards in 2005, and Clooney and his co-writers were nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay of 2011 political drama The Ides of March.
But despite worldwide fame and success, Clooney said he still gets nervous on set – and to this day attempts not to take himself too seriously.
“Everybody always says take your work seriously but don’t take yourself seriously,” he said. “Any part of you taking yourself too seriously is actually almost always a mistake.”
The actor Zoomed in from Los Angeles – where he, his human rights lawyer wife Amal Clooney and their twins have been “stuck” all summer due to Covid-19 – to discuss his decades-long film career.
He lamented not being able to hold the discussion on stage, as “the London Film Festival is such a beautiful” event.
The Hollywood icon also shared insights into his latest directorial project, The Midnight Sky, set for release on Netflix in December.
Clooney directs and stars as Augustine, a lone 70-year-old scientist living in the Arctic, and working to stop a group of astronauts from returning home following a global catastrophe.
The film, shot at London’s Shepperton Studios and on location in Iceland, also stars Felicity Jones and David Oyelowo.
Clooney said that a last-minute rewriting of the film’s script to accommodate the Jones’ real-life pregnancy turned out to be a “bonus”.
He said: “Eventually we just sat down with her and said: ‘You know, people go away for two years on a flight to another planet, they have sex. It happens, and you’re pregnant’.
“And it changed everything for us. It actually gave us something to lean into for the end of the movie, and I think it ends us being a real bonus for us.”
Jones, 36, welcomed a baby with her husband Charles Guard in early September.