“The Descendants” – Press Conference

George Clooney in "The Descendants"

“Well, Alexander failed to find me fascinating when I met with him for ‘Sideways,’ which I have not yet let go,” George Clooney joked at the press conference I attended, on October 16, for his new movie “The Descendants,” directed by Alexander Payne.  The press conference took place at the Elinor Bunin Film Center, part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.  “The Descendants” opened on November 16.

Payne explained that for “The Decendants,” “George was my first and only choice.  He received the screenplay last November and we were shooting by March.”

Clooney added, “It’s a great script, a great director and you’re shooting in Hawaii.  There really is no downside to this.”

Payne, whose films include, “Election” (1999), “About Schmidt” (2002) and the aforementioned “Sideways” (2004) has a very fine track record for creating films that feature main characters who are very human and flawed.  “The Descendants” is an alternately funny and sad story about Matt King (Clooney), an estranged father trying to reconnect with his two daughters during a family crisis.

Payne explained what attracted him to the story.  “I liked the strange, emotional story that had little contrivance in it and that took place in a beautiful setting.  I am interested in location and having that certain physical documentary aspect to film.  I wanted to see Honolulu on film.”

Matt King sets up the story quickly and efficiently through some well written voice over narration.  Voice over in films can be a tricky thing.  Sometimes an audience would rather be shown than told.  In addition, voice over can, at times, feel like a last minute fix.  Payne explained,  “I’m a big fan of voice over.  I very much like first person literature and first person cinema and entering a story through the eyes of the protagonist using devices of subjectivity, not just through voice over but visually as well.  It just helped propel the narrative.  I wanted to anchor the audience very much into Matt King, into his voice and into his head.”

The entire main cast, including Clooney, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Judy Greer and Matthew Lillard all recalled that “The Descendants” was made in an atmosphere that very pleasant.  Bridges said, “The whole thing was just really easy going and Alexander is just that kind of guy. He makes it a really fun set and is very open to ideas, everybody is relaxed and it was just a good aloha.

The vibe from the shoot certainly carried over into the press conference.  Lillard, who plays Brian Spears, the man with whom Clooney’s wife is having an affair, joked, “I have the greatest role in the history of films.  I steal George Clooney’s wife. I literally just looked at him all day and thought ‘I’m better than you.’” The comment drew  uproarious laughter.  Then, on a more sincere note, Lillard added, “To do the greatest movie that I will probably ever be involved in, to be a part of something that’s an instant classic.  To be with one of the greatest filmmakers in America right now.  It changes your life.”


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on November 20, 2011, in Feature Articles, New and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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