Clooney works to contribute something meaningful
Photo: George Clooney and John Prendergast, co-founders of the Satellite Sentinel Project, testify about violence in Sudan and South Sudan at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2012
For Oscar winner George Clooney, life as a successful film star and director isn’t something to be taken for granted. At 54, he’s already made a lasting mark on the movie business and yet, despite this, remains driven by a feverish desire to “try and create something meaningful”.
Coming from a family who prided themselves on accomplishments, the good-natured movie man values notions of “integrity and honour” far beyond any kind of stardom. A noted humanitarian and official United Nations messenger of peace, these principles are ones that he carries with him into all aspects of his life. For his latest on-screen role in Tomorrowland, Clooney plays a scientist consumed by his attempts to unravel a mysterious alternative society that poses great danger to humanity.
One can’t help but feel that Clooney’s connection with Frank Walker, his character in the film, goes deeper than learned lines and furrowed stares. Hearing Frank speak of “a place where the best and brightest people in the world came together to actually change it,” the movie’s storyline references the actor’s own involvement with humanitarianism. Fighting to save humanity from catastrophe is a role well suited to a man who, behind the cameras, plays a very large part in helping to protect the lives of the less fortunate and alleviate global poverty. “I have a very good life,” admits the actor, “but it wouldn’t mean anything to me unless I felt that I was able to do some serious work and make some sort of contribution.” Guided by principles taught to him by his father, Clooney places great value in “integrity and friendship and charity.”
Work defines, work clarifies and work authenticates the human project, as much off-screen as it does on. Throughout his life, George has supported a number of charities, including Unicef, Oxfam, Red Cross and many more. Willing to leverage his notoriety for more than fame, Clooney adopts a hands-on role, reaching out to others for help but also contributing something himself. Along with his fellow Ocean’s 11 co-stars, he founded Not On Our Watch, a charity whose main goal is to focus global attention on mass atrocities. The charity has donated millions of dollars to help those suffering, much of the funding going through the UN World Food Programme. Clooney has also taken a very personal involvement in fighting against the genocide that continues to tear apart Sudan. Clooney has visited the country to speak with victims of rape and torture. His involvement with the country would lead to him working on the documentary films Sand and Sorrow and Dafur Now, for which, Clooney and fellow actor Don Cheadle were awarded with a Nobel Peace Prize.
Working to “contribute something meaningful” often sees Clooney step behind the camera as much as in front of it. The actor immerses himself in such efforts in between his blockbuster movie projects. Here is an actor who, despite achieving huge commercial success with titles like Ocean’s 11 and Oh Brother Where Art Thou continues to work on films that, in his own words, “might have a tough time reaching a broad audience”. This path ultimately led to Syriana, the critically acclaimed box-office success which earned Clooney his Oscar, albeit for best supporting actor. “It means a lot to me,” said Clooney of his Oscar. “I’m so proud to be a part of this business and to try and contribute something meaningful. I’ve always been motivated to do good work and if this Oscar is a symbol of that process, then I’m very grateful that some people out there are willing to say, ‘OK, George, keep it up!’”
A futuristic action adventure blockbuster from Disney Studios, Clooney’s role in Tomorrowland is never going to command the kind of gritty, Oscar-worthy performance as films like Ides of March or Syriana. That being said, the film’s overarching theme is much more relevant to Clooney than anything he has done before; his description of the film could easily be mistaken for his humanitarian motives off-screen. He describes the fiction world of Tomorrowland, where the film is set, as a place that was supposed to be “where the ideas about science and exploration that have developed over the last centuries were able to grow without politics being able to hold that back. It was supposed to be a place where people would work for the same goal to make it better and let it spread.”
With his work on Tomorrowland, George has arguably stepped into a role at the top of his game. Whether the film will be quite Oscar-worthy remains to be seen but, the very fact that its themes allegorise his own principles so succinctly, shows a man willing to adapt on-screen in order to highlight something more universal beyond it.
Beyond awards, beyond Hollywood stardom, beyond the good-life living by Lake Como, that is a sign of true integrity.
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