Oscar Preview: The Everyman – George Clooney

Every week from now until the critics groups start giving out their prizes for the best of the year, I’m going to be spotlighting the big Oscar players and their chances at Oscar glory this year.

This week, we’ll take a look at the love affair the Academy has with actor-director-producer-writer George Clooney.

The son of television newscaster Nick Clooney and nephew of legendary singer Rosemary Clooney, George began his actual acting career in the mid-’80s (we aren’t talking about appearing as a kid on his father’s TV show or an unnamed guest appearance on a random early ’80s TV show) with guest roles on Riptide and Street Hawk. In 1984, he had his first regular role on a series, the short-lived medical drama E/R which would prove fortuitous 10 years later when his star launched as Dr. Doug Ross on the long-running medical drama ER where he appeared for 5 seasons before moving on to other projects. But before ER, he had a varied career mostly on television. Like a lot of today’s popular actors (Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp), Clooney made one of his first big screen appearances in the horror spoof Return to Horror High (and later another return with Return of the Killer Tomatoes. At that time, he was already showing off his youthful vigor as George Burnett in the waning years of the popular ’80s comedy The Facts of Life.

Most of his work in the ’80s was on television where he starred in the short-lived TV series Baby Talk and then featured in a recurring role on the popular comedy Roseanne. He had two more regular roles in blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em shows Bodies of Evidence and Sisters. It was while appearing on Sisters that he landed the role of Doug Ross on ER and his career took off in ways he had probably never guessed. His big screen career awaited and after donning the Batsuit in the abysmal fourth film Batman & Robin, he took top roles in movies The Peacemaker, Out of Sight and The Thin Red Line. His performances in Three Kings and O Brother, Where Art Thou? put him on the map critically and even though he made some box office smashes and took critical drubbings, he was well on his way to an Oscar staple. His first real opportunity came in 2005 when he and writing partner Grant Heslov turned his family life under a TV newscaster into a passion for telling the story of Edward R. Murrow and his prominent fight against HUAC committee chair Sen. Joseph McCarthy. The film was called Good Night, and Good Luck. Social responsibility and political ideology became linchpin’s in Clooney’s career. He received two Oscar nominations for Good Night, and Good Luck. as both director and screenwriter. And although he did not win for either, he did pick up an Oscar that year for another politically-charged picture Syriana.

Despite his starring roles in the critically maligned Casablanca-styled noir thriller The Good German and the third film in the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, he was back on the political track with 2007’s Michael Clayton for which he received his fourth Oscar nomination. After Clayton, he took to the director’s chair again for the period football comedy Leatherheads for which he received poor notices, but muffled some of the complaints with his role in that year’s Coen Brothers comedy (his first teaming with them since 2000’s Oh Brother) Burn After Reading.

Clooney continues to earn strong praise while picking up the periodic bomb. In 2009, he started things off with The Men Who Stare at Goats, a film that had its supporters but not enough. Then came his mature and compelling performance in Up in the Air. It would land him his fifth Oscar nomination and cement him as an annual contender for Oscar consideration. Although he was outstanding in 2010’s The American, audiences didn’t pick up on the film and he left without a single nomination. This year, however, he not only has two vehicles in which he could be nominated for acting, one of them is his first screenwriting effort since his outstanding behind-the-camera debut in Good Night.

The Descendants

In The Descendants, Clooney plays a selfish father who must try and reconnect with his daughters after his wife is involved in a boating accident. This is the first obviously parental role for the frequent bachelor and if he’s able to connect with the girls along with the audience he could be in a prime position to pick up a Lead Actor nomination. The film is playing festivals and trailers suggest he should be a strong force, but the film has other benefits. Alexander Payne who wrote and helmed the smash indie hit Sideways is no stranger to the Oscars himself, which makes the film an even more likely Oscar contender.

Forecast Categories (where the film is most likely to compete): Picture, Director, Actor (George Clooney), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Editing, Cinematography

The Ides of March

But the film everyone should keep their eyes on is this one, The Ides of March. This political thriller about innocence lost in the vicious world of politics re-unites Clooney with Good Night, and Good Lucke writing partner Grant Heslov. This is his second time penning a film he is also directing, which helps bolster his support among multiple groups within the Academy. Add in the intruging political elements and Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman and you have a recipe for critical success. After Leatherheads, he has a lot to prove, but this may be the movie to do it.

Forecast Categories (where the film is most likely to compete): Picture, Director, Actor (Ryan Gosling), Supporting Actor (George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Supporting Actress (Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Editing, Cinematography

George Clooney’s Oscar History

  • Return to Horror High (1987) {A}
  • Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988) {A}
  • Red Surf (1990) {A}
  • Unbecoming Age (1992) {A}
  • The Harvest (1992) {A}
  • From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) {A}
  • One Fine Day (1996) {A}
  • Batman & Robin (1997) {A}
  • The Peacemaker (1997) {A}
  • Out of Sight (1998) {A}
  • The Thin Red Line (1998) {A}
  • Three Kings (1999) {A}
  • O Brothers, Where Art Thou? (2000) {A}
  • The Perfect Storm (2000) {A}
  • Ocean’s Eleven (2001) {A}
  • Welcome to Collinwood (2002) {A}
  • Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) {A}
  • Solaris (2002) {A}
  • Intolerable Cruelty (2003) {A}
  • Ocean’s Twelve (2004) {A}
  • Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005) {A,D,W} 2 / 0 [Director, Original Screenplay]
  • Syriana (2005) {A} 1 / 1 [Supporting Actor]
  • The Good German (2006) {A}
  • Michael Clayton (2007) {A} 1 / 0 [Actor]
  • Ocean’s Thirteen (2007) {A}
  • Burn After Reading (2008) {A}
  • Leatherheads (2008) {A,D}
  • The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009) {A,P}
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) {A}
  • Up in the Air (2009) {A} 1 / 0 [Actor]
  • The American (2010) {A,P}
  • The Ides of March (2011) {A,D,P,W}

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