“Actors have huge egos,” admitted George Clooney in London yesterday. “But the ego it takes to put your chin in the air for a photo -politicians have a tremendous amount of ego to be able to do those. It’s very hard when the product you’re selling to the entire country is yourself. That takes ego, which is really tricky to embrace as a politician. They really are saying ‘I’m the best’.”
The popular star, in London to present his political thriller Ides of March, fielded questions about all sorts of political issues - such as whether the film was realistic in its portrayal of the corruption at the heart of political ambition - “I know deals are being made all the time, 95% of the people who win elections are the ones with the most money, and scandal is not uncommon.”
But Clooney, despite taking on an active campaigning role for such humanitarian projects as Darfur, for which he previously addressed the UN and Congress, made it clear that he could not be prodded into revealing political ambition:
"I have a very good life, a very comfortable existence, where I'm able to dip my toe into issues involving politics like Darfur, and have some involvement," he explained. "I’m happy to do it and I don’t have to compromise, so I find it to be much nicer where I am, and they’re much smarter than I am.”
Nor would he be persuaded to give advice to British politicians... “That’s a smart thing to do, come to London and talk about British politics - I love watching the House of Commons because it’s fun, such a different way of doing things. It’s very funny, I can’t quite figure out what happens, who won, but I enjoy watching it. But I find politics in almost every country to be incredibly different and incredibly similar. I’m never surprised. So I will stay completely out of it.”
Clooney was happy to wade into the debate on whether politicians should be forced to reveal skeletons in their personal cupboards:
"I think at some point we’re going to have to get to the realisation with so different media and ways of getting information out, we’re going to start every candidate with the phrase ‘Yeah, I did it’ and then go from there, and talk about issues. It’s going to be very hard to find people who haven’t smoked a joke, or drunk some bong-water or whatever. We’re in that strange state in our world, where we have that belief that if it’s written down, there must be some truth to it. So we have to get to that point where scandals are going to become less and less of the key of politics, because otherwise we’ll have no politicians.”
But Clooney did not believe that Hollywood had the same Machiavellian streak that pervades the US political scene.
"Actors aren’t like that," he mused. "The business can be, there’s a certain cut-throat aspect, but most actors are pretty kind to one another, because you’re so lucky to be a film, and you understand that. It’s not just your brilliance that got you there, you stand on the shoulders of lots of lucky accidents, and you recognise that, so there’s a generosity between actors that you don’t get in politics.”
At a packed but polite press conference, Clooney didn’t have to dodge too many questions about his private life (it appears the lady who used to regularly appear at such events to propose to him from the back of the room has moved along). Nobody had the nerve to ask him about his new lady love, former wrestler Stacy Keibler - strangely absent from his side at last night's London premiere after they stood side by side on the Paris red carpet - but he did explain how he took all that kind of attention in his stride, even as he tries to make serious films about serious issues...
“Well, I understand both worlds and grew up around it all," he explained, referring to his childhood in the orbit of his aunt, film and stage star Rosemary Clooney.
"I’m interested in making films that ask questions and don’t particularly provide answers, but because I grew up in that era of filmmaking when there was a tremendous amount going on, which were reflected later in film. I think there’s a tremendous amount in the world going on right now that are starting to again be reflected in film, and I like the films that do that."
Never mind all that, what about the lady?
“I know what those questions are. I know when they come, and how they come, I can handle it, I’m a grown up. But I would rather talk about the films.”
Ides of March is in UK cinemas from next Friday, 28th October. Check out Clooney and his co-stars on the red carpet at the London premiere in our slideshow below...