George Clooney on why he's back on the box after all these years...
Hollywood star George Clooney returns to the small screen after many years away later this month, but he won't be playing a handsome hero!
The American A-Lister will be playing Lieutenant Scheisskopf, a pompous military man who makes life extremely difficult for John Yossarian in this six-part adaption of Joseph Heller's iconic satire novel, Catch-22.
Set at the tail end of the war, the series follows US Army Air Force bombardier, John Yossarian, who finds himself trapped in an impossible situation as he flies bombing missions over Italy. He’s desperate to escape the war, but falls foul of "Catch-22", a frustrating rule that means only crazy servicemen are allowed to go home – and asking to go home proves he isn’t crazy!
With George Clooney directing two episodes, while also starring in the US series, he was the perfect person to fill us in on all the details…
How did you get involved with Catch-22?
George Clooney: "I got a call asking if I’d like do the adaptation and my first reaction was ‘No way! Are you stupid?’ because it’s such an intimidating project. But I read the script and realised how good it was. The writers really figured things out and unravelled the book in a way we’d never thought of. Plus, there’s never a bad time to talk about the insanity of war!"
Did it feel like a big risk to return to TV after so many years?
GC: 'This was the perfect project, because I really want to do TV that’s worth doing. I've been lucky in my career because I've had things that have been fun and easy, but then I also want to take some risks. Doing Catch-22 as a series, rather than a movie, means you get to know the characters, so when someone dies it has a resonance and you can say, ‘Oh, I really liked that kid’."
What can you tell us about your character, Lt Scheisskopf?
'GC: "His name translates as ‘s---head’ so there wasn’t a whole lot of subtlety in what I got to do, but it was fun because I got to yell a lot. There’s no great arc to my character, he just loves parades, but he does have it in for Yossarian and every time the bombardier is close to the number of flights an airman must complete before he can return home, Scheisskopf raises the number!'"
What does Christopher Abbott bring to the role as Yossarian?
GC: "I didn’t know him when he came in to read, and he just blew us away. He can break your heart and he can do comedy, which is rare. The whole series rests on whether or not you root for a guy who’s a coward and who does a lot of crappy things. I think you do, because of Chris."
The bombing raids are wonderfully filmed, where did you find so many World War Two planes?
GC: "We actually only had two planes, so a lot of it was shooting scenes over and over and over again to make it look like there were more of them up there! We’re all used to the specific style of World War Two footage, from those documentaries narrated by Laurence Olivier, so we wanted to try and replicate that to really transport the viewers back the era."
How did you persuade House star Hugh Laurie to plays Major de Coverley?
GC: "Hugh actually did me a big favour by taking the role. We’re part of a fraternity because we both played doctors on TV (George famously starred in ER during the 90s) so maybe that helped! But he’s not the only British actor in the series, there are loads of you guys in it, all putting on American accents!"
George Clooney stars in Catch-22, which begins on Thursday 20th June on C4
Main picture: C4/Hulu
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Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.