No catch, I just wanted to do good work; George Clooney tells GEMMA DUNN why he found a winner in anti-war satire Catch-22.
GEORGE CLOONEY'S memory of Catch-22 harks back to his school days. The Academy Award winner, who stars in, produced and co-directed the upcoming TV adaptation of Joseph Heller's 1961 novel, remembers it well.
"It was one of the must-reads - but it was dense," he says of the seminal title. "It's hard reading, it took a lot. But at the time, it felt like the kind of writing, the style of writing, that we hadn't seen much of. We've seen some since, but it's nice when you go back and read a book 40 years later and it doesn't let you down - that doesn't happen all that often!
"It's like when you see movies - my wife is considerably younger than me - and I say, 'Oh, you've gotta see this film, it's one of the greatest films I've ever seen' and we watch it and it's terrible now.
"What was I thinking?" says the actor who, at 58, is married to - and has twins with - human rights lawyer Amal, 41.
"So, the experience I had with it [Catch-22] as a young man, is you're supposed to read it," he teases. "And the fun part, as an old man, is it was nice to read it."
The six-part anti-war satire - which will air on Channel 4, having premiered on US channel Hulu - follows the darkly comic actions of US Air Force pilots during WWII.
Namely the incomparable Captain John Yossarian (played by Girls' Christopher Abbott), who is enraged that thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him.
Any attempt to forfeit his military assignments, however, threatens to put him in violation of Catch-22, a bureaucratic rule stating that a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, whereas a request to be removed from duty is evidence of sanity.
Joining him is the obsessive Col Cathcart (Kyle Chandler); the fierce Major de Coverley (Hugh Laurie); and the moustachewielding Lt (later Colonel and eventually General) Scheisskopf, played by George.
After a rich and varied career to date, he just wants to make something, "Well, good".
"It's hard to find good pieces of material; I read tonnes of c**p, quite honestly, and go, 'Oh my God, they're going to make this and do a show or a movie. Oh my God'. And then they do!" "I have been lucky in my career; I've had some things that have been very fun and easy and stuff, and then you kind of go, 'What's the next level?' and you want to take some chances, you want to try some interesting stuff.
"But listen, there's what, 430 scripted television shows out this year?" he says.
"It's unbelievably great for actors and clearly this is the golden age of television, I believe that, but there's a lot to sift through to get to those."
"But I've never really cared about what the medium was. I just wanted to do good work. Television is really allowing you to do the same kind of interesting work that I was able to do in smaller, independent films before," he adds. "So what really matters is the content. That's all you care about."
| Catch-22 starts on Channel 4 on Thursday at 9pm.