April 2, 2008 / 5:18 PM / 9 years ago

George Clooney sees career shift ahead

<p>Director and cast member George Clooney (L) and his girlfriend Sarah Larson pose at the premiere of "Leatherheads" at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California, March 31, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ten years from now, George Clooney reckons people are going to be so sick of seeing him on movie screens that he may give up much of his acting career.

But don’t think Clooney, 46, the suave leading man in many blockbusters in a career spanning more than 20 years, is leaving Hollywood anytime soon. He is turning increasingly to directing.

Clooney says he is more successful than he ever dreamed he would be, most recently starring in last year’s Oscar-nominated drama “Michael Clayton” and the football comedy “Leatherheads,” which he also directed and which opens on Friday.

“Ten years from now, I imagine people will be fairly sick of seeing a lot of us who are on camera now,” Clooney told Reuters. “My hope is I’ll be directing more. That is my goal.”

“Leatherheads,” co-starring Renee Zellweger, marks his third film as a director after “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Clooney said he may begin work on a fourth directing job, tentatively titled “Suburbicon” written by “No Country for Old Men” brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, at the end of this year.

“I like doing it. It’s really creative and fun and a place where I want to put most of my focus,” Clooney said.

It was roughly 10 years ago when he first read a screenplay for “Leatherheads.” he was a popular television actor on hospital drama “ER,” but he had suffered through two poorly received movies in “Batman and Robin” and “The Peacemaker.”

The turning point came in 1998 with a starring role in drama “Out of Sight,” directed by Steven Soderbergh, that won over film critics and moviegoers.

WOMEN AND MONEY

It was Soderbergh who imagined Clooney in the lead role of “Leatherheads.” He plays Dodge Connelly, an aging star of professional football, circa 1925, whose looks and charm help him woo women but do little to keep his team on firm financial footing.

Just after Dodge calls it quits for lack of money, along comes college star and war hero Carter “The Bullet” Rutherford (John Krasinski) to lure fans and put Dodge back in business.

They both fall for a woman reporter (Zellweger), but true to movie-style romance, only one can win in the game of love.

Unlike the political drama “Good Night, and Good Luck” and the legal thriller “Michael Clayton” -- both nominated for the best film Oscar -- “Leatherheads” is not going to win any awards.

But after acting in the oil and politics drama “Syriana” and last year’s serious-minded “Clayton,” Clooney (the actor) figured it was time to perform in a film that was fun. Clooney (the director) wanted to show he could make a comedy after proving his deft hand at drama.

“I needed to do something completely different or I was going to become the ‘issues director,”’ Clooney said. “That sort of ends your career really quickly when the issues change.”

So, he “dusted off” the script he had read 10 years earlier and shaped “Leatherheads” into the type of comedy he wanted to make -- lighthearted and certainly not issue-oriented.

Clooney said the toughest part of making the movie was acting and directing himself in the football scenes because often the actor in him would be too bruised to go on, but the director in him knew he needed another take.

But after a long career of mostly acting, he was doing what he wanted -- directing.

“The truth is I‘m infinitely more successful than I ever thought I would be,” he said. “I really didn’t think I was going to be in this position, so I get to push the envelope and do the things I want to do -- and not what I have to do -- for as long as they let me do it.”

Editing by David Storey

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