But some moviegoers may, once the laughter dies down, look at the choices Clooney's been making since he found himself on the Hollywood A list, and wonder if they don't reveal a man using the power of his celebrity to push a specific political agenda across the globe. In his new comedy, 'The Men Who Stare at Goats,' George Clooney assumes another role in which he plays a man associated with the covert operations of the U.S. Government (however silly they may be in this case). And Clooney fans are laughing. A CIA agent with the power to kill a goat simply by staring at it? Hilarious!
But some moviegoers may, once the laughter dies down, look at the choices Clooney's been making since he found himself on the Hollywood A list, and wonder if they don't reveal a man using the power of his celebrity to push a specific political agenda across the globe. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
It's the fourth such role for Clooney, with a TV version of 'Fail Safe,' 'Syriana,' from the writer of Steven Soderbergh's 'Traffic,' Soderbergh's own 'The Good German,' and the upcoming 'The American,' in which he'll play a Jason Bourne-like assassin on assignment in Italy. But Clooney's hardly alone among actors with films in theaters that paint the U.S. what some would say is a negative political light.
When the next Paul Greengrass-Matt Damon collaboration, 'Green Zone,' hits theaters early next year, some moviegoers may wonder if the new political thriller, in which Damon plays an American soldier gone rogue in Iraq, isn't really just the next installment of the Jason Bourne franchise, operating under an assumed identity.
It's not. In fact, since its recent trailer premiere, several critics in the conservative blogosphere have already blasted 'Green Zone,' calling it Anti-American.
Meanwhile, the next 'Bourne' film releases next year as well, and Damon fans can hardly wait to revisit the globe-trotting, amnesiac ass-kicker. But Jason Bourne isn't the only thing the actor is known for these days. There's an infamous CBS interview in which he railed against Sarah Palin during the last election campaign. "I think there's a really good chance that Sarah Palin could be President, and I think that's a really scary thing," the actor said. "It's like a really bad Disney movie.'
Many of the characters Damon has played since 'The Bourne Supremacy' have fit a certain mold. Currently he can be seen as real-life Agribusiness whistleblower Marc Whitacre in Steven Soderbergh's 'The Informant!' Before that he made a brief appearance in Soderbergh's four-hour opus, 'Che.' And prior to that Damon stared in 'The Good Shepherd' as a fictional character based on one of the founding fathers of the CIA. Hmm ... American-trained assassins, architects of the CIA., anti-corporate crusaders. Is there a pattern here?
It was, of course, the role of rogue covert ops amnesiac Jason Bourne that catapulted Damon to international stardom. He was famous before that, sure. He's been pretty well known since winning, with pal Ben Affleck, an Academy Award for his and Affleck's first screenplay, 'Good Will Hunting.' They were the Diablo Cody of their day, minus the tattoos and the lap dances (as far as we know). The film, with Gus Van Sant, onetime recipient of the ACLU's Freedom of Expression, marked the start of Damon's first serious creative collaboration.
But now both Damon and Clooney are super famous. And they each have several thriving collaborations. Not only have they worked together five times, they've both worked with Soderbergh five times (Clooney and Soderbergh liked each other so much that they formed a production company together after 'Out of Sight'). Clooney also seems to like the Coen Brothers -- he's been in three of their films. And 'Green Zone' marks Damon's fourth collaboration with British auteur Greengrass. By 2011, Damon will have worked with Clint Eastwood twice (and chances are, won, or at least been nominated for, another Oscar).
Paul Greengrass, Steven Soderbergh, Gun Van Sant -- all known for liberal-leaning messages in their movies. Greengrass has made overtly political films like 'The One That Got Away' (about the first gulf war) and 'Bloody Sunday,' and the two Bourne movies considered by some to be the most critical of the reach of the U.S. government. Steven Soderbergh made a splash, and won some Oscars, for 'Erin Brockovich,' about a real woman who took on big corporate polluters and won; 'Traffic,' an indictment of the U.S. war on drugs; 'Che,' which criticized the CIA's meddling in the politics of the southern hemisphere; and now 'The Informant!,' about America's corrupt Argibusiness industry. And Gun Van Sant's 'Milk' was seen by many as a too-late rallying cry about the passing of Prop. 8, which made gay marriage illegal again in California.
It's no secret that much of Hollywood rubs elbows with the Democratic party. Stars and filmmakers who take a more centrist, or even Republican view of things are fewer and farther between. Since becoming Governor, or Governator, of his adopted state, Arnold Schwarzenegger is probably the most famous Republican actor to come around since Ronald Reagan. But others, like Fred Thompson, Jon Voight and Bruce Willis show up at Republican rallies, campaign for conservative candidates and, just like their lefty counterparts, sometimes reveal their political beliefs through the roles they take.
Willis in particular seems determined to create a pro-America PR blitz with his pictures. From the 'Die Hard' franchise to the upcoming Sylvester Stallone war comedy 'The Expendables,' Willis has either played a cop, a soldier or a covert agent more than a dozen times. He shows no sign of slowing down. Seven of the eight films he has in development are about cops, soldiers or assassins. If anything, Willis has kicked it into overdrive. It makes sense. With Damon, Clooney and their fellow progressives working overtime, Willis has got a lot of work to do.