George Clooney’s Michael Clayton is one of the significant movies in his career. The film was both a commercial and a critical hit. While the Ocean’s Eleven fame was heavily praised for his role as the titular character, Clooney thanked the late veteran actor Paul Newman for his incredible performance. According to the actor and the filmmaker, he was influenced by Newman’s iconic performance in The Verdict.
Paul Newman has enjoyed a celebrated career in Hollywood with many memorable roles such as The Color of Money, The Towering Inferno, and The Hustler. Looks like George Clooney is one of his best fans as he publicly admitted how Newman helped him in one of his best performances.
George Clooney couldn’t stop praising Paul Newman
Michael Clayton was released in 2007 marking the directorial debut of The Bourne Legacy director and Andor creator Tony Gilroy. The legal thriller chronicled the life of lawyer Michael Clayton who uncovers a major coverup by one of the clients of his firm. Along with George Clooney as the titular character, the film also starred Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson in pivotal roles.
In an interview with TIME, George Clooney spoke about Michael Clayton and his love for movies that explore the theme of morality and conscience. He acknowledged two remarkable performances by Paul Newman in The Verdict and Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven as his inspirations.
“I’ve always liked that. There isn’t any actor who doesn’t like a role in this. These are the characters that, if you caught the movie 10 years earlier in their life, they’re the bad guy. Like Paul Newman in The Verdict — I’m certainly not comparing my acting, just talking about those kinds of characters — or Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven.”
He couldn’t stop praising Paul Newman‘s performance in The Verdict and called it one of his greatest. The Three Kings actor mentioned a specific monologue from the movie to appreciate Newman’s iconic performance. The Batman & Robin actor revealed that he has also taken some elements from the character of the Oscar-winning veteran.
“No, although I’m sure I’ve ripped every single guy like that, off. I’ve certainly ripped off Paul Newman three or four times, [though] not as well. Watch him at the end of the monologue in that film, where he’s talking to the jury. Actors usually load up for a monologue. He finishes it and he starts to talk again, and then he walks away. To me, it’s one of the great performances in any film, ever.”
Michael Clayton went on to earn $93.1 million at the Box Office with 7 Oscar nominations and 1 win for Tilda Swinton as Best Actress. But it is noteworthy that initially, George Clooney wasn’t very willing to join the movie until Steven Soderberg convinced him.
Why was George Clooney not willing to star in Michael Clayton?
Initially, George Clooney wasn’t willing to star in Michael Clayton as it was the first directorial of Tony Gilroy. On top of that, he was already amidst another movie and didn’t feel comfortable hopping ships until director Steven Soderberg told him to read the script. He said in the same conversation with TIME.
“Steven called me up and said you should do this script. I read it, and I thought yes, it’s a really good script but I was in the middle of doing Good Night and Good Luck so I wasn’t anxious to jump and do anything else.”
Following that, the 62-year-old actor spent a full day with Tony Gilroy. After spending a lot of time with the filmmaker, Clooney was finally convinced that he could pull off the tricky piece.
The Gravity fame went on to praise Tony Gilroy as an amazing director and was clear of his vision which led the whole team to follow him. George Clooney, who is a filmmaker himself made it clear that he submitted himself to the director. Ultimately, it also paid off as the film was critically acclaimed for its direction.
Michael Clayton can be rented on Apple TV+ while The Verdict can be streamed on Max.