George Clooney explains film hiatus and why 'The Midnight Sky' is a cautionary tale

George Clooney pulls double duty in his new film, The Midnight Sky, as both actor and director.

He recently spoke to Yahoo Entertainment about why he's been missing from the big screen for a few years and how his latest project is arriving at a unique time.

"[My wife] Amal and I have a foundation," he said of the Clooney Foundation for Justice. "And I also have twins and, quite honestly, I've been spending a lot of time with them."

The Midnight Sky takes place in a future where something catastrophic has happened on Earth, and Clooney admits it became prescient as the coronvirus exploded.

"Bit by bit it became really clear, and we focused on it in editing, it's also a story about our inability to be home," he said.

Video Transcript

- In our galaxy alone, there are billions of stars. At least one of them has the potential to support life.

KEVIN POLOWY: This is actually your first film role since "Money Monster," which came out four years ago. Why that long break from film acting?

GEORGE CLOONEY: Well, you know, I did "Catch-22" in between, which was a year and a half. I was working on other things. I have a foundation. Amal and I have a foundation that I work on and try to chase down war criminals and that kind of thing. And, you know, I also have twins. Quite honestly, you know, it's been spending a lot of time with them, and it takes a while to get things done. I've been working, but, you know, I haven't been acting so much.

This was also a really good part for me. I get to have a kid. So when you have a child in a scene, and you're protecting that child, you can be grumpy and angry, and everybody cuts you slack because you have to take care of the kid. So I felt like I was protected a little bit as an actor.

KEVIN POLOWY: Right. You can get away with anything as long as--

GEORGE CLOONEY: You can do anything.

KEVIN POLOWY: --you're protecting that child. Plus you needed the time to grow that epic beard, I can only imagine. I need to know, how long did that take to grow? How did you like that look on yourself? And most importantly-- I mean, because you're a married man-- how did your wife like it?

GEORGE CLOONEY: It took about four months to grow. My wife really, really was ready for it to come off. My daughter was ready for it to come off. My son loved it because he would hide things in it like a toy car. Literally I'd get to work and be like "ugh-a," a Popsicle stick in my beard.

FELICITY JONES: You know he actually kept the beard once it had been shaved off. He kept the hairs as a--


FELICITY JONES: --celebration. Yeah, it was all sort of stuck to this tape. [LAUGHS] It was in the makeup trailer for ages, and I was like, what's that? Oh, that's George's old beard. I was like, great.

KYLE CHANDLER: It was horrifying.


My God.

- It started with a mistake.

KEVIN POLOWY: Do you look at this story largely as a cautionary tale to better protect this place?

GEORGE CLOONEY: I did at the time when we were pitching it to Netflix. I said this is about this divisiveness and this hate and anger that we're seeing all over the world and how we could end up killing ourselves along the way. Then we wrapped shooting in February, and then COVID came, and we were all shut down and unable to communicate with one another or be close to one another.

And so bit by bit it became really clear, and we focused on it in editing that it's also really a story about our inability to be home and to be close to people and to communicate in a way. And so suddenly that became the thing, the part that we leaned into about the story because, you know, you and I would be sitting in a room right now, you know, having a conversation, and it's an odd thing.

FELICITY JONES: That is actually a part of the story. I mean, in "Midnight Sky," it's really gone full tilt and we're at the end of things. But the film is incredibly relevant, and we didn't realize at the time just how relevant it would be. Obviously with the context that we now find ourselves in and the themes that it's exploring of connection and meaning and what we value in our lives, which are all those questions that we're all asking ourselves very much in this moment.

DAVID OYELOWO: Of course there is absolutely no way we could have predicted how prescient and prophetic the film would be in relation to the world we now live in considering we made that film before the pandemic. But, you know, I think our need for connection, our need to look after our planet, our prioritization of family, these are all things that are never going to go away.

KYLE CHANDLER: I don't remember exactly what I thought of the film when we started it per se, watching it a few nights ago after the last 10 months that have occurred. I was asked the question yesterday, isn't it interesting that down on Earth they're calling up and telling you not to come home? And my daughter is out in Los Angeles, and she's being told don't come home. She has to have a mask to go outside. You have to have masks to go outside. It's like you just can't expect to know what happens when you-- like as you say, take a piece of art and try to say something with it. I mean, how profoundly this piece of art speak [INAUDIBLE]. It's absolutely-- it's absolutely stunning.