the people behind Solaris plan on grabbing the average
moviegoer with, as one member of the press put it, star George
Clooney’s naked bum.
"He called me a naked bum, didn’t he?" Clooney asked a group of tittering journalists. He has the right to joke. After all, for the past few weeks, news on the movie has largely concerned his rear. And only his rear. Solaris, originally pegged with an R rating for two scenes of Clooney’s exposed derriere, is a trippy, sci-fi think piece that deals in the profundity of human nature–sex isn’t even a blip on the radar. So far removed from the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nudity is the movie, in fact, that even Soderbergh couldn’t help but chime in with the hullabaloo. "I think it’s worth sitting through the whole movie just to get to those scenes." Clooney added, "Look, we don’t want to objectify women," then deadpanned, "only men."
In the film, the former ER star plays widowed psychologist Chris Kelvin, who is called to bring back the research crew from the orbit of the distant planet Solaris. For unknown reasons, the crew doesn’t want to come back to Earth. Turns out that the celestial gas mass has affected the crew in unimaginable ways–and after Kelvin’s first night aboard the ship, for instance, he wakes up to the caresses of his dead wife.
Known for his Cary Grant-esque aura, Clooney abandons the charm for Solaris, and delivers one of the most intense and emotional, yet internal and understated performances of his career. And while playing a pomaded escape convict in the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? "scared the hell" out of the 41-year-old actor, playing the straight-laced doc was "terrifying."
So terrifying, in fact, that Clooney first asked friend and business partner Soderbergh whether or not it’d be okay for him to star. "Well, I think the word is beg," he said. "He had another actor in mind. It didn’t hurt." Unsure as he was about tackling such a wordless part–the bare-bones script was 73 pages, whereas a typical feature film runs about 120–Clooney made his case and wrote Soderbergh a letter anyway. "It said, ‘Look I don’t know if I can do it, I don’t know if you even think that way. I’d love to give it a crack, but only if it’s something you think I can do."
director, who has previously worked with Clooney on Out of
Sight and Ocean's Eleven, originally had Daniel Day
Lewis in mind for the role. He now feels confident in Clooney’s
portrayal. "I don’t think if someone said, ‘I need
someone who can really do existential dread,’ that people
would go, ‘Oh, you gotta get George.’ That’s not
his personality. But he’s a really expressive actor
and never really gets a lot of credit for it."
Casting Clooney may also help bring in audiences for the film. The misleading commercials set up the decidedly abstract and metaphorical film as something it’s not. "It’s not quite a romantic comedy in space," Soderbergh said at an earlier Q&A session. But despite the movie's murky marketing campaign, Clooney says he’s proud of Fox, the studio that is distributing Solaris, especially in an industry where the bottom line is always measured in profits. "I think Solaris is going to have a very tough time finding an audience," Clooney said. "They read the script. They knew what they were getting into. What’s really amazing is they’re saying, ‘Well, let’s take a chance.’"
Clooney says Solaris is already a success for him, no matter how much money the film makes. "You want to try and do films, if you want to survive at all, that are going to last past an opening weekend."