George Clooney's take on the battle between newsman Murrow and McCarthy

Cheers and Jeers: Wednesday by Bill in Portland Maine

One of the fall movies I'm really looking forward to is George Clooney's take on the battle between newsman Edward R. Murrow and Joseph McCarthy during the height of the senator's Communist witch hunt. Here are some snippets of an interview with the director and co-star of Good Night, and Good Luck in the latest issue of Premiere magazine:

Premiere: Why is this still an important story?
George Clooney: My father was an anchorman for years and years, and we grew up with the theory that there are very few times that broadcast journalism can make that big of a difference, but those mileposts---Murrow taking on McCarthy and Cronkite taking on Vietnam---actually change things. That was a high point in my family's life, something my father always talked about---without Murrow, what the country would have been like. So it was something I've always sort of romanticized.

And as the world changed and [it came out] that a couple of people McCarthy nailed were actually spies, there was this rewriting of history---about what a good guy McCarthy was. And it occurred to me that the whole point of what Murrow had done so brilliantly was to take on the subject matter saying, "I don't know whether these people are guilty or not, but they have the right to face their accuser." I wasn't looking to preach to anybody. I just thought there were some really interesting parallels to issues going on today.

Why did you choose to show [Senator Joseph] McCarthy only in archival footage?
The danger of hiring an actor for the part was always that you could never believe the guy, with stringy hair hanging down his face and screaming, ranting and raving. The truth is to use McCarthy's own words, as opposed to having an actor play him.

How do you think the film reflects or comments on the current state of television news?
It's an interesting time because you realize how Murrow and McCarthy could never happen again. One voice couldn't have that impact. There isn't the most trusted man in America anymore.

We had a montage of the history of television at the end of the film, bringing us up-to-date---the great moments, the stunning moments, the idiot moments. We ended it with this car chase---a couple of stations covered it---where the guy got out of the car, took his clothes off, set himself on fire, stuck a shotgun in his mouth, and blew his head off. On one of the channels, you could hear the guys laughing in the background, going, oh my God, there's your news story. And the cameras moved in on him---they'd interrupted a children's program to do it. The montage was an amazing thing to watch, but it dawned on me that it was manipulative, because adults are going to understand what we're talking about. And if they don't, then I can't spoon-feed them arguments about how the news has become entertainment.

...Cheers to shooting the film in black and white in spite of studio opposition. Jeers to the fact that it takes something like a devastating hurricane to bring out the Murrow instincts in our press today. If they're not first in line to see this movie, they should turn in their notepads.

Cheers and Jeers starts in There's Moreville... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]

Daily Kos: Cheers and Jeers: Wednesday


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