Starstruck on set with George Clooney

Joseph Fuqua II/AP
George Clooney wrote, directs and stars in "The Ides of March."

BY KELLY ETZ

Published March 20, 2011

George Clooney isn’t your average celebrity. He’s no cast member of “Jersey Shore” — he’s a major celebrity to everyone. When you see Clooney in person, it’s big. That’s a name you can brag about. And when given the opportunity to be in his movie, you don’t hesitate. Clooney waits for no man.

So I, of course, jumped at the chance to be an extra in the upcoming “The Ides of March,” a political thriller — very Clooney — rife with idealistic reporters and dirty politics. Clooney is all over this film, from writing the screenplay, to directing, to starring as the corrupt Governor Mike Morris. The film also stars Ryan Gosling (“Blue Valentine”), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (“Pirate Radio”), Marisa Tomei (“The Wrestler”) and Evan Rachel Wood (“Across the Universe”) and is set to be released in October.

In what I’m sure is to be a pivotal scene, Governor Morris gives a speech at a presidential primary in Ohio. Supposedly set on a college campus, the scene includes yours truly along with 300 or so other extras, most of whom are University students. Just the idea of having Clooney on our campus was intoxicating. The novelty of seeing ourselves in a Clooney film won’t wear off soon.

As extras, our task was to look thoroughly engrossed in what Clooney was saying, then clap and enthusiastically wave signs with slogans like “Morris has Morrals.” Though pretending to be from Ohio was a definite stretch, I’d say we really carried the scene. The panning shots over the crowd are sure to cause some early Oscar buzz.

In between shooting, Clooney good-naturedly entertained the crowd. Upon request, he declared “Batman and Robin” the worst movie he’s ever starred in, advising all the future actors out there to “never do anything in spandex.” He also gracefully endured many shoutouts from the female members of the audience, including “George, you sexy beast!” and “Let me take you out tonight!” Undeterred by these displays of affection, Clooney explained a little bit about the movie and what exactly we, as extras, were supposed to do, and then thanked us for our time. At the end of the day he raffled off iPods, iPads, a Blu-ray player and a flat screen TV. As if he hadn’t already won over the crowd.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes Clooney so appealing. I was fully prepared for him to be the polar opposite of what he seems. He is a major celebrity, after all. Just because he looks handsome and dashing doesn’t automatically make him genuine. But even the most cynical would be charmed by Clooney’s repartee. Aside from an astonishing number of Canadian jokes (in jest at a member of the crew), Clooney gave a satisfying performance off camera as well, which turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Because, let’s face it, he could get away with being an absolute jerk, and we’d all still love him.

But it was clear from the first take that Clooney isn’t one of those pretentious actor types. Witty, charismatic and engaging, Clooney more than lived up to the hype. He looked completely at ease off camera, standing in front of the crowd, just talking to us. It’s safe to say that Clooney found his calling. It’s also safe to say that I’m just a teensy bit starstruck. But who can blame me? I dare you to spend a day with Clooney and not come out with stars in your eyes.