'The Midnight Sky': George Clooney explains why he returned to movies after four-year hiatus

Watch: George Clooney talks to Yahoo about his new film The Midnight Sky

By Kevin Polowy

The new sci-fi drama The Midnight Sky marks George Clooney’s first film in four years — since 2016’s Money Monster — but it’s not like the famed actor-director hasn’t been busy.

He did star in and direct Hulu’s miniseries Catch-22 a year ago, but the typically tireless performer now has a family he wants to be with, on top of his ongoing humanitarian efforts with the Clooney Foundation for Justice, which he co-founded with wife Amal Clooney.

“I was working on other things — Amal and I have a foundation that I work on, we try to chase down war criminals and that kind of thing,” Clooney tells Yahoo Entertainment during a recent virtual press event for The Midnight Sky, which he also directed (watch above). “I also have twins, quite honestly. I’ve been spending a lot of time with them.” [Clooney’s twins Ella and Alexander were born in 2017.]

Read more: George Clooney reacts to Tom Cruise rant

“And it takes a while to get things done. I’ve been working, but I haven’t been acting so much,” he continues. “But this was also a really good part for me.”

George Clooney in 'The Midnight Sky' (Netflix)
George Clooney in The Midnight Sky. (Photo: Netflix)

In the post-apocalyptic film, Clooney stars as scientist in the Arctic Circle who desperately attempts to warn returning astronauts that a catastrophic event has made Earth no longer inhabitable.

Being a family man now means that Clooney, 59, must take into account the opinions of his wife and kids, like when it came to the scraggly white beard he grew over four months for the role.

“My wife was really, really ready for it to come off,” he says. “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 pull things out of my beard]. Like a popsicle stick in my beard.”

Caoilinn Springall as Iris and George Clooney as Augustine in The Midnight Sky. (Philippe Antonello/NETFLIX ©2020)
Caoilinn Springall as Iris and George Clooney as Augustine in The Midnight Sky. (Philippe Antonello/NETFLIX ©2020)

His co-stars weren’t necessarily fans. “It was horrifying,” cracks Kyle Chandler, while Felicity Jones seemed mildly creeped out that Clooney kept the beard strung up in the production’s makeup trailer after he shaved it off.

Clooney has long been socially and politically active, so the thriller’s eco-cautionary tale is hardly surprising. But it’s also a story that’s become more prescient in the age of the coronavirus, as a lone survivor — until he meets a young stowaway (Caoilinn Springall) — who relies on technology to try to communicate with the spacecraft, potentially with the fate of humanity at stake.

Watch a trailer for The Midnight Sky

“When we were pitching it to Netflix I said this is about this divisiveness and hate and anger that we’re seeing all over the world,” Clooney says. “And how we could end up killing ourselves along the way.

“We wrapped shooting in February and then COVID came and we were all shut down and unable to communicate with one another and be close to one another. And so bit by bit it became really clear, and we focused on it while editing. It’s really a story about our inability to be home and to be close to people and to communicate, and suddenly that became the part that we leaned into about the story.”

The Midnight Sky is streaming on Netflix now.

Watch Clooney talk about his hopes for President-elect Joe Biden:

— Videos produced by Jon San and edited by John Santo