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The Berlinale Blog: The clenching embarrassment of a George Clooney press conference

Another press conference with George Clooney, and another wretched roomful of simpering hacks showed George what pointless fools we are.

Image for The Berlinale Blog: The clenching embarrassment of a George Clooney press conference
George Clooney leaving a Berlinale press conference (2014) by Siebbi licensed under CC BY 3.0

Last year, AfD and Pegida supporters coined the word “Lügenpresse” – a phrase that Germany’s populist far-right uses as shorthand to posit the existence of a mass media conspiracy that deliberately lies about important news in order to push a certain political agenda determined by Angela Merkel’s government.

Well, I would love to invite those hate-bangers to one of George Clooney’s press conferences at the Berlinale and witness these shadowy media stooges at work. Perhaps then they would understand that most journalists can’t string a question together, much less formulate a coherent political view and then subtly impose it on a docile populace through their dark arts. One glance into a Clooney presser, and surely even the most paranoid neo-Nazi would admit that what they’re seeing is a room full of simpering fools being driven through life by the twin pressures of work and sexual need. In other words, journalists are just normal people, mainly helpless and with no particular talent.

So thank God for George Clooney, who yelped as he entered the press room at the Berlinale on Thursday to guide a wretched collection of simple people through a deeply enlightening Q+A session about the opening movie Hail Caesar. This thank you is personal, George, because I was trying to manage a hangover throughout, and each time another idiot asked a meandering, irrelevant, borderline offensive illiterate question and my stomach and brain tightened even further in embarrassment for what I have to call my “profession”, you were there to bat the question away with effortless wit, allowing the room to erupt in sycophantic, pressure-relieving laughter and my precious insides to ease.

Sometimes the moderator appeared to be trying to joke with the Coen brothers about their previous films, which left them completely baffled but was slightly less embarrassing because at least the moderator wasn’t a journalist and so for a minute the attention was deflected away from the pointless lives we’ve chosen. At another point a Polish TV presenter spent what felt like half an hour quoting old interviews back at Clooney before asking, “What’s it like working with the Coen brothers?”

Among the other questions asked were:

Can you compare working with Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers? (Clooney has not worked with Tarantino as a director, only alongside him as an actor. But sitting next to him was Channing Tatum, who has THIS YEAR been in films by both.)

To the Coen brothers: Why don’t you do a film about refugees? “It’s a humanitarian crisis!”

To Clooney: Why don’t you do SOMETHING about the refugee crisis? This was the only time Clooney became prickly, (and my heart cried, No! Be funny again George, please. We’re sorry. Be nice again!) Why don’t you, he answered, before pointing out that he’d already said FIVE MINUTES AGO he was visiting a refugee home and meeting Merkel tomorrow to talk about it, and that he’s spent ages campaigning about Sudan.

To Clooney: Have you ever seen a Russian communist? Wah?

Finally someone stood up in front of all 500 people and said “I want to make love to that movie,” and my knuckles went white around my pen and my upper lip began to sweat. But I kept it together. And because Clooney kept being disarmingly whacky at key moments I didn’t vomit. That’s surely a sign of a professional at work.