George Clooney has long been known as for his political activism, but as he told TODAY's Ann Curry, his recent trip to the Sudan put Clooney, and his camera crew, under fire.
"We showed up in one village and there was -- 150 people had come out and were cheering for us to come," he said in the interview that aired Wednesday morning. "Clearly somebody had told them that we were coming. ... And then all of a sudden everyone just started running."
Video clips from the incident showed Clooney talking about heading into the caves with villagers for safety as rockets sailed overhead. He told Curry the rockets were "close enough to feel it."
He said, in the past month, 39 people of the 1,000 in a village he visited had been killed, and he pointed the finger at Sudan's government, including President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir. "The same three guys ... who were charged for war crimes in Darfur are the exact same people bombing innocent people."
But only non-Arabs, he pointed out. "This is ethnic cleansing," he said. "That simple."
Clooney has long been an activist working to bring light to the situation in Darfur, and now North and South Sudan. This was his sixth trip to the region. He noted that Americans needed to be not just aware of suffering over there, but of the U.S.'s role. Ethnic cleansing aside, he said, it's ultimately about oil: South Sudan has the oil, North Sudan has the refineries.
"Right now what is going on in the Sudan changes the cost of your gas every single day of your life," he said. "If for no other reason than your economic interests, there is plenty of reason to make sure that your government is involved in trying to secure some form of peace."
But in addition to economics, Clooney said he expects Americans to empathize with simple human suffering and the will to survive.
"You feel an enormous, enormous sense of responsibility," he said. "We're only successful as a human race by how we look out for the people who can't look out for themselves."
Clooney will be in Washington, D.C. today to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about what he saw in Sudan; afterward, he will meet with Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Obama in the Oval Office.