George Clooney is going to run his own “Network.”
If you’re looking for a condemnation of today’s news media, don’t look to his movie “Good Night, and Good Luck,” Clooney said — but he’s planning a live TV update of Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 movie, an evisceration of TV news if there ever was one.
Clooney, who five years ago was executive producer and co-star of a live TV version of the 1964 Cold War drama “Fail Safe,” told The Associated Press that CBS chief Leslie Moonves approached him about doing the same thing with “Network,” which won four Academy Awards.
Besides Chayefsky’s screenplay, Oscars went to lead actors Faye Dunaway and Peter Finch — the first posthumous winner in an acting category — and supporting actress Beatrice Straight. (It became the second film to win three awards for acting, after 1951’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.”)
In the film directed by Sidney Lumet, Finch plays respectable, avuncular anchorman Howard Beale, who’s fired and threatens an on-air suicide. A cynical network executive (Dunaway) thinks his descent into madness will make for great television — and after all, their ratings are the lowest of the major networks.
Beale famously rants on the air “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”
Soon the news show has been taken over by the entertainment programming department, and Beale is introduced each night as “the mad prophet” and is joined by Sybil the Soothsayer and Miss Mata Hari, among others.
The movie co-starred William Holden as a network news president, Robert Duvall as a ruthless corporate vice president and Ned Beatty as the corporation’s president and board chairman.
Clooney said he will basically leave Chayefsky’s script alone, just updating it a bit by supplanting a Black Panther group with a terrorist group. No air date has been set.
The actor/filmmaker thinks “Network” was prophetic, but was briefly mystified when he screened it for a group of young people and none of them saw it as a dark satire.
“I couldn’t understand it, (then) I realized that everything Chayefsky wrote about happened. And so, suddenly, the idea that the anchor is more important that the news story, and that you’d be doing sort of reality-based shows with heads of gangs and Sybil the Soothsayer all happened. And when you have that great speech with Ned Beatty sitting there going ‘There is no U.S.A. and Soviet Union, there is only Xerox and IBM,’ you realize all of those things were true, or came true.”