George Clooney wants viewers to know one thing about his new movie, a comic tale of “psychic warfare” by the U.S. military: It’s not a war movie.
“The Men Who Stare at Goats,” directed by Grant Heslov, was shown out of competition Tuesday at the Venice Film Festival.
Based on Jon Ronson’s book of the same name and inspired by true events, the movie features an all-star cast that also includes Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey.
It’s a madcap comedy about reporter Bob Wilton, played by McGregor, who is looking for a big scoop in a war zone when he meets Lyn Cassady, played by Clooney — a member of a unit that wants to change the way wars are fought by employing paranormal powers.
“I think we looked at this and thought it wasn’t an Iraq war film,” Clooney said at a press conference Tuesday.
“We thought it was a comedy about some crazy ideas that went on, that started at the end of the Vietnam war and carried on through, not that long ago and maybe still carry on,” he said.
In the movie, Wilton joins Cassady and they cross from Kuwait into Iraq together. The founder of the New Earth Army unit that deals with paranormal warfare is soldier-turned-new age hippie Bill Django, played by Bridges.
“Goats” marks Heslov’s directorial debut. It teams up Clooney with Heslov again after “Good Night, and Good Luck,” which Clooney directed and Heslov produced, a movie on the true-life clashes between newsman Edward R. Murrow and Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
True to his style, Clooney joked when asked if he researched paranormal powers for the movie.
“At the premiere I am going to actually walk through a wall,” he quipped.
“What we love about this film and what is so fun about it is there is a tremendous amount of it that is true. And as funny as it is, it’s some of the dumbest parts of the film that are the true parts,” he added.
During the news conference, a fan of Clooney stripped to his boxer shorts in front of the Hollywood star and asked if he could “kiss him, just once.”
“I am gay, George,” the unidentified man said. “Take me, choose me, George, please. May I kiss you, just once?”
Clooney was unflappable in responding with a smile, “It’s hard when you take a big chance and it doesn’t really work.”
Clooney arrived in Venice by speedboat on Monday night, with Italian actress Elisabetta Canalis in tow. The two, who have been seen together recently, walked the red carpet Tuesday evening, holding hands and waving at the crowd. Clooney also signed autographs for his fans.
Clooney’s right hand was bandaged. He said he broke it an a car door.
Clooney, who owns a villa on Lake Como and spends time in Italy, is a frequent guest at the festival.
“Honestly, this is the only premiere that you come up to in a boat,” he said.
Also screening out of competition on Tuesday was Antoine Fuqua’s “Brooklyn’s Finest,” a drama focusing on the lives of three Brooklyn police officers.
Cast members Wesley Snipes and co-star Shannon Kane were on hand with Fuqua, with Ethan Hawke expected in time for the midnight red carpet.
In the film, Snipes portrays a gang leader and Hawke a narcotics police officer. Richard Gere and Don Cheadle star as police officers whose lives show the strain of too many years on duty.
The Venice Film Festival runs through Sept. 12.