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Nonsmoker Strathairn puffed to play Murrow

He had to smoke up to 50 cigarettes a day for ‘Good Night, And Good Luck’
/ Source: The Associated Press

Puffing away was part of the job for David Strathairn, who smoked up to 50 cigarettes a day for his role as Edward R. Murrow in George Clooney’s “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

In the film, the legendary TV journalist is often shown smoking — even while on the air — during his battle with Sen. Joseph McCarthy. (Murrow developed lung cancer and died in 1965 at age 57.)

“I tried all different kinds of tobacco to see which would be the least crippling and I ended up with pipe tobacco,” Strathairn, a nonsmoker, told AP Radio in a recent interview. “I found that that burned less harshly. It also smelled better.”

The role of Murrow is the most visible yet for the 56-year-old Strathairn, mostly known as a character actor.

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Strathairn said the part needed to “effect the essence” of Murrow for both the people who knew him personally and the journalists who revere him.

“We shot in sequence for the most part, and I get a lot better at it toward the end,” he said.

Strathairn’s films include “A Map of the World,” “Blue Car” and “L.A. Confidential.” He appeared briefly on HBO’s “The Sopranos” as a character who nearly had an affair with Carmela Soprano.