Not so long ago George Clooney was “People” magazine's sexiest man alive, but now he says he doesn't expect to play a whole lot more romantic leads. Instead he's diving into controversial topics, like the politics of the oil with his new movie “Syriana.”
On Thursday, Dan Abrams of 'The Abrams Report’ sat down with Clooney to learn more about his politics Hollywood's role in tackling some of the more controversial issues.
To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
GEORGE CLOONEY, PRODUCER, “SYRIANA”: I think what Hollywood can do very well and has over periods of time during sort of social and political upheaval, we reflect things because we're not first responders. It takes us a couple of years to write a script and get a movie. We can ask questions and raise debate. What we're bad at usually is sort of trying to answer the questions.
DAN ABRAMS, HOST, 'THE ABRAMS REPORT’: But this movie does more than just ask questions. I mean if you just look at the movie itself, if has answers. And that is at the end of the movie, without giving away the ending, you certainly get the sense that oil companies are corrupt, that the government is corrupt and that Islamic fundamentalism is created as a result of corrupt oil companies.
CLOONEY: Well I don't think it says that precisely. I think in fairness, it says that all of these elements exist in each of those places. I think no one can argue. You know we've shown this to a lot of neo cons who agree. We've shows this to a lot of conservatives. There isn't really a political side to corruption.
Everyone agrees that it is a problem in each of those elements. I don't think we're saying the government is corrupt and oil companies are corrupt and we're certainly not saying Islamic fundamentalism especially to the extreme is good. I think we're saying let's understand that these are all areas of gray and not black and white. I do enjoy that every time we have a discussion and I get to sit here with you we can talk about those issues and it's not unpatriotic to ask questions. And that's always been a part of what I have said all along is hey man on either side. I'm good friends with a lot of conservatives and we have good, fair, open discussions.
ABRAMS: You are also one of honest ones in the sense that you come out and you say look, I'm a liberal. This is my political position. I don't hide it. And you're also one of the most in tune to the fact that there are a lot of Hollywood bashers out there and people who say you know, George Clooney and they lump you in together with a group of other liberal actors. Are you worried that people will say that about this movie? They'll say oh this is just Clooney at it again?
CLOONEY: They will. And the truth is, here's the funny thing about you know our country and the idea. You know a couple of years ago before the war I was put on the cover of a magazine and called a traitor for saying maybe we should ask some questions before we go to war.
However, if I'm going to demand the right of freedom of speech you can't then say but don't say bad things about me. You got to take your hits. I'm a grown-up. So if people want to come out and say hey you know that's just a bunch of liberal you know baloney that's sort of thrown in there, I'll have to take those hits. I disagree because I feel like all I'm saying is let's have those questions asked.
ABRAMS: And it's fair to say that this movie is political?
CLOONEY: It is political. There's no question about it. Most of the book goes pretty heavily after Clinton and the Clinton administration. This isn't about the last five years. This is an issue of 50 or 60 years of I think no one will argue certain flawed policies in the Middle East.
ABRAMS: So when people hear the word oil and oil companies and they think to themselves, oh, he's talking about Bush, your answer is...
CLOONEY: Well those aren't the issues. The issues are corruption and the corruption has been going on. You know there's a tremendous amount of Democratic and Republican politicians who have retired and taken nice, fat paychecks from Saudi Arabia when they leave to go be consultants from both sides.
That's a problem. That's an issue. And it should be talked about. Because I think ultimately we have, you know, there's going to be a point when this runs out, you know in maybe 30 years, maybe 50 years and someone at that point is going to have to talk about alternate energy.
Video: More of Clooney
ABRAMS: But does having George Clooney associated with it and so involved in it...
CLOONEY: Does it hurt it?
ABRAMS: Yes. The same way you said you couldn't campaign for your own father in Kentucky because you thought you'd hurt his cause.
CLOONEY: I would have. It didn't help. He lost anyway, but it would have because it was at the time Hollywood versus the heartland. It is a little bit different times now because nowadays it is different, there's a little more air out there for dissent because Hollywood was sort of really being pegged as dissenters.
And to answer your question, yes, I have to be very careful about staying out of the information business. My job isn't to stand up on a soapbox and preach.
ABRAMS: But I always find it interesting when people are sort of telling people in Hollywood to sit down and shut up because they don't have to listen to them. But, they are people who have thoughts and some people are very smart and some aren't.
Do you affiliate yourself with a group in particular? I mean you know there are the typicals who are associated with the left, the Sean Penns and the Susan Sarandons, Barbra Streisand. Is it fair to put you in with that group?
CLOONEY: Well you know it's not like there's this club. You know...
ABRAMS: You guys don't have meetings?
CLOONEY: I've never met Barbra Streisand.
CLOONEY: I tend to agree with a lot of their politics. I don't always agree with some of the techniques, but it's not for me to judge.
ABRAMS: But you also recognize that the name George Clooney...
CLOONEY: Is a liberal.
ABRAMS: ... has something attached to it?
CLOONEY: Yes but, you know I think the trick is to first of all be informed about whatever the subject is that you are going to talk about and try not to as best you can polarize, you know to sit down with you and have a conversation. I don't know what your political you know leanings are, but you ask questions and I ask questions.
And look yes, I'm going to get the opportunity to get the microphone and I can bring attention to the tsunami. I can bring attention to 911 victims and I can bring attention to poverty in Africa. I think that it's fair to say that if you are a conservative actor, no one questions you know your intelligence.
ABRAMS: Because you're unusual.
CLOONEY: Well yes, there are more than I even thought. So if you're, you know, if you're a conservative actor, you are allowed to get up and talk about politics, liberals you sort of get you know beat up. I find that OK. It's all right, but I don't apologize for it.
Watch the 'Abrams Report' for more analysis and interviews on the top legal stories each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.