Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney is producer of the new show K-street. The show lets viewers look behind the scenes at politics. It was as glitzy as government gets, when Bill Press asked the man who turned the cameras on the Capitol, why he wants to do a show about Washington.
GEORGE CLOONEY, “K STREET” EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: We all agree that this is a pretty fascinating time in Washington, and in government. And people for the first time— I don’t know, maybe since Watergate-the normal person is more interested in what’s going on with their public officials one way or the other, either pro or against whatever is going on in whatever sort of world they live in. So, we felt like it was a really good time to talk not about policy, but about procedure and show how things are actually done in government. I wasn’t a creative person on it, but we did a little bit with “ER”, which was showing how hospitals actually work.
No comment on it... just showing how it works, and I found it to be helpful in a way.
BILL PRESS, HOST: Do you think inside Washington can be as interesting, as fascinating, or as successful, as inside an emergency room doctor?
CLOONEY: The stakes are higher here, you know. Yes, I think it can be. I think that as long as we escape the temptation to get on a soapbox-and it’s hard to do. I’m a big old liberal. You know, I’ve been that way my whole life. But it’s hard to avoid those things, so that’s why we stacked the deck with Stevens and Matalin and Michael Deaver and people who are-because it’s not necessarily what we talk about as much as the subject matter that we choose.
PRESS: If there’s one thing that you want people around the country to know about Washington after watching “K Street”, what would it be?
CLOONEY: Well I think that it’s sort of fascinating because you have to remember that what most of America, including myself, sees about Washington D.C. most of the time are 30-second sound bites of people going at each or from either the right or the left.
PRESS: Not always pretty.
CLOONEY: Almost never pretty, especially nowadays. So what I think is fascinating is that these guys actually have to come here together to a restaurant and have dinner every once in a while and they have to actually get along. We don’t get to see that very much. We think it’s literally this war that goes on all the time.
PRESS: Now, I know you’re going to be talking about serious issues, and each episode is going to be the news of that week.
PRESS: We get on something like Iraq or we get on something like jobs, how is George Clooney’s personal point of view or politics not going to come through?
CLOONEY: Well, I’m not a writer. There is no writer on the show. It is simply what the news events are, whatever [we’re going to] go through the paper and whatever this is, this is our story. We don’t go in and do interviews and go, “How do you feel about what happened in Iraq today?” You know, we’ll take events that are happening, put them in a hypothetical.
PRESS: There has always been this fascination between Hollywood and politics?
CLOONEY: Sure. More so now than ever.
PRESS: Yes, going way, way back.
CLOONEY: We’ve been used-or we use it as propaganda when it’s a good time to do that. And we’ve used it as protesting the war, like we did in the late ’60’s . It’s been sort of, you know, it’s been a little tug-of-war between us for a long time.
PRESS: Now, you’re here in Washington, but you’re also going to go to the national conventions. Do you plan to go to debates?
CLOONEY: Well we’d like to. We went to Baltimore. Well, I’m a cameraman on the show. I joined your union. I just want that official.
PRESS: Did you come away from there [Balitmore] with a favorite?
CLOONEY: Yes and no. It’s so early for me, you know, from my political party and for the things that I believe in. It’s so early to sort of pick things. I’m interested in seeing where we are in a couple of months, in a few months because I think things sort of shake down. It’s hard to see a debate with nine people and get much.
PRESS: Will we see any of these candidates on “K Street”, maybe?
CLOONEY: Probably. Probably.
PRESS: Have you heard from them? Do they want to be on?
CLOONEY: Yes, oh yes. There’s one that might be there . It’s been a really interesting process.
PRESS: You’re from California. We’re talking about marriage of Hollywood and politics. Arnold...? Are you a part of the Hollywood community supporting Arnold? What do you think?
CLOONEY: Can he pull it off? Maybe. He might be able to. It’s an interesting thing. Arnold is a friend, I really like him. I mean I did a movie with him, a really great film.
I think it’s in the book as the worst film I ever made. But he’s really an honorable guy. You know, the trick for me is this. I can’t support how he wants to run the state. From what I understand, we disagree on how to run it. I don’t want to go out and bash him because I like him and I think he’s a nice guy, but I certainly can’t come on board and say I’m voting for him because I disagree with that. You know, the hardest part about this-and it gets trickier as you go— is that we’re not questioning anyone’s integrity here. I don’t want to. I really like him. But by the same token, it’s hard to support.
PRESS: So you come to Washington. We all love the fact that you’re here. We’re proud of the fact you’re here. We’re excited that you’re here and then Sen. Trent Lott says you’re not welcome in the U.S. capitol. You’re not allowed to film there.
Did that surprise you?
CLOONEY: No. Well, it did at first because we didn’t know that we were doing anything wrong, and the senators who brought us on to the Hill and did interviews with us didn’t know... and then yesterday we got word that this letter was coming down, and our concern was at first that they were saying don’t talk to “K Street”, which seemed like strange because you’re saying, well, then don’t do any commercial endeavors... And what we realized is he’s just sort of upholding an old law that says you can’t shoot there, and we’re big kids. You know, it’s not where we talk to them. It’s who we talk to.
PRESS: Can you work around it?
CLOONEY: We have already, and, in fact, we talked to Senator Santorum off of, you know off of the Hill, and we had actually great luck in talking with pretty much anybody we need to.
PRESS: I know once in a while you’re going to need some real-live media people on “K Street”... Pat Buchanan and I, we are ready, willing, and able. You got the left and the right, built in...But when it comes to the war, sometimes it’s hard to tell us apart. Anyhow, we’re ready when you are. Thanks.
CLOONEY: Thank you very much.