TORONTO 2009: GEORGE CLOONEY DISHES ON UP IN THE AIR & TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC

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FROM THE CANADIAN PRESS

UP IN THE AIR director JASON REITMAN says his new film features GEORGE CLOONEY in one of his most vulnerable performances. But today the actor was in familiar form as the ubercharming cut up entertaining a packed press conference at the TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.

Surrounded onstage by JASON REITMAN and UP IN THE AIR costars JASON BATEMAN, VERA FARMIGA, ANNA KENDRICK and MELANIE LYNSKEY, GEORGE answered most questions with quick quips and a flash of his megawatt grin.

Wearing a slate grey blazer and a striped white dress shirt, GEORGE held court on pretty much any topic that arose – from trying to sneak dogs onto airplanes to his disdain for online social networking.

“I would rather have a prostate exam on live television by a guy with very cold hands than have a Facebook page,” GEORGE said over a never ceasing chorus of popping flashbulbs.

He directed plenty of gentle potshots at his costars. When one reporter posed a question to the film’s talent, GEORGE bristled: “You’re using that word talent a little loosely.”

He took particular pleasure in his light hearted torture of the pixieish ANNA KENDRICK, who played his foil in the film.

After offering generous praise for the rest of the cast, GEORGE clarified: “These people made this film work – except for her, Anna.”

But he saved his very best barbs for his own career missteps.

On his unsuitability for big budget Hollywood tentpoles, he said: “I buried the Bat franchise once. I don’t really have many other ways to go,” referencing his 1997 bomb BATMAN & ROBIN.

He took a similar tack when asked about his recent tendency towards making comedies.

“Well, Leatherheads ended up being a drama,” he said of the ill received 2008 film, which he directed.

But unlike THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS – the other film GEORGE is promoting during his trip to Toronto – UP IN THE AIR is not, strictly speaking, a comedy.

The movie casts GEORGE as a “career transition consultant” – a travelling corporate downsizer whose job is to inform people that they’ve been laid off.

JASON REITMAN began writing the film years ago as a corporate satire, replete with humorous scenes of people getting fired. When the economy took a turn for the worse, those scenes “weren’t so funny any more” and he took a different approach.

Filmed in such stark, economically depressed locales as Detroit, St. Louis and Wichita, UP IN THE AIR features heart rending testimonials from 25 real people who lost their jobs.

“As we were working on the film, along the way, it became clear that it was less and less a comedy and much more about real people,” GEORGE stated.

“Suddenly it felt more timely than ever. It felt like the exact right moment to be making the film.”

GEORGE’S character is a super efficient business traveller who’s only comfortable while on the move. Unencumbered by familial or personal obligations, he cherishes anesthetized airport bars and dreads his rare trips to his one bedroom apartment in Omaha, Nebraka.

He also obsessively compiles frequent flyer miles and gives motivational speeches in which he urges his audiences to stop being weighed down by belongings and the baggage that comes with messy personal relationships.

Eventually, that world view is called into question when he develops a romance with a like minded traveller (VERA FARMIGA) and begins to search for purpose in his life.

GEORGE – one of the most famous bachelors on the planet – acknowledges that audiences may draw a connection between himself and his character in the film.

JASON REITMAN had his heart set on GEORGE for the role and travelled to his home in Italy to pitch the script to him. GEORGE claimed it was an easy decision.

“I came down and I threw the script on the table and said: ‘OK, I’ll do it. Let’s go,’ ” he recalled.

“That’s sort of how it worked out for us. Then we ate pizza.”

“I love how a casual moment for you is one of the great moments of my life,” JASON REITMAN replied with a laugh.

But the director said it took great courage for GEORGE to accept the role.

“The first time you read the script, you said you saw connections and that’s what excited you about the script…and that you wanted to stare it straight in the eyes,” JASON REITMAN said as he turned to face GEORGE.

“And I thought that was incredibly brave. I think this is one of the most vulnerable performances you’ve ever done. This type of emotionality was a great gift and I’ll appreciate it the rest of my life.”

Of course, GEORGE nimbly dodged that same emotionality on Saturday, using a string of quick one liners to keep the mood light.

When a reporter recapped his accomplishments and mused on what type of role GEORGE might take on next, he responded: “I just want to dance, really. I’ve been waiting for a musical for a long time and no one brings it to me.”

When asked a rather pointed question about the effect the economic downturn had on him – and whether he had to fire his personal chef – GEORGE responded sarcastically.

“Yes, I fired six of my drivers. I gotta tell you, y’know, at some point, eight or nine is fine. And I put one of my planes on eBay. Sold that. I had to downscale considerably.”

Not satisfied with GEORGE’S tongue in cheek response, the questioner urged the gorgeous actor: “But seriously?”

The room erupted in laughter.

“Honestly – to me, you say seriously?”

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