GEORGE CLOONEY is one of the world’s most eminently eligible bachelors, but he said he relished portraying a family man in the new drama THE DESCENDANTS.

Especially since he wasn’t actually responsible for his young costars.

“I’ve played a father before – a few times. I don’t think you have to shoot heroin to play a heroin addict.”

“It was like having children. Only I got to give them away at the end of the day…and it was much nicer,” GEORGE grinned during a press conference at the TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL on Saturday.

It was a moment of uncommonly earnest levity for the star, who a day prior had joked and mugged through a media gathering for the other film he’s promoting at this year’s festival: THE IDES OF MARCH.

He struck a different tone on Saturday, joined by the movie’s director ALEXANDER PAYNE and fledgling cast members SHAILENE WOODLEY, AMARA MILLER and NICK KRAUSE.

GEORGE stars as a Hawaiian lawyer whose wife is dying after sustaining head injuries in a freak boating accident. Still consumed with grief, he seeks to reconnect with his two troubled daughters, he seethes over the news that his wife was having an affair and he has to decide what to do with a valuable piece of Hawaiian land that he’s inherited.

It’s a rich demanding role and stands as a stark contrast to his turn as a slick politician in IDES, a film he also directed. He was asked on several occasions to compare the experiences.

“This was obviously a lot more challenging to do as an actor, because when you’re directing yourself, you’re really only doing a part (and) I know exactly what I need done in it. Obviously, this was a much more difficult part — but I also had a much better director,” he added slyly, to a round of laughter.

GEORGE resisted other attempts to compare the two films or to speak in terms of the movies competing against one another for attention at the festival. But as far as his press rounds promoting the two films, it was a stark contrast; where he was funny and flippant one day, he was thoughtful and genuine the next.

He said that he had wanted to collaborate with ALEXANDER PAYNE for years and knew he was interested in THE DESCENDANTS without reading the script. The rapport between star and director was obvious. At one point ALEXANDER PAYNE took over the role of questioner from a roomful of journalists, grilling GEORGE on his influences as a director. (SIDNEY LUMET and STEVEN SODERBERGH were two that were mentioned.)

Both men saved plenty of praise for their cast while poking fun at their inexperience. AMARA MILLER, who plays GEORGE’S youngest daughter in the film, had never acted in so much as a school play before joining the movie, while ALEXANDER PAYNE said that an enthusiastic NICK KRAUSE awarded the director a bag of Cheetos at one of his auditions.

(“I figured he’d be hungry after a long day of casting,” NICK shrugged.)

Still, GEORGE managed to crack up the room a couple times.

After the precocious AMARA praised GEORGE and ALEXANDER as “so cool” and “masters at what they do,” GEORGE cracked: “She’s 32.” Later, a reporter informed ALEXANDER that the film had made him cry and the director struggled to find the words to react.

“I broke into tears after Batman & Robin,” GEORGE interjected, referring to his 1997 superhero caper.

But he said that since then, he’s honed his sense of which films are worth making. And he’s no longer guided by box office returns.

“I want to do projects that last longer than an opening weekend — that’s it. When they do that thing for you when you’re 75 and they bring you out in a wheelchair and you’ve got a colostomy bag hanging off the side of you, you don’t want them to say: ‘You had 20 films that opened #1.”’

“The truth is, I want to make things that people remember. And if you’re able to do five or 10 of those in your life that last, then you win.”

“You know, unless someone steps on your colostomy bag.”

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