By David S. Lewis
Few people in Montana can say they spent ten days in the company of George Clooney, one of the most high profile movie stars in the world. Having written Up in the Air, the novel upon which the recently released movie of the same name was based, in which Clooney plays the lead, Walter Kirn of Livingston found himself not only in the company of Clooney, but playing a small part opposite the actor during filming in March of 2009 in St. Louis.
In his typically self-effacing manner, Kirn told us he leaned toward Clooney during filming, in a scene set in a corporate office, and told him he thought director Jason Reitman was including him (Kirn) in the scene simply to be nice, and that he doubted he would actually appear in the film. Clooney replied, according to Kirn, “You sit close enough to me, just move in a few inches closer, and I promise you, they can’t cut you out of the shot.”
George Clooney turned out to be, Kirn said, “as advertised” and a sincere humanitarian. “He’s not like most movie stars I’ve met,” Kirn said. “I haven’t met that many, but I’ve seen some on set. They disappear into their trailers when they’re not in a scene.” Clooney, though, remained on the set from eight in the morning until six at night, even if he actually participated in filming for only 15 minutes.
“He’s constantly witty,” Kirn said, “constantly charming.” And Kirn told us Clooney talks quite a bit about his humanitarian projects, and that his involvement is not mere window dressing. “They’re actually his real passion,” Kirn said. “He’s quite aware.”
Kirn’s experience led to other observations about Clooney’s status as a movie star. “Fame is a prism,” he said. “I got to see that many times being around him. That kind of fame that he possesses really doesn’t allow any privacy anywhere, and he handles it gracefully. He probably stays on the movie set, because at least he’s safe there all day, because if he gets back in a car, goes for a walk down the street, he can’t go anywhere. People come, screaming and yelling with cameras. I witnessed that when he’d go out for dinner and come back. I’d be walking up the same street, and I saw him literally being chased. No one can get to the bottom of the reality of what it’s like to live that way, but he handled it as well as I could imagine anyone handling it, that’s for sure.”