Special to The New York Times Infobae.
After years without acting together, the actors return to the screen in a romantic comedy. In this interview, they talk about their friendship, working together and growing old.
Julia Roberts began the interview by asking, “Is George causing trouble yet?”
His friend and frequent colleague George Clooney had preceded Roberts in our video call, dialing from the Provence estate he shares with his wife Amal. But the room he sat in was so flooded with sunlight that Clooney could barely be seen through all the lens flare, and when Roberts joined us, he was unsuccessfully trying to close the patterned curtains on the windows.
“Are you trying to show how outwardly your inner glow is with those sparkles?” Roberts said.
Clooney looked at his Zoom box. “But look who’s talking, the one with the filtered camera,” he blurted out.
“I have a 25-year-old computer!” said Roberts.
Funny insults are how Roberts and Clooney prefer to communicate: “It’s our natural rhythm of happy noise,” she said. Their relationship sustained a partnership on the big screen that spanned several films, from the big scam in 2001 to the latest, a romantic comedy A ticket to heaven (Oct. 21 in the US), which casts them as exes who loathe each other but reunite to prevent the surprise wedding of their daughter (Caitlin Dever) to an kelp farmer (Maxim Bouthier) whom she met on travel time to Bali. When the girl’s divorced parents get together, their old spark is rekindled; by the end of the movie, they’ve gone from exes to kind of exes.
When I spoke with Roberts and Clooney in late August, there was no light coming through Roberts’ windows: It was only 6 a.m. in San Francisco, where Roberts and her husband, Danny Moder, live with their three teenage children. Roberts had asked to start earlier so she could see off the children, who were leaving for school after the interview, and noted that she was no stranger to getting up early: for a sunrise scene in A ticket to heavenhe was scheduled to be on set at 3 a.m., the earliest he’s ever been on set in his career.
“I had to go there at 1 in the morning,” Clooney joked, “because of the work they do on my face beforehand.”
“The whole containment and compaction thing,” Roberts said, letting out his famous laugh.
Below are edited excerpts from our conversation.
when they read A ticket to heavenDid they have each other in mind?
GEORGE CLOONEY They sent me the script and it was clearly written for Julia and me. In fact, the characters’ names were originally Georgia and Julian. I haven’t done a romantic comedy since A very special day  — I didn’t make it like Julia on that forum — but I read it and thought, “Well, if Jules is up to it, I think this might be fun.”
Julia Roberts It somehow only made sense with George, just because of our chemistry. We have a friendship that people know about and we will appear in the film as a divorced couple. Probably half of America thinks were divorced so we have that going for us.
CLOONEY We should be divorced because I’m already married so it would be really bad. Just say.
ROBERTS Also, George and I feel very happy in wanting to do comedy together to give people a vacation from life after the world has been through such a rough time. It’s like when you’re walking down the sidewalk and it’s cold and you get to this little area where the sun is out and it hits your back and you’re like, “Oh yeah. That’s exactly what I needed to feel.”
Is it true that the two have never met before? the big scam?
ROBERTS The most curious thing about meeting George was that we were already considered friends in the press. I had read about a party at George’s house and thought, “Well, I’ve got to meet this guy at some point because he seems to be having a great time.”
CLOONEY I’m funny!
ROBERTS There’s an alchemy between us that I think comes across from a distance.
CLOONEY I have always been drawn to Julia for many reasons. One of them is that she’s always been a real movie star, but she’s completely willing not to take herself too seriously, and that makes a big difference in life because we’ve spent a lot of time together. She is also a very talented actress. She works so hard, but you never see her break a sweat, and that’s the quality I value most in my favorite actors like Spencer Tracy.
Julia, you executive produced the movie with George and obviously have a lot of experience in romantic comedies. What perspective do you have as an expert in the genre?
ROBERTS It’s a genre I love to be in and watch, and I think it’s hard for them to do well. There is a lot of simple math, but how do you make it special? How do you keep people interested when you can predict what’s going to happen?
Did Hollywood have trouble answering these questions? There are far fewer romantic comedies than there used to be.and you said that A ticket to heaven It was the first scripted romantic comedy since then Notting Hill (1999) and My best friend’s wedding (1997) that really excited you.
ROBERTS I think we didn’t appreciate the huge amount of romantic comedies back then. You don’t see all the effort and puppetry because it’s funny and cute and people laugh and kiss and it’s catty. Also, I think it’s different reading these scripts at 54 years old. I can’t read a story like My best friend’s wedding when I fall out of my chair and all that stuff because…
CLOONEY You’ll break your hip.
ROBERTS I’d break my hip! Oh, George. But it was nice to read something that was age appropriate where the jokes made sense and I appreciated and understood what these people were going through. That’s what people want to see, your connection to the work. They want to see a place in your heart for that, not just, “Oh, do something funny because we love it.”
[“Disfruta el subidón de serotonina de Julia Roberts riendo y riendo (¡y riendo) cuando George Clooney la fastidia en mi entrevista”, escribe el autor de la nota en el tuit a continuación. Haz clic y escucha las carcajadas]
But fun is still important. There is a scene in A ticket to heaven in which his characters drunkenly dance to the song “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)”, embarrassing his daughter and her friends. Was it choreographed for maximum embarrassment or was it just improvisation?
ROBERTS People always want to choreograph it, but you can’t put steps on it. You have to open the box and let the magic fly.
CLOONEY I remember early in my career I had to do a kiss scene with a girl and the director said to me, “So No.” And I was like, “Man, that’s my move! That’s what I do in real life!” It was kind of the same here, because everyone had plans about how we should dance, and then we were like, “Well, we actually have some really bad dance moves in real life.” Julia and I have done all these moves before, that’s the coolest part.
ROBERTS Ooh, all over the world.
CLOONEY And Caitlin and Max were really horrified, weren’t they?
ROBERTS It was fun, they were speechless. If Danny and I did that in front of our kids, they’d be like, “Yeah, dig a hole for me, I’m out of here.”
George, I haven’t finished processing that anecdote about the director criticizing how you kiss. I don’t know how you got over it.
CLOONEY And we kissed in this one. But I don’t want to reveal the whole story.
It’s a romantic comedy. I think the audience expects a kiss.
ROBERTS A kiss. And we did it for about six months.
CLOONEY Yeah, I said to my wife, “We did 80 takes.” She said, “What the hell?”
ROBERTS It took 79 shots of us laughing and then one shot of us kissing.
CLOONEY Well, we had to do it right.
They shot the movie in Australia, right?
CLOONEY We started on Hamilton Island with all these wild birds and Julia had the house right next to me, Amal and the kids. I would go out in the morning and say, “Kaa-kaa,” and Julia would come out and say, “Kaa-kaa.” And then we would bring him a cup of coffee. I was Aunt Juju to my children.
ROBERTS The Clooneys saved me from complete loneliness and despair. We’ve been in a bubble and it’s the longest time I’ve been away from my family. I don’t think I’ve spent this much time alone since I was 25.
CLOONEY And besides, when Danny and the kids came to visit, they had to fly to Sydney and quarantine for two weeks by themselves before she could see them.
ROBERTS So close and yet so far. When we first came to Australia and we were all in quarantine, you go a bit crazy. I remember around 11 asking myself, “Who am I? Where I am? What is this room I never leave? This is a curious thing. I really didn’t foresee all of this.
CLOONEY That’s why they invented alcohol.
ROBERTS Or the chocolate chip cookies.
CLOONEY This too.
Julia, this is your first film role in four years. You said you consider yourself a stay-at-home mom, but your kids are now teenagers. Do you think your work-life balance will change as they grow older and away from home?
ROBERTS I take everything as it comes. I try to be super present and not plan and acting assignments don’t come to me. Getting back into my routine is going really well for me. And I like to be at home, I like to be a mother. Being in Australia was a real challenge because of all the rules around covid and I think it’s a real testament to the friendship and creative environment we were in that it wasn’t harder because I’m not cut out to be one person anymore.. I just not in my cellular data.
George, you also recently took a few years off from film acting. When you’ve had such a long time between roles, is there any anxiety when you’re about to start over?
CLOONEY If you don’t have that nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach every time you start work, you’re too confident for the job and it will show in your performance. The moment you think you have it or that you know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t keep doing it.
One of the colleagues of A ticket to heaven is Billie Lourd, daughter of the late Carrie Fisher. Her father, Brian Lourd, was your agent for a long time, George, so I guess you’ve known Billy since…
CLOONEY Since he was born.
Is it crazy to share scenes with an actress you’ve known since you were a baby?
ROBERTS The craziest thing is still to take up arms his baby on set. What would you say? Life goes on.
CLOONEY Yeah, it’s fun being 61, let me tell you. It’s coming fast, man.
Sixty-one years old, but still willing to make a scene shirtless… in front of an angry dolphin, no less.
ROBERTS And it looks great, thank you very much!
CLOONEY That was very quick, I assure you. The dolphin looked better.
Kyle Buchanan, a pop culture reporter based in Los Angeles, writes The Projectionist column. Previously, he was an editor at Vulture, New York Magazine’s entertainment website, where he covered the film industry. @kylebuchanan