George Clooney’s filmography will make any actor jealous. From the Ocean’s trilogy to Gravity and Up in the Air, the star has dabbled in commercial cinema as well as indie ones. But the one film which doesn’t get much appreciation from film fans is 2007’s, Michael Clayton. The film went on to gross $93 million on a $21 million budget and was nominated for 7 Academy Awards.
Helmed by Andor fame Tony Gilroy, the film gave Clooney his second Best Actor nomination. However, the actor wouldn’t have his name attached to the film or even have received the laurels he did if Denzel Washington had accepted the offer first. But the actor refused for a reason that’s understandable and yet perplexing.
Denzel Washington’s Insecurities Made Him Lose Out On A Hit Oscar-Nominated Film
George Clooney in Michael Clayton
Michael Clayton (2007) was a legal thriller starring George Clooney and Tilda Swinton in key roles. The film dealt with the titular lawyer played by Clooney who finds out that there is a corporate coverup of toxic chemicals. Initially, Denzel Washington was offered the role but he declined even though he loved the script and thought that it was of high caliber.
The Equalizer star rejected the film because he thought that first-time director Tony Gilroy wouldn’t be able to handle the subject material. However, later on, he realized how dead wrong he was about it all. In an interview with Yahoo, he said:
“With [Michael] Clayton, it was the best material I had read in a long time. I was nervous about a first-time director, and I was wrong. It happens.”
It’s certainly interesting to think how the film would have turned out with Washington in the lead. However, he wasn’t the only one who had doubts about Gilroy’s directing ability. Even Clooney wasn’t sure if the new director would be able to do justice to the script.
George Clooney Couldn’t Trust The Director Who Gave Him His Best Actor Nomination
In an interview with Time, George Clooney revealed that even though he loved the script of Michael Clayton, he wasn’t sure if the debutant director would be able to convey the complexities on screen through the camera. In fact, Steven Soderbergh had to intervene to get the actor on board the film. Ocean’s Eleven star said:
“Steven (Soderbergh) called me up and said you should do this script. I read it, and I thought yes, it’s a really good script but I was in the middle of doing Good Night and Good Luck so I wasn’t anxious to jump and do anything else. I’m very careful to work with first-time directors. I had worries. I thought this is a really tricky piece of material, really well written, but there were a lot of traps. It could end up being jokey, which it can’t be, if you’re not incredibly adept.”
However, a meeting with Tony Gilroy removed every doubt from Clooney’s mind about his ability to handle the complex script. He said:
“We finally met after I finished Good Night and Good Luck. I spent a seven or eight-hour lunch with Tony, who I had never met before. We hung out. By the end of it, on top of thinking he could handle it, you just liked him… Tony did a really good job as a filmmaker. That’s all that’s required.”
Additionally, the Ticket to Paradise actor said that over time he became protective of the director so that he could do things his way. Overall, Clooney must have been proud of the fact that he chose to do the movie.