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About The Film
"I would call this movie a political thriller. I wouldn't think of it necessarily as a political movie,” says George Clooney, who directs, produces, co-writes, and stars in The Ides of March. As it focuses more on process than platform, Clooney says that the story will appeal to members of both parties. "I suppose if you're a Democrat you'll like the beginning of the movie best, and if you're a Republican you'll like the end best. It walks that line of picking on everybody. If it is a political movie, it's a political movie without pressing a specific agenda, and that was what was important to us.” In that way, politics serves as a backdrop to the character arc and changes in motivation experienced by the main character, an idealistic staffer Stephen Meyers (played by Ryan Gosling).

In The Ides of March, Meyers finds his idealism and belief in his man taking a back seat to backroom political dealing and manipulative power plays. The origins of the film trace back to the summer of 2004. It was then that Beau Willimon – a young writer who had recently finished working on the staff of presidential hopeful Howard Dean's campaign in Iowa – wrote the first draft of his play "Farragut North.” Willimon drew from his own experiences to weave this tale of political intrigue and betrayal behind the scenes of a presidential campaign.

"I had worked on a number of political campaigns, and the play stemmed out of all of my experiences working in the political world,” says Willimon. "The characters are fictional amalgamations of the hundreds of people that I ran across during those experiences. But everything that is mentioned in the play – and to a certain extent reflected in the movie – in terms of breaking laws, manipulating the democratic process, the backroom dealing, the power plays – all that's true. It's scary how much politicians will manipulate the process to get that brass ring of the highest office in the land. Playing by the rules of the game is not what gets you elected president.”

The play premiered at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York City in 2008, then moved to L.A.'s Geffen Playhouse in 2009. Eventually, it fell into the hands of an employee at Smokehouse Pictures, George Clooney and Grant Heslov's production company. Longtime friends Clooney and Heslov had previously collaborated on the multiple Oscar® nominee Good Night, and Good Luck, as well as Leatherheads, The Men Who Stare at Goats, and The American.

Translating the play from stage to screen involved a number of changes – not least of which is that Governor Morris, the candidate, becomes a character; he never appeared in the play. "The candidate did not exist in the play – he never speaks,” says Clooney. "In order to set up a good piece of storytelling, we devised a character – a candidate that Stephen believes in, who everyone believes in – so we could blow him out of the water. In the beginning he looks innocent, honorable – until you find out he's the least honorable of them all.”

The filmmakers also changed the title, which Clooney explains: "‘Farragut North' is a terrific title for the play, but it seemed a little too specific for the movie. We placed the primary on the 15th of March, and there are some Shakespearean themes to the movie.”

With the script ready, Clooney and Heslov originally planned to shoot the movie in 2008. Then – appropriately enough – politics came into play. "We'd been working for about a year and a half on the screenplay in 2008,” explains Clooney. "Then Obama was elected and there was such hope, everyone was so happy. It didn't seem like the time was right to make the movie – people were too optimistic for such a cynical film! About a year later, everybody got cynical again, and then we thought we could make this film.”

"This was a great piece of material,” says producer Brian Oliver of Cross Creek Pictures. "It had great dialogue and great thriller moments. It's a play on morality and what people will do or have to do to get what they want – and at what cost.

"We really respect George and Grant and the actors,” he continues. "George obviously knows the world of politics. He's proven that he's a phenomenal director and writer. And taking a world that he knows better than most and setting a thriller in that world is a very good fit.”

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