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THE IDES OF MARCH

Casting The Film
With the Smokehouse team at the helm, casting the film turned out to be relatively easy. "George and Grant have these relationships – people just want to work with them,” says Brian Oliver. "We never would get a cast like we have without having George Clooney as the director. As a producer, it's kind of a dream job when George Clooney is directing. George and Grant decide which actors they want in the roles, and then they go get them all. There was no one who they thought they could get to do it that didn't do it.”

"All the reactions from all the actors meant something to us,” says Clooney. "It meant that they all believed in the screenplay. This was our baby that we'd been working on – the quality of the cast alone put a great deal of responsibility on Grant and me to make sure we made a good film.”

Academy Award® nominee Ryan Gosling was cast as Stephen Meyers, press secretary for Governor Morris. Gosling, an Academy Award® nominee for his performance in Half Nelson, says he was attracted to the role not only by the strong character arc and story, but by the chance to work with George Clooney. "Our characters are all here because we believe in Morris, and we believe in his campaign,” he says. "I think that all of us as actors are here because we believe in George, and we believe in his campaign, which is this film.”

Clooney fully understood the responsibility on Gosling's shoulders in undertaking this demanding role, which is vital to the success of the film. "The movie is about Ryan Gosling's character. He starts the movie, he ends the movie, he's in every scene,” says Clooney. "At the beginning, he's smart, the best at what he does, on top of the game, the one everybody wants. By the end of the film, the rug gets pulled out, and he's even better at his job than he was before – and all it costs him is his soul.

"It's an acting challenge,” he continues. "Ryan is a really wonderful actor and he's perfect for the part.”

Gosling explains that he was attracted to this "political film that's not political in its message. You don't really have to know or understand much about politics in order to follow the characters and be invested in the story. But it does offer a window into the sort of behind the scenes that you never really get to see.”

Gosling admits that Stephen has played some dirty pool in his past, but working for Morris is a whole new ball game. "He has stars in his eyes for Governor Morris, because Morris is a sort of purist in the political world,” says the actor. "As a candidate, he's not really interested in playing dirty politics, and he doesn't try and slander the name of his opponent.”

Gosling believes Stephen's motives – if not his means – are pure as well. "My character really wants to effect change in the country and in the world, and he believes that his candidate can do that,” he explains. "But if his candidate isn't going to win then he's not going to be able to be effective.”

By the end of the film, "Stephen makes internal compromises that sort of create an environment internally that his soul can't exist in,” says Gosling. "He's not really recognizable by the end of the film.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman signed on for the role of Morris campaign manager Paul Zara. He was impressed by the script, which he calls a good study of human behavior not only under the pressure of politics and the political machine, but of living in America.

"I don't think Paul's really a bad guy,” explains Hoffman of his character. "I think Paul turns into a bad guy if you wrong him in a certain way. Loyalty is Paul's big thing. That's the only way to survive in that business, is that you have people you're loyal to, and you stay loyal to them. Paul relies on it.”

In many ways, adds the actor, Paul is "kind of the guy that gets screwed.”

The biggest challenge for Hoffman in portraying the campaign manager was filling the shoes of someone whose job "I would never want to do in a million years,” he says. "Being in the public eye and overseeing a presidential campaign – something so big and vast – it takes a certain kind of mind, a certain kind of confidence. I like to stand in the back a little bit.”

Paul Giamatti was cast as Tom Duffy, manager of the rival Pullman campaign. "I thought the script was incredibly well written. The rhythms are really specific, and the language. You could tell it would be something fun to do,” he says. "It's the kind of project where you just try to stay out of the way of the script. Every part in it is great.”

As for the role of Duffy, "It's a great part. I loved the role,” he says. "Duffy is in a funny way completely open about the fact that he's a Machiavellian duplicitous bastard. He doesn't really pretend to be anything other than that.”

Although Giamatti worked only five days on the shoot, "Part of the pleasure of the script,” he explains, "is that there are lots of colors within the few scenes that Duffy has. When he's there, it's very strong and vivid. I had wonderful stuff to do.”

In the actor's view, Duffy's underhanded tactics just come with the political territory. "There's no one in this movie who is particularly clean,” he explains. "I think all these guys are super smart, and they're very charming and charismatic. They have to be really good at manipulating people.”

The climate of the hotly contested Ohio primary raises the stakes – and fuels the gamesmanship – even more. "It's getting to a point where Duffy, Paul, and Stephen have to play particularly dirty and ugly with each other, because the race is close. It's heated up,” says Giamatti, "and it's harsh.”

"It's a chess game,” echoes Philip Seymour Hoffman. "You try to read what the other player's trying to do, and you try to counter that, or subvert that.”

Marisa Tomei plays Ida Horowicz, a feisty reporter for The New York Times who is covering the primaries. The Oscar®-winning actress instantly responded to the script.

"I thought it was extremely tight and lean. A lot of layers and character development, combined with intrigue and a plot that was moving forward quickly,” she says. "It's very clean in its use of language, and it has a very distinct rhythm. You had to be really on point with the ideas and your articulation, because the ideas in the script are so complex and layered.”

Describing her character, Tomei explains, "She's friends with all the guys who are on the trail. There is a level of intimacy that comes with being on the road together and having dinner every night together. But at the same time, everyone's got their own job to do, so they've got their own territory to stake out and watch over.”

While playing the role, Tomei discovered that the world of campaign journalism can be just as cutthroat as the campaigns themselves. "Ida's mission is to deliver the facts to the public and to beat everyone else to the punch,” she says. "It's a lot of trading off of information. She's always looking for her opportunity to get more information and get the scoop faster and cleaner than the next guy. It's like a chess game.”

Having grown up in Washington with an interest in politics, Jeffrey Wright – who was cast in the role of Senator Thompson – was particularly intrigued by the story. "It's about power and the machinations that level of power provokes in folks,” he says. "Washington is a fairly ruthless place, and the stakes are very high for these characters.

"Senator Thompson has a fair amoun

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