Los Angeles — Looking good with his salt and pepper look, George Clooney talked to us recently about his newest passion, the TV series “Catch-22,” where he wears several hats as director, writer, actor, and producer.

And the most challenging of all, he confessed, was directing.

“Directing, obviously, is the most challenging because that is where you are doing all the storytelling,” he said. “And part of it was that we had to set the look from the very beginning and so we wanted it to look like how we saw World War II and how we remember World War II. So, we wanted it to be not so clean and crisp like you see it sometimes shown…”

Support for journalists

Married for almost five years to human rights lawyer-activist Amal Alamuddin and the father of twins Alexander and Ella, who will turn two years old on June 6, George just turned 58 years old last May 6 and revealed to us the best birthday present he ever got — the release of two jailed Reuters journalists.

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George Clooney (Photo courtesy of Janet Susan R. Nepales/HFPA)

The award-winning filmmaker revealed, “My wife worked every day for a year at 3 a.m. with this incredible Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler and a brilliant lawyer named Gail Gove to get these two men out and last night at my birthday dinner, the two of us, we got a call and we got the news that they were walking out. It was an exciting and emotional birthday present indeed.”

George also told us how proud Amal and he was of Rappler founder and editor Maria Ressa.

“We met Maria Ressa recently at the Trial Watch event at Columbia University 10 days ago,” he recalled. “She is a phenomenon and she is very brave. We met at an event with a lot of journalists who spent time in jail and there she was, she sat there on her way back (to the Philippines) knowing she is risking jail time or worse. She is exactly as she is — mankind at its best.”

He added, “Amal and I are definitely supporting her.”

George, who met Maria at the launch of Trial/Watch, a Clooney Foundation for Justice project, admitted that it is hard for him not to get involved in matters that he cares for. That is how he was raised, he said.

“You get involved with the things that matter to you and the things that matter to me, I get involved in,” he explained. “I would say that most of the time we fail. It’s a fair argument, and most of the time your engagement doesn’t move the ball very far. But, the version of it is to say then what, don’t be engaged, don’t try? Every once in a while, you get to move the ball a little bit. Sometimes for us, because I am not a government official, I can’t make policy. All I can do is shine a light on bad policy and then hope that it embarrasses people enough that they will do something about it.

“So who knows how much? I know that we are freezing out some financial institutions that have been funding some really bad characters. We are doing it from the banks to the justice department through all of that. So I know we are having some effect on that and how that plays out in the long run, that is yet to be seen, and often times when we do it, it doesn’t move the ball very much. But it’s certainly worth trying and every once in a while you wake up one day and you go okay, well that’s actually better now, their lives are better. I only know how to engage like that and I do it fully aware.

“I got an award from the Nobel Laureates and the Dalai Lamas there and all these wonderful Nobel Laureates are standing there and at one point I got up and said for the most part we fail. They all agreed. For the most part, it’s very hard to succeed, but it’s certainly worth the effort. And to not try to do that is, to me, a crime. It’s how I grew up.

“I think it’s a civic duty to be engaged in one way or another. But I grew up during the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement and the anti-Vietnam movement, so I always thought that was what you were supposed to do.”

‘Life before the babies’

When we reminded George that he will be celebrating his fifth wedding anniversary with Amal this coming September 27th, he chimed in, “What? They said it wouldn’t last (laughs).”

So how is it being married to one of the most powerful women and what surprised him about being married to her? How was life before babies?

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SCENE FROM ‘Catch-22’

“Well life before babies, I could do things (laughs),” he admitted. “Life after, for instance, like this morning, 2:30 in the morning, my daughter is sick and she woke up at 2:30 and then she woke up at 4:30 and so then we put her in our bed because she was so sick and she was crying. Then she took over the bed to the point where I literally laid on the foot and that didn’t work. You don’t want to wake her up now that she finally falls asleep, but I didn’t want her to fall off the bed, so I am running around finding pillows and putting them all around the bed like a bouncy castle, so if she falls off the bed. Then I had to go sleep on the couch in the nursery. That didn’t happen before I had kids (laughs).

“Although there was a lot of falling down anyway (laughs). But listen, I am the luckiest guy in the world. I feel like I, late in life, found somebody who I can’t imagine ever being more in love with and I can’t imagine someone who I’m more proud of. Again, last night, my birthday was one of the most spectacular birthdays ever, because it was the two of us having dinner and every single day for the last year, every day, Saturday, Sunday, it’s three in the morning, Amal and the Editor-in-Chief of Reuters, Stephen J. Adler and a brilliant lawyer named Gail Gove, worked tirelessly to get the two Reuters journalists out of prison. It was a long, behind the scenes hard work and last night, we were sitting there having dinner together and they were released and they walked out of prison. That is as good a birthday present as you could ever have. It was a beautiful moment and Amal was crying and I felt like I couldn’t be luckier than to be in her presence in general. I really feel that way.”

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