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George Clooney's New Sci-Fi Film Is About 'Our Desperate Need' To Be With Loved Ones

George Clooney and Caoilinn Springall, right, in a scene from the sci-fi film Clooney directed, <em>The Midnight Sky.</em>
Philippe Antonello
George Clooney and Caoilinn Springall, right, in a scene from the sci-fi film Clooney directed, The Midnight Sky.

A global catastrophe has wiped out most of humanity. An astronomer living in an outpost inside the Arctic Circle is in a race against time to help the crew of a spacecraft returning from one of Jupiter's moons.

That's the premise of The Midnight Sky, the new science fiction movie starring George Clooney. It's based on the 2016 book Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Though the story is set in 2049, the themes are very 2020.

"I always thought it was a film, when we started, about what we were capable of doing to one another," Clooney, who also directed the movie, said in an interview with NPR's Weekend Edition.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

"I was in post-production and started to realize that, no, what the film is and what the story is, is our desperate need to be home or to be with the people we love and to be in contact with them. And sometimes we forget that, and all of a sudden, you take it away so you can't be in touch," said Clooney.

"I think we all are going through a lot of that. And you're at least reminded of how lucky you are to have somebody in your life that you love that much."

The following excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

On The Midnight Sky's theme of regret and how it relates to the pandemic

Well, I will say this: I'm not filled with regret. Not that I don't have the capacity for self-reflection. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I don't think anybody who knows me would think that I didn't get a lot out of life, you know, and try to add something to the conversation.

Having said that, I was, I think, probably doing what everyone was doing at the time [the pandemic began]. First, I couldn't believe it — I couldn't believe we were in the position we were in. And then I was worried, you know, I've got ... a son who has asthma and you start to worry about just basic, "How are we going to do these things?"

On his two young children and the legacy he hopes to impart to them

Here's the thing I want them to understand: the North Star for me, my parents drilled into my head from the time I was not much older than them, was if you only in your lifetime challenge people with power and defend people with less power, if you only do that in your life you will be a success. ... If my kids have that in them, sort of burned into them, I think they're going to be fine.

On the 1,000-page book that his wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, recently co-wrote

Well, it was funny. So she was in the office upstairs doing her live book launch from ... [a] Zoom meeting. And I'm in the office next door doing Howard Stern's show at the same time. And so I can hear all these brilliant barristers and world leaders on Amal's Zoom talking about how brilliant this book is and how it's the game changer and the book that all of these people have been needing.

And then I've got Howard Stern and ... he's going, "So did you really crap in a cat box?"

On whether criticism he receives for being outspoken about certain causes makes him reconsider his approach

No. ... Here's the thing: Can you imagine how ashamed I would be to look at my son and daughter in 20 years and they come up to me and say, "Was there really a moment in time when we had a policy that said, 'We're going to disenfranchise and [for] people seeking asylum, make them not want to come here by taking their children away and putting them in cages?' "

And I would say, "Yes." And they said, "And what did you say about it? What did you do about it?" And I would say, "Nothing." I would be ashamed.

On how he's been getting through quarantine

We do Zoom dinners. We did one with Norman Lear and we did one with the Obamas. ... But my good pals, my best friends, all of us are on the same, on one message. In a strange way, we've spent more time talking to one another than we have in a long time. ... And we've honestly needed it.

We're all sort of in post-traumatic stress in a way. We're all locked in, you know. People are dealing with having to teach their kids from home. ... They're dealing with the fear of dying, they're dealing with the fear of losing their job. I mean, suddenly, everything is put in play that wasn't before. And so this is going to be a while. And you really need to have the people you were closest to as close as they can be.

Sophia Alvarez Boyd and Melissa Gray produced and edited the audio interview.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.