In the new Netflix movie “The Midnight Sky,” George Clooney plays the lone scientist left on an Arctic observatory after an unnamed disaster makes Earth uninhabitable. To save humanity, he must make contact with a group of homeward-bound astronauts to tell them to seek refuge elsewhere in the solar system.
Clooney also directed “The Midnight Sky,” which he made with his longtime producing partner Grant Heslov. Their previous collaborations include “Good Night, and Good Luck,” and “The Ides of March.” They were also producers on “Argo,” which won the Best Picture Oscar in 2013.
For “The Midnight Sky,” Netflix approached Clooney and Heslov, and the duo felt like the project was a good fit for them. They shot the film, which includes surreal settings in the Arctic and in outer space, in 65 millimeter, with every intention for it to be seen on the big screen. They say Netflix originally planned to release “The Midnight Sky” on 600 screens before dropping it on the streaming service, though the pandemic had other plans. Despite the disappointment that people can’t see their film in theaters, Heslov and Clooney say that more people have watched “The Midnight Sky” than any of their previous films, based on Netflix viewing data.
Clooney and Heslov also reflected on larger changes across the industry that have been hastened by the pandemic, like shorter theatrical windows. WarnerMedia made the shocking decision to put all of its 2021 movies on HBO Max the same day they open in theaters, which was a huge surprise to the filmmakers who had movies on Warners’ upcoming slate.
Regarding that news, Clooney says, “Some of this is inevitable, whether it’s day and date or a much shorter window. I think Warner Brothers didn’t handle it well. You’ve got to call people and have a conversation with them.”
Still, he has hope that movie theaters will survive in the long run. “I do think that the cinemas are going to be fine. I really do believe in that. People still want to get out of the house,” Clooney says.
He acknowledges there have been a lot of changes at Warner Brothers, the studio he and Heslov called home for 20 years. Heslov points out that their office was in Jack Warner’s former private dining room. They were at the Warners’ lot to mix “The Midnight Sky,” and Clooney says, “It was very different to walk on there. Obviously it’s different now because of COVID … but there’s just so many people there that have left or are leaving, that I guess they [Warners] want to start new. But I always feel that’s a bit of a mistake.”
Kim Masters spoke to Heslov and Clooney the day after the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol, and the events of the last 24 hours were top of mind for both of them. Clooney says, "It's devastating to watch the people's House being desecrated in that way."
For Clooney, the attack also cements the Trump family’s legacy: "This puts Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. Ivanka, all of them, into the dustbin of history. That name will now forever be associated with insurrection."