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Steve Bannon has called himself a “street fighter,” but George Clooney has another way to describe the controversial former advisor to President Donald Trump: a “failed f—ing screenwriter.”
Speaking to journalists at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday to promote his new film, the racially-charged Suburbicon, Clooney unloaded on Bannon, who will appear on Sunday’s 60 Minutes for his first televised interview since leaving the White House last month.
“I like picking fights. I like that Breitbart News wants to have my head. I’d be ashamed 10 years from now if those weaselly little putzes, whose voices are getting a lot higher every week as this presidency starts to look worse and worse weren’t still [after me],” Clooney said. “Steve Bannon is a failed f—ing screenwriter, and if you’ve ever read [his] screenplay, it’s unbelievable. Now, if he’d somehow managed miraculously to get that thing produced, he’d still be in Hollywood, still making movies and licking my ass to get me to do one of his stupid-ass screenplays.”
Before he became a prominent right-wing media baron and member of Trump’s inner circle, Bannon worked in Hollywood as a producer and financier (he famously made some money off the Seinfeld syndication deal). He also dabbled in screenwriting, having co-written a hip-hop musical based on Shakespeare’s Coriolanus that takes place during the 1992 L.A. riots. (Clooney has mocked Bannon for his Hollywood background in the past as well.)
“Hollywood is being quite well represented right now in the West Wing somehow,” Clooney added, citing Trump’s annual pay to the Screen Actors Guild and star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (as well as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s film production credits). “You know, they say I’m out of touch. You want to call me a Hollywood liberal? Come at me. I sold ladies shoes, I sold insurance door to door, I worked at an all-night liquor store, I cut tobacco for a living. I can change the fan belt on my car. I grew up in that world in Kentucky. I know every bit of that world, and I know my friends and what they believe. And I know this is not a moment in our history that we’ll look back and be proud of. So if I’m not standing on the side I believe to be right, I’d be ashamed.”
In the wake of Trump’s rise, Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, and even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (who jokingly announced presidential aspirations on Saturday Night Live earlier this year) have been bandied about as possible contenders for the land’s highest office. But even as some Americans apparently become comfortable with the growing connection between Hollywood and the White House, Clooney has no intentions to run.
“The reality is there are many more people who are much better qualified than me,” he said. “I think the reason people talk about is that our bench [in the Democratic party] doesn’t seem very good right now, it doesn’t seem very exciting. By this time eight years ago we had already heard Obama give a speech at the convention and there was something going on. But right now nobody really sees anybody out there, so that’s when the Rock or whoever comes into play. For me, I will support whomever I can by doing fundraisers or whatever and helping in ways I’m probably better at than in making policies… I say just try to find a candidate that excites you, and it shouldn’t be me.”
—Reporting by Leah Greenblatt