By EW Staff
August 12, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
Good Night. And, Good Luck: Melinda Sue Gordon

Under normal circumstances, making a politically charged black-and-white indie your sophomore feature helming effort wouldn’t seem that strange. It might go to Sundance. Earn quiet buzz. Maybe get some kind of limited release.

Nope, not unusual at all. Unless your name happens to be George Clooney. When searching for a follow-up to his 2002 directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, the Ocean’s Twelve star stumbled across a script that hit him where he lived. Having grown up as the child of broadcast journalist Nick Clooney — and having been taught by his dad that CBS’ Edward R. Murrow was a brilliant man and a great patriot — Clooney couldn’t resist directing (and appearing in) a movie that showed how his father’s hero stood up to Joseph McCarthy during the height of the Red Scare. ”I have a personal connection there,” he says warmly. So Clooney assembled a cast, led by David Strathairn as Murrow, and set to work shooting. There was just one problem: his health. ”I had been in the hospital for a month when we started,” says the director, who suffered spinal-cord damage after gaining over 30 pounds for his other fall movie, Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana. ”I think that if you ask most directors, they’d say their first film was much more difficult than their second. Not so for me.”

And as for the politics of Good Night, which its director says explicitly speaks to the current media climate? Clooney pauses, thinks for a moment, and then lets out a hearty chuckle. ”What can I say? I’m a big old liberal.”