The Oscar winner blazes a new (campaign) trail in his latest film

By Josh Rottenberg
Updated August 12, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

George Clooney has done the blockbuster thing, but wearing a superhero suit and dodging explosions isn’t where his head’s at now. In 2009, Clooney moved his production company, Smokehouse Pictures, from Warner Bros. to Sony to make smaller, more challenging fare, and his first directorial effort as part of the partnership — the provocative political drama The Ides of March — is out Oct. 7. ”We said, ‘Let us try to do some interesting stuff, and if we lose you money, dump us,”’ Clooney explains. Before taking on Ides, the actor says he and producing partner Grant Heslov were developing another project that would push even more hot buttons: ”It’s about a televangelist who becomes a Republican nominee and then starts falling out of grace with the Republicans by saying [things like] ‘Jesus wouldn’t carry a gun’ and ‘I’m pro-life, meaning I’m against the death penalty.”’ So if you see Clooney running from any exploding fireballs in the future, they might be political ones of his own making.