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Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Based on Chuck Barris's autobiography of the same name, George Clooney's directorial debut is about the TV legend who claims to have killed people for the CIA. Starring Sam Rockwell as Barris; also with Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts. (1 hr. 53 mins.; R) — BILGE EBIRI

Spotlight: George Clooney
In George Clooney's fourth professional incarnation—following TV heartthrob, Hollywood leading man, and indie-film producer—he becomes a director with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. "It's for self-preservation," he says of his shifting roles. "They're not going to let you in front of the camera that long." Truth is, after six years of false starts on this biopic of Chuck Barris—the Gong Show creator who claimed to have assassinated Communists for the CIA—Clooney decided to take matters into his own hands. "I was pissed off because the screenplay was so good," he says of Charlie (Adaptation) Kaufman's script. "I figured if I came on board to direct for scale and asked the actors to work for nothing, I could get this made." He also was on familiar game-show ground: "My dad hosted The Money Maze when I was a kid, so I knew how this world looked." Clooney recruited former co-workers, like Julia Roberts, and cast Sam Rockwell in his first starring role, as Barris. "I told Rockwell the hardest part of being a leading man was you have to be Dean Martin, not Jerry Lewis." Was the first-time director nervous? "Not really," he says. "I've picked things up being on set with Joel and Ethan Coen, and Steven Soderbergh. Trailers aren't fun for me. It's like going to New York and sitting in a hotel room all day."

Opens December 31
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