LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Twenty years after he left medical drama “ER”, George Clooney returns to television this month with an adaptation of Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22”, a novel whose complexity the actor said made it ideal for a six-part series.
The Oscar winner, known for films like “Syriana”, “Gravity” and “The Monuments Men”, also served as executive producer and directed two episodes of the Hulu series set during World War Two about a member of a U.S. bomber squadron fighting the higher-ups in the military bureaucracy.
“I thought it was a fun way to tell this story. It’s hard to tell this story as complex as it is in a two-hour movie,” Clooney said at the series premiere in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening.
“It’s never been about the medium although television and streaming has gotten much more interesting and more fun, it was more about telling the story. It’s about telling good stories.”
Heller’s 1961 novel, previously adapted into a 1970 movie, follows U.S. bombardier Yossarian who is infuriated that the army keeps raising the number of missions he must fly to be released from duty.
Yossarian’s only way to avoid the missions is to declare insanity, but the only way to prove insanity is a willingness to embark on more of the highly dangerous bombing runs, thus creating the novel’s absurd ‘Catch-22.’
“The Sinner” actor Christopher Abbott stars as Yossarian while “The Wolf of Wall Street” actor Kyle Chandler plays his commander, Colonel Cathcart. Clooney portrays training commander Scheisskopf.
“It’s a heightened piece, it’s satirical, it’s dramatic, it’s harrowing, it’s very funny,” Abbott said.
“It kind of lives in a world on its own but I think the themes are kind of universal because they’re really just about the human condition.”
At the premiere, Clooney also talked about his friend and former actress Meghan Markle, who married Britain’s Prince Harry last year and gave birth to their first child on Monday.
Clooney, who attended the couple’s wedding last year, has previously criticized the media for harassing Meghan and said the arrival of their son would lead to increased media scrutiny.
“I think it’ll intensify it, of course. But it’s never about the media following you around because…if you’re a royal, that’s part of what you have to do,” he said
“It’s the other versions of it: going to interview people’s parents, that kind of stuff that it starts to step into a really dark place…It just, sort of, the press turned on them and…I think people should be a little kinder. She’s a young woman who just had a baby.”
Reporting By Jane Ross; Editing by Angus MacSwan