Oscar Directors: Gilroy, Tony

It took six or seven years for Tony Gilroy to put into production “Michael Clayton,” a project he had pitched to Castle Rock as his directorial debut and eventually got made with money from indie mogul Steve Samuels.

“Michael Clayton” has been nominated for seven Oscars, including Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, and Supporting Actress.

Tony Gilroy's work on the Jason Bourne franchise for Universal delayed getting the “Michael Clayton” script into Castle Rock by two years, at which time the company was no longer a studio.

Gilroy ultimately got it back in “the most benevolent turnaround” and then “wandered around” with it, while trying to get George Clooney to consider the lead role.

But even with help from director-allies such as Steven Soderbergh and Sydney Pollack, he couldn't get Clooney to commit. It wasn't until Gilroy switched agencies, to CAA, that he found a backer in Samuels, who fully financed the $21 million production. He also landed a meeting with Clooney.

After a lengthy meetingete, during which the duo reportedly talked about their mutual passion for 1970s paranoid thrillers, Clooney finally committed to play the title role.

After that, life got simple, Gilroy said.
Clooney's involvement led to a Warner domestic pickup as well as presales to foreign territories, brokered by Patrick Wachsberger's Summit.

Gilroy and his producers, who included Jennifer Fox, Kerry Orent, Soderbergh, and Pollack, preparation for a N.Y. production began with 70 location shots in and around the city. “We knew we could shoot in New York and had just enough money to make the movie and not get into trouble,” Gilroy recalled.

After six years, “Clayton” took on a different shape and feel: “The temptation in the beginning would have been to show off, but by the time I was making this film, the urge was to do anything but show off. I had pretty much landed on the temperature of the film and had no sentimentality about it. The mantra by that point was: Beautiful but not pretty at all. Electric but very still. Those contradictions were the sort of DNA that I wanted to follow.”

Gilroy enjoyed creative control: “No one was going to pay attention to what we were doing. We had no supervision whatsoever. And between George, Sydney and Soderbergh, they allowed him the luxury to have final cut.