Hollywood star George Clooney spoke Wednesday of his disillusionment with the US political scene ahead of the premiere of his dark political thriller "The Ides of March" at the Venice film festival, the world's oldest.
He told reporters ahead of a star-studded ceremony that filming was ready to begin in 2008 when Barack Obama won the US presidential election, but he was initially worried the climate of optimism was not right for his cynical tale.
"Everyone was in such a good mood! It only took about a year for that to all change," he said. "At the moment, cynicism seems to be winning over idealism."
Clooney, who plays a presidential candidate in the film, denied any political ambitions of his own and said he was happy "hanging around with seductive people."
The Serenissima's lagoon was buzzing with water taxis whisking stars and movie moguls to the Lido island ahead of the appearances from Clooney and co-stars Ryan Gosling, Evan Rachel Wood and Philip Seymour Hoffman this evening.
Clooney was visiting Venice with former supermodel Cindy Crawford and her husband.
The blue-eyed actor's fourth film as a director opens the competition - which will see 22 world premieres compete for the prestigious Golden Lion award - before the stars head to an exclusive party on the beach.
The thriller is about a US presidential campaign in which a loyal aide helping the Democratic governor win a primary in Ohio discovers just how dirty politics can be. It has received general acclaim from critics.
Based on Beau Willimon's play, "Farragut North," the film's screenplay, written by Clooney along with Grant Heslov and Willimon, showcases the director's reputation for astute political commentary with a dramatic twist.
The play, inspired by Willimon's experiences working on a presidential campaign trail in Iowa in 2004, was the "morality play" Clooney had been looking for, as he told journalists in Venice ahead of the film's premiere.
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The title, "The Ides of March," was chosen for its Shakespearean connotations and at the heart of the thriller, he said, lies the question: "What you are willing to pay for power... whether you're willing to trade your soul for it."
The film's cinematography plays on light and shadows, with stylistic nods to film noir and the western which echo the film's theatrical beginnings at times, to evoke the dark underworld of politics in a fictional, current-day America.
Clooney's slick lines as Governor Mike Morris - "integrity matters, our future depends on it" - inevitably draw comparisons with a United States currently weighed down by bitter political struggles between Republicans and Democrats.
The seasoned star will be hoping to bag his first Golden Lion as a director after winning best screenplay and best actor in Venice in 2005 for "Goodnight and Goodluck" but losing the Lion to Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain."
As Venice prepared for the big opening ceremony, luxury hotels buzzed with fans hopeful of catching a glimpse of a-listers from Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, to "The Godfather" great Al Pacino, and superstar Madonna.
The glamour at the opening ceremony is set to continue into Thursday with the world premieres of French-Polish director Roman Polanski's "Carnage" and Madonna's "W.E," which is screening out of competition.
Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet are expected on the red carpet for "Carnage," but Polanski will not be present. Wanted in the United States for alleged sexual assault back in 1977, he risks extradition should he travel to Italy.
Screaming fans will be out in force again on Thursday evening, however, for the premier of "W.E.", Madonna's film about King Edward VIII's romance with American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
"W.E.", starring British actors James D'Arcy and Andrea Riseborough, was two years in the making, and explores the controversial love story between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor through the eyes of a lonely modern-day New Yorker.
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