Desperately seeking Clooney

Hollywood star leads reporters a merry dance in Valencia as he shoots new film

George Clooney (l) walks down the stairs of Valencia's Science Museum where his is shooting 'Tomorrowland.'
George Clooney (l) walks down the stairs of Valencia's Science Museum where his is shooting 'Tomorrowland.'JOSÉ JORDÁN

“Excuse me, you didn’t see George Clooney in the garage, did you?” asks one cameraman.

 “Um, no,” answers the driver of a car coming out of the luxury hotel in Valencia where the movie star was staying this week as he waited to start work on Disney science-fiction spectacular Tomorrowland.

The woman behind the wheel clearly wasn’t expecting the question, but gradually puts two and two together and, without losing the serious look on her face, deadpans: “He’s in my trunk.”

With that, she raises her window, gives a hint of a smile and heads off.

The Hollywood star shined with his absence in the coastal city this week, putting reporters on tenterhooks. One minute he was apparently coming out the hotel to lunch with co-star Hugh Laurie, the next he was heading out at 4pm to check the film’s set at the City of Arts and Sciences... But in the end, nothing.

Last Sunday people and journalists crowded at Valencia airport and at his hotel for his arrival, but in the end were only able to capture a few blurry images of the Gravity star. He went straight into the hotel via the parking garage, prompting the unusual level of interest in the comings and goings at its entrance.

You didn’t see George Clooney in the garage, did you?” “Yes, he’s in my trunk”

The secrecy surrounding this 180-million-euro megaproduction, directed by The Incredibles’ Brad Bird, fed the rumors. The makers even installed a huge lineup of barriers to cover up the futuristic set constructed at architect Santiago Calatrava’s massive City of Arts and Sciences complex from prying journalists and onlookers. Whoever pays, gives the orders. And the producers have rented the installations from Valencia’s regional government, which is delighted to receive some income and promotional kudos from a building which has caused many a headache.

The actor was finally spotted as he began work on set on Tuesday, though the barriers meant a long telephoto lens was required. Standing on an overhang, he looked serious, focused on his work. Accompanying him in the cast are House star Laurie, child actor Raffey Cassidy (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Britt Robertson (Dan in Real Life).

No statements about the shoot have been issued, though there have been a few Twitter comments. Laurie tweeted his admiration for the City of Arts and sciences — “If you have socks, prepare to shed them now. The thing is stunning” — though also noted: “Weirdly, for such a futurist building, it has the slowest lift I’ve ever been in. I shave between the 1st and 3rd floors.”

The set itself is spectacular. A space capsule rests on one of the overhangs. An enormous scaffold allows tracking shots to made 20 meters above the ground. If needed, the building’s mosaic façade, which had to be torn down after part of it came unstuck, can be fixed on computer. The plan is also to include the rotunda and the Valencia opera house in some shots. Around half an hour of the climax of the film will be shot on the Valencia set, say some sources. Most of the movie has already been shot in Vancouver and filming is scheduled to continue in Spain until Sunday with the 300 chosen extras warned they may be called at any time.

Little has emerged about the plot of Tomorrowland. Clooney plays “a former boy-genius inventor jaded by disillusionment,” according to the little information Disney has released about the project. His character is “bound by a shared destiny” to a “bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity.” Tomorrowland itself seems to be a kind of promised land, a future hope.

But, for some, it’s all beside the point. “I’d just be happy to see George Clooney,” says one young woman listening to the explanations of the plot while waiting to catch a glimpse of her idol.

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