George Clooney is one of the most successful actors in Hollywood, so he knows a thing or two about preparation for a role. He’s not afraid to do his research and has used people in his life as inspiration.
In fact, Clooney relied on his uncle’s accent to guide him in his O Brother, Where Art Thou role.
George Clooney borrowed his uncle’s accent for a role
Clooney’s performance in O Brother, Where Art Thou? Is one of his better ones. He plays an escaped convict who searches for treasure with his two comrades. The role itself required a thick Southern accent, which Clooney didn’t naturally grow up with despite being born in Kentucky.
In order to master the accent, Clooney relied on his Uncle Jack, he recently told Howard Stern.
“I did it with my—when I did O Brother, Where Art Thou, Joel and Ethan [Coen] called me up and said, ‘He’s kind of a hick,’ and I go, well, ‘I’m from Kentucky man.’ He says, ‘Well, we really want him to sound like a hick.’ And I go, ‘Ok.’”
George Clooney made his Southern uncle read the screenplay into a tape recorder
After Clooney signed on for the role, he decided to reach out to his uncle for some guidance on developing his Southern accent.
“So I took the script and I sent a tape recorder to my Uncle Jack in Kentucky,” Clooney said. “He lives in Harrisburg Kentucky, and I said to him, I said, ‘Read the whole script into this tape recorder. And I’ll get you a dialect coach, get you some money and a credit in the film.”
After he got the tape back, he studied his uncle’s speaking mannerisms and worked on mirroring them.
“And I get the tape back, and I play it and I hear, ‘George I don’t think folks around here talk quite like this here, but we’ll give her a go,’” Clooney said, imitating his uncle’s Southern accent. “And I’m like, ‘There we go.’”
George Clooney’s uncle rewrote the Coen brothers’ script
Although Clooney had mastered the accent, there was a small problem. For some reason, he would never say any of the curse words that were in the script.
“The funniest part was, Joel and Ethan, the way they write, you don’t really improvise their stuff cause it’s so well written. You don’t mess with it, right?” Clooney said. “And I was doing a scene and Joel comes over because I’m talking to like, Delmar, ‘Delmar, where in the heck are ya, where in the dang deal are you?’ And they came over and said, ‘I got a question for you, man. Why is it that you say every word exactly as we’ve written it, except hell or damn?’”
Confused, Clooney realized that his uncle had changed the script when he’d sent his recording.
“I was like, ‘What?’ Clooney said. “‘You don’t say hell or damn.’ I go, ‘I don’t?’ They go, ‘No.’ And I went back, I listened to the tape, and when [Uncle Jack] says, ‘I don’t think people talk like this around here, he meant they don’t curse. … He rewrote the Coen brothers, he got the writing credit.”
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