George Clooney on how COVID-19 ‘changed a lot of the tone’ of ‘The Midnight Sky’ and how he discovered newcomer Caoilinn Springall [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

George Clooney’s “The Midnight Sky” also stars Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler and Demián Bichir, but Clooney’s right-hand man in the film is a little girl, newcomer Caoilinn Springall. The Netflix drama, which premieres Wednesday, marks the feature film debut of the 8-year-old, who was the last person to audition among “hundreds” of girls, Clooney tells Gold Derby in a joint interview with Springall (watch above).

“She walked in and it felt immediately like Caoilinn was the right one,” the two-time Oscar winner shares. “There are things that are tricky to do as an actor — not just young actors, any actor — which is it’s hard to be afraid, to be scared. So we did some improvising and stuff like that, and Caoilinn did a great job. And I called her up and asked her if she wanted to do it.”

“I remember when George was holding the camera and just went, ‘Act scared! Act scared! Act scared!’ and shoved me behind the camera,” Springall recalls.

“I do that with every actor, by the way,” Clooney quips.

SEE How production designer Jim Bissell created a ‘relatable future’ in ‘The Midnight Sky’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Directed and produced by Clooney, “The Midnight Sky” is based on Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel “Good Morning, Midnight.” Set in 2049, it opens with Earth having been devastated by an unnamed “event” three weeks prior. Clooney plays Augustine Lofthouse, a lonesome scientist who opts to remain in the Arctic to try to alert a spaceship (Jones, Oyelowo, Chandler, Bichir and Tiffany Boone play the astronauts), which is returning home from a two-year mission, about the uninhabitable planet. Springall plays Iris, a mute stowaway who accompanies Augustine as they trek through unrelenting snowstorms to get to another workstation to make contact.

Production wrapped in February, and Clooney was in the early stages of post-production when COVID-19 hit the U.S. and “changed everything” in the edit. With every passing day, the film’s themes of isolation and connection became more resonant, as did its implication that the unspecified catastrophe was caused by man.

“We suddenly ended up taking lines out because it became clearer and clearer that what started as a sort of meditation on the things that we were capable of doing to each other and the things that we should be fixing — suddenly it became a meditation on our inability to communicate and our inability to be home and be with the people we love,” he explains. “That sort of changed a lot of the tone, certainly with Alexandre Desplat in the score, it changed. But that’s sort of the way films work. They take a life of their own as you move forward.”

One thing that never changed, though, was the ending, which offers a speck of hope in a dystopian future. ”From the very beginning, the fact that there is some redemption was always part of the film,” Clooney says. “I thought that was really important because without the last five minutes of the film, it really is pretty bleak. But that’s the journey. I don’t think I would’ve wanted to do it if it didn’t have a hopeful ending.”

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