George Clooney used Northern Kentucky childhood as inspiration for dark comedy about racism

Posted at 7:11 PM, Sep 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-13 18:49:09-04

George Clooney drew inspiration from his childhood in Lexington, Kentucky, as he shot "Suburbicon," a Coen brothers-penned dark comedy about the explosion of prejudice and violence that follows a black family moving into a predominantly white community during the '50s.

"I grew up in Kentucky during the civil rights movement," Clooney said in a Q&A after the film's Toronto International Film Festival premiere. "We really thought we were moving in the right trajectory, we thought that we got rid of segregation, we thought we were going to head this whole thing off at the pass and finally get rid of it. We saw it and we never really completed it."

That unfulfilled promise preoccupied Clooney during the 2016 presidential election season, during which he endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and worried about what he perceived as then-candidate Donald Trump's "scapegoating Mexicans and Muslims," he told Variety

"Suburbicon" was born partially out of that concern, although viewers in 2017 might draw closer comparisons between the film's plot and the white supremacist rally that claimed a counterprotester's life in Charlottesville. Then, like in the film, white supremacists wielded torches and Confederate flags in an attempt to terrify non-white residents and protesters into submission. 

And then, like in the film, Clooney said, the torch-wielding mob was ultimately comprised of small, angry people resisting the onrushing tide of history.

Clooney was inspired by his Greater Cincinnati childhood here, too -- and although that might not sound like a compliment to the city, Clooney said it was. He recalled a moment when his father, former WCPO anchor Nick Clooney, covered a small gathering of white supremacists in Fountain Square.

"He takes the camera and goes to the top of Carew Tower, which was the tallest building in Cincinnati, and he shoots down on these six little idiots with probably a thousand people around yelling at them," he said. "Because he wanted to put in perspective how much they really represented the city of 400,000 and our country. They don't represent us. They don't represent who we are."

"Suburbicon" will appear in theaters Oct. 27.