By Iain Blair
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sex, interns, politics and backstabbing are the highly combustible elements that form the backdrop for "The Ides of March," the new political drama co-written and directed by George Clooney which opens in theaters on Friday.
Clooney also portrays an ethically-challenged governor running for president in the tale about an idealistic press spokesman (Ryan Gosling) whose clandestine affair with a sexy young intern (Evan Rachel Wood) compromises the campaign.
"Ides of March" wowed critics and fans at festivals in September, and even though Clooney tops marquees and Gosling is the key character, the plot truly revolves around the intern Molly, portrayed by Wood.
The actress, 24, who has starred in films such as "The Wrestler" and on TV's "True Blood," spoke with Reuters about "Ides" and working Clooney and Gosling.
Q: Molly's father is a big political figure and she's this very complicated mix of maturity and naivete, isn't she?
A: "Exactly, and one of my favorite characters ever. She's grown up in this political world around men, so she's not intimidated by any of them, and she throws them all off their game. She's very cool, collected and witty, but underneath she's still young, barely 20, and gets in way over her head.
Q: How much of you is in her?
A: "A lot. We're very similar. I grew up in a very male-dominated world too. I always feel like one of the guys and very un-intimidated too."
Q: She's really the pivotal character. Did you feel a lot of pressure to perform well?
A: "George and I discussed her a lot, and we wanted to show that she was in control of all her decisions. She wasn't manipulated, and I think she's one of the only honest characters in the whole movie. Everyone else is basically a liar, or out for themselves, and she's the one who ends up getting punished for her honesty. It's very sad."
Q: How much research into the whole backroom political machinery did you do?
A: "George gave us all these great documentaries to watch -- 'The War Room' about Bill Clinton's campaign, and others about what the interns and press and candidates go through, and it was fascinating. I'd never seen that side of it before."
Q: Any surprises working with George?
A: "It was my first time, and he's just what you'd expect -- or better, really. He's very easy going, easy to work with, and all about making a great film but also making it a great experience. He really takes care of everyone."
Q: Ryan Gosling seems perfectly cast as the spokesman.
A: "You couldn't ask for a better leading man. We hung out a lot in rehearsals and laughed a lot, so by the time we began shooting it we knew each other quite well. Playing opposite him is like playing a great tennis player. He's got great rhythm."
Q: "Ides" paints a pretty unflattering picture of what really goes on behind the scenes. Did you come away feeling cynical about the whole political process?
A: "Unfortunately I was already pretty cynical (laughs). We tried to make a political film and shady dealings go on in every type of business. The big question we dealt with here is, when you find yourself in a moral dilemma, do you compromise your integrity and everything you believe in just to win, and for the 'greater good'?"
Q: You come from an acting family and have been in the business since you were five. Was there ever a time when you felt, 'What I really want to do is be a truck driver,' or did acting feel almost predestined?
A: (Laughs) "It kind of felt predestined and it's something I've always done. I don't remember a time when I wasn't acting. I have taken time off to figure out if it's what I really want to do, and it is. The only other job I'd want is to be a psychologist, as I spend most of my time analyzing people and emotions. They're kind of similar professions in that regard, but acting's more fun."
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)