Cardiff writer reveals what got Clooney interested in film
HIS book may have just been made into a multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster starring George Clooney and Ewan McGregor, but best-selling Cardiff author Jon Ronson says he owes it all to his wife.
The former Cardiff High School pupil admitted that he thinks the reason his 2004 hit book The Men Who Stare At Goats ever got the Tinseltown treatment was because his other half Elaine came up with such an odd title.
“That was the first thing that got the movie people interested,” said the 42-year-old writer and presenter, the name having come from a series of psychic military experiments in the book whereby soldiers attempt, among other things, to kill animals with just the power of thought.
“I’ve always been absolutely rubbish at coming up with things like that and don’t think I’ve managed a good title in my life.
“Paul Lister, the film’s producer, recently said in an interview that it was the goats reference that first hooked him.”
Ronson admitted it had been a long haul getting his 2004 blackly-comic and – frighteningly – fact-based tale about paranormal Cold War shenanigans onto celluloid.
“I remember getting a phone call at the beginning telling me that Clooney wanted to do it but wasn’t going to do it,” sighed Jon.
“So in the space of one phone call I went from an excited “Ooh!” to a disappointed “Aww!
“Then, after about four years his name came up again but it didn’t have the same rush of excitement this time. People kept telling me: ‘This could fall down at any minute, don’t count your chickens’.
“I was still being told it when George Clooney was on the plane to Puerto Rico to begin filming.”
Ronson confessed to being in “a permanent state of anxiety and paranoia” until High Fidelity author Nick Hornby, a seasoned veteran of the page to screen transformation process, gave him some advice.
“Nick was brilliant and told me to relax and not interfere from the off,” he added. “‘They know how to make films Jon, and we don’t’ – that’s what he said.”
But any nerves that night have existed were vanquished when Jon was invited to attend a private screening of the finished work with Kevin Spacey and his entourage.
“About a minute in there’s a bit where a hamster gets stared to death, which was such a funny, silly scene that my wife let out this huge laugh and Elaine’s not much of a laugher generally,” said Ronson. “From then on, I wasn’t worried anymore.”
But, even after rubbing shoulders with major stars like Clooney and Spacey at the film’s recent premiere at the London Film Festival, Ronson wasn’t letting it go to his head.
“There is something oddly sobering about walking up a red carpet surrounded by thousands of people,” he laughed, “only to realise not one is screaming for you.”