George Clooney adapted the screenplay for The Ides Of March from the stage play Farragut North by Beau Willimon. That play was inspired by the presidential campaign of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean who famously ran for President in 2004 only to fall short in the Iowa Caucuses and have his enthusiasm (remember the Dean Scream?) doom his campaign. Willimon worked as an aide on Dean’s campaign.
The Ides of March has been in the planning stages for quite awhile. Beau Willimon conceived the idea for the play in 2007 with plans for the production to be on Broadway by November of 2008, to capitalize on the Presidential race. By that time, George Clooney and his team, including producer Grant Heslov, had already begun plans for the movie version.
In fact, a 2007 article at Ace Showbiz talks about Clooney readying the project with Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of the eager young aide (DiCaprio and his Appian Way productions remain credited on The Ides of March). With Barack Obama emerging as the Democratic candidate for President in 2008, Clooney decided to hold off on the cynicism of The Ides of March until after the campaign.
Just over 2 years later The Ides of March went into production with Clooney going behind the camera for the third time in his career, following his well reviewed work on Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and an Academy Award nomination for Good Night and Good Luck.
Ryan Gosling eventually replaced Dicaprio and took up the role of Stephen Myers, aide to George Clooney’s presidential candidate, Governor Mike Morris, who is described by the Los Angeles Times as the ‘dream’ liberal candidate. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Paul Zara, Stephen’s mentor and Morris’s campaign manager.
The setting of The Ides of March is the pivotal Ohio Democratic Presidential Primary. Governor Morris looks to be the favorite but Stephen endangers the campaign with his involvement with a 20 year old intern played by Evan Rachel Wood and a rival campaign manager played by Paul Giamatti.
The premiere of The Ides of March at the Venice Film Festival was met with mostly positive reviews. The Hollywood Reporter hailed the all star cast, which also includes Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright and Max Minghella, while Indiewire lauded Director of Photography Phedon Papamichael and his washed out Midwestern landscapes (the film was shot in Cincinnati and Detroit).
The Ides of March is expected to be one of the many big time players as the Hollywood Awards season dawns. Opening the Venice Film Festival, The Ides of March is in competition for the big prize at Venice opposite fellow Academy Award contenders A Dangerous Method, Roman Polanski’s Carnage and the spy remake Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
Regular audiences will get the chance to weigh the merits of The Ides of March when it opens in theaters across the U.S on Friday, October 14th.