George Clooney is a kidder. As he took his chair at a Toronto press conference for the new film Michael Clayton,' he kidded about being addressed as "Sir George" when he was introduced. He wisecracked about Brad Pitt being short and how he'd like to beat up Matt Damon.

In fact, when asked if any movies ever made him cry he volleyed this zinger into the crowd. "The premiere of 'Batman & Robin.' That made me cry a lot and a couple of moments in 'The Peacemaker.' The beginning and the end."

Yet "Michael Clayton" is one film this box office A-lister is happy to have been involved with and that's no joke.

"The truth is it's really hard to find a good script in Hollywood. You would think it would be easy, but it's not," said Clooney with co-stars Tilda Swinton and director Tony Gilroy by his side.

With a "well-crafted" script and the chance to play a role he had not yet tackled, Clooney signed on to star in and executive produce this compelling new thriller.

Fixing the blame

Starring a corporate "fixer" in a prestigious New York law firm, Clooney's Clayton is a ghost of the brilliant figure he probably once was years ago.

With mounting debts and a troubled marriage to burden him, Clayton remains under the thumb of his sleazy boss, tackling the assignments that no reputable lawyer would ever dream of touching.

Ultimately his questionable double-dealings put the hardened corporate troubleshooter in the middle of the fight of his life.

"It's a thriller, but it's not so much who did it by why they did it," says director Gilroy. "I don't think of this as a political film. The issues are really about moral choices that the characters are making."

There's plenty of evidence in the news to show that companies "have done some pretty shady things" says Clooney. As co-star Swinton puts it, "I think this is a film about human beings perpetrating inhuman acts. I had no idea that this world existed. I've never been sued so I don't know."

"You've never been sued?" Clooney beams before the crowds. "Really? Enjoy."

Good insurance

As executive producer on the film, director Gilroy called Clooney's involvement "good insurance" towards getting this film off the ground.

"Yes, that's me. An insurance policy. Term life," Clooney quipped. Yet Clooney isn't one to back down from getting a good move made, no matter what odds are stacked against it.

"In the last eight films I've done I've been paid for two. You do them because you want to get them made," the actor says.

The financial loss isn't one Clooney laments. "It's okay," he laughs. "I'm doing all right."

The fame game

Clooney's fame has clearly given the opinionated actor a platform to voice his views, particularly concerning the plight in Darfur and what the free world should be doing about.

But when it came to shaping the complex time bomb that Clooney plays in this movie, the actor says, "My personal political views really had nothing to do with it."

Unwilling to discuss his personal life, which Clooney says, "I never do," he doesn't mind elaborating a bit on why some celebrities get so much of the media spotlight.

"There are people that are famous today for not really doing anything. I used to think that was sort of hard to do," Clooney smiles, refusing to name names, of course, of any faux celebs.

"It seems to me that there are more people like this now," Clooney grinned.

"It creates a vacuum but I guess it's a cycle."

- Constance Droganes, entertainment writer,