George Clooney was in Rome on Monday to launch his latest television miniseries, "Catch 22," which he produced, directed and starred in and that presents a satirical portrait of war.
The American, British and Italian co-production is based on Joseph Heller's 1961 eponymous novel which delivers a pacifist message with lashings of irony, humor and sarcasm.
"It was about the absurdity of war, of course, which is timeless," the American actor said at a press conference. "It's also about bucking the system, which I think still is also very timeless. The idea that you can fight as much as you want but it's really hard to beat the system if it's up against you and those were the themes that felt timeless."
The miniseries, which is co-produced by Sky Italia, Paramount Television, Anonymous Content and Smokehouse Pictures, will launch in Italy on May 21 and is six episodes long.
"Television actually affords us the ability to tell the story over a long period of time," Clooney added. "To get to know the characters before we kill them in horrible ways, so in general this was the perfect format for us to be able to tell the story."
Heller's satirical novel was written during the Vietnam war but "Catch 22" unravels during World War II and is a critique of the system and the military.
The main protagonist is Captain John Yossarian (brought to the screen by Christopher Abott) an American bombardier stationed in the Mediterranean who is desperate to return home as soon as possible.
Abott, well known for his role in the series "Girls", said that it was an ideal role, a true challenge.
Captain Yossarian, in one of his many attempts to flee, comes up with an unsuccessful liver complaint, after which he decides to pretend to have lost his mind.
However, the soldier comes up against the paradoxical and bureaucratic "Catch 22" rule of the Army Air Forces, which stipulates that a man is considered insane when he continues to embark on combat missions that put his life at risk but, that the act of putting in a request to be relieved of such duties proves that he is sane.
"It is never a bad time to talk about the madness of war and we've been in a war for 17 years, or whatever it's been now, it's a very quiet war, we don't talk about it much, but there is an absurdity to it," American actor Grant Heslov, who interprets Doctor Daneeka a medic who tries to help Yossarian, told the press.
"We also talk about how that translates into our daily life. Life itself, just getting through the day, particularly where we are, well all over the world, but our country (United States) particularly right now it is a little absurd in these political times so it's never a bad time to talk about that," Heslov added.
After witnessing the death of one his fellow soldiers, Yossarian in a moment of desperation decides he will never put his uniform again and continues to serve in combat stark naked save his cap.
Clooney takes on the role of the fierce and sadistic Lieutenant Scheisskopf.
"When you look back at wars, it was very easy to protest the Vietnam war of the Gulf war and you'll look back and say it was a righteous war, World War II was a righteous war," Clooney mused.
"It still requires absurdity to get to that point. There have to be some absurd decisions made by men, usually, older men making sure that young people die, and whether it was a righteous war or not there are still absurd actions that lead to that," he added.
When asked about the parallels with the current political context Clooney acknowledged that times were uncertain.
"Yes it's a very nervous time around the world, there's an awful lot of people sliding into authoritarianism and it is nerve-racking and it is something that we should constantly monitor and all of you who are in the press do a very good job of that," the American said.
"I happen to be an optimist and I think that things turn around as they do and I think that that's something that is overdue and we will hopefully head that way in the next election cycle," he concluded. EFE-EPA