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How George Clooney ensured that women had a voice on his new television show

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Caitlin Black
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George CLooney

George Clooney has revitalised female characters in Joseph Heller’s classic novel Catch-22 in his new television adaptation of the book. 

George Clooney’s latest project is an adaptation of the chaotic, convoluted tale of Captain John Yossarian. That’s right, Clooney and his co-producer Grant Herslov have taken on Catch-22

The satirical novel, based in Italy with the fictional 256th squadron during WWII, follows a group of airmen as they encounter the futility of red tape and confront the plight of existence and being in a double bind. Hence the origins of the phrase ‘catch 22’. 

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For the sake of historical accuracy the series depicts the characters as they are in the novel, which is a tale about white male soldiers and their personal stories.

Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly a groundbreaking narrative, nor a revelation in the current zeitgeist. But Clooney knows that, which is why he made sure that women would be included while making this new television show. 

George CLooney

For starters, the female characters ,who are dismissively relegated to the names “Nately’s whore” and “Nately’s whore’s sister” in the novel, are given names and complex characters and stories in the TV adaption.

“We tried to be a part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem,” Clooney told the Radio Times, of making a story like this in the post-#MeToo era of Hollywood. 

One such female character is Nurse Duckett, who has a relationship with the protagonist Captain John Yossarian. A role has been expressly written for the character of Nurse Duckett, played by Tessa Ferrer, and includes a modernised and more complex narrative which is severely lacking in the novel. 

To further ensure that women were part of the storytelling, Clooney ensured that a female producer, director and editor were hired on the series. Ellen Kuras, an award-winning cinematographer, came on board as a director and producer, and then more women were hired in crew positions to balance out the gender disparity in the production as a whole. 

One of the co-writers of the series, Luke Davies, says that it was important to include female voices to create a more nuanced version of the classic. “We made it our mission statement to make the portrayal of women more interesting,” Davies explained to The Telegraph. He stated that this was a personal choice and not because of external pressures, but because the absolute lack of complexity of the women in the novel was completely unacceptable. 

Clooney and his co-producers’ approach to adapting this classic novel shows how everyone can work towards achieving equality in Hollywood. 

Catch-22 airs on Channel 4 in the UK later in 2019 and on Hulu in the US now. 

Images: Hulu 

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