The American - Anton Corbijn profile

The American

Corbijn's blend of Western and thriller stars George Clooney

Anton Corbijn

Strijen, Netherlands, 1955

Corbijn began his career as a music photographer after borrowing his father’s camera to take pictures of a local concert aged 17. He quickly went on to establish his name through work for bands including Joy Division and U2 before expanding his repertoire to snap stars like Clint Eastwood and Pavarotti. The lure of the moving image led Corbijn to try his hand directing music videos which he made for the likes of Depeche Mode and Metallica. His first feature film, Control, was released in 2007, an elegant portrait of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. It won a host of awards including Best New British Feature at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

What’s he up to now?
Corbijn’s second feature film, The American is released in cinemas this month. The unconventional thriller is an adaptation of Martin Booth’s novel A Very Private Gentleman and stars George Clooney as a lone hitman who is forced to hide out in an Italian hilltop town after he becomes the target of unknown assassins.

On what attracted him to the story
‘What I liked about it was this core question, whether a person can change himself, if that’s fundamentally possible.’

On following up Control with The American
‘It’s in colour, it’s contemporary, it’s a Hollywood film, it’s not with English actors, everything is different than I did with Control. After Control it was essential for me to work in a very different genre, not to get labelled and to gain a lot of experience in filmmaking.’

On casting
George Clooney ‘I wanted a very dark character to be the lead and I saw hints of darkness in George in Syriana and Michael Clayton. I think this role for George is the darkest role he’s ever played but he plays it fabulously. For him I guess it was a challenge that it was all about the movement, the inner workings of the mindset of this protagonist and to do very much with very little. He was really good at that.’

Interesting fact
Corbijn structured the film in the style of a Western. His aim was to blend two genres of the Western and the thriller for the film.

The American, general release from Fri 26 Nov.

The American

  • 4 stars
  • 2010
  • US
  • 15
  • Directed by: Anton Corbijn
  • Cast: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli, Irina Björklund

Assassin Jack (Clooney) retreats to the Italian countryside following an attempt on his life. He befriends a priest and a prostitute who try to convince him to change his ways. Meanwhile, however, his pursuers are closing in. Simplistic and effective cinema from Control director Corbijn.