George Clooney: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Carrie Bell
October 16, 2006 AT 04:00 AM EDT

George Clooney’s come a long way from his days dodging deadly produce: We caught up with the actor/director (who next stars in Steven Soderbergh’s The Good German, opening in December) on Friday, Oct. 13, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where he was honored by Julia Roberts and others at the 21st Annual American Cinematheque Award Gala (airing Dec. 13 on AMC at 8 p.m.). Here’s what he had to say about career satisfaction, embracing his turkeys, and his rumored political ambitions.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Would you like to put all these rumors about you running for office to rest?
GEORGE CLOONEY: I won’t be running myself. I don’t think I am qualified for a job in politics. But I feel we need to make some changes. I am becoming the biggest fan of Barack Obama. He is the rock star of the Democratic Party. We need to convince him to run next presidential election. He is a great guy and super-smart and passionate about important causes. But if I did rule the world, I’d address the Darfur situation first. It’s genocide and it needs to be stopped. Then I’d fire Bush and his cronies. And we’d put more value on vacation, travel, cultural diversity, and education.

So, how does it feel to be here? Early in your career, did you ever think you’d be honored like this?
I am so happy to be at a point in my career that I can pick and choose the projects I want to work on and the people I want to work with, and I don’t have to struggle or do things for money. I used to have to do that, but now I am pretty comfortable where I am at. I’m just at that point in my life where something has to be worthwhile for me to want to leave Lake Como. When I agreed to be tributed, I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t a lifetime achievement award, because that makes me sound old and finished. I have a lot more work left in me. And it’s a good cause. I don’t know exactly what they do. Something with ”cinema” and ”theque.” No, I think they do some great work for those films that need extra help, like a period piece or a foreign film. Not all films get as much attention as ones starring Brad Pitt. [American Cinematheque is a non-profit organization in Los Angeles dedicated to celebrating and promoting the art of motion pictures.]

Are you nervous about this kind of This Is Your Life event?
This is scary. Who knows what they are going to say about me in there. I have been to this event in the past a few times and watched other people go through it. It is a funny party. Everyone gets a little toasty and they get a little raunchy. It is essentially a roast. I have done some introductions at other tributes. It’s my turn to take it like a man. As long as they nail me a little bit, I figured it would be a fun night. I gave them some clips to use of me with a mullet. I think they are going to throw those in my face. But I might have a little something in my pocket to fight back. I will get them all back by the end of the night. I have a trick up my sleeve.

Previous honoree Bruce Willis had Hudson Hawk to be teased over. What do you think will be your Hudson Hawk?
Let me start by saying I don’t regret any of the work I’ve done. It got me to where I am now. But I am sure that Facts of Life, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, or Batman & Robin will be targets tonight. That’s only fair. I did take those jobs, so I deserve whatever they dish out.

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