Descendants star George Clooney was holding court in the Sheridan bar last night with Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy, In Contention‘s Kris Tapley, myself and two or three others during a cool Fox Searchlight party. Most of the gab was about politics (Clooney does a good Rick Perry impression, in a manner of speaking), but he and I briefly discussed The Descendants and particularly The Ides of March, his directorial effort which opened in Venice and which will play again next weekend in Toronto.

Descendants star George Clooney, director-writer Alexander Payne at Telluride’s Sheridan bar last night.

Descendants costar Shailene Woodley at last night’s Fox Searchlight gathering. (Photo courtesy of Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone .)

Clooney said he’s “really proud” of the fim, and explained that the third act has a whole separate payoff than the play Farragut North, which March is adapted from. The play “had two acts…actually, not really quite two,” said Clooney. As the trailer makes clear he plays a vaguely Howard Dean-like governor running for president in the Ohio primary, but the tragic finale has echoes, apparently, of John Edwards.

I briefly jawed with Descendants director-writer Alexander Payne in the back room, and then I took a snap of Payne and Clooney as the former was leaving.

I also spoke to 20 year-old Shailene Woodley, whose razor-sharp performance as Clooney’s older teenage daughter has made her the breakout star of this year’s Telluride Film Festival. She’s not doing college now (being occupied with The Secret Life of the American Teenager, the TV series) but will go eventually. Born and raised in Simi Valley. Simply auditioned for Payne and got the part, etc.

Clooney was tributed last night at the Palm and again this morning (at 9:30 am) at the Sheridan Opera House. Matt Zoller Seitz tweeted this morning that he’s tired of reading about Clooney from Telluride-attending journalists, but you try it, Seitz! The Descendants has been the only power-hitting contender here so far (or at least prior to today’s Shame screenings) and Clooney is an absolute mensch and schmooze champ in every respect (Deadline‘s Pete Hammond wrote this morning that Clooney “may be the most accessible star of his magnitude I’ve ever run into…no entourage at all”) and has taken part in numerous events so whaddaya want from me?

Ms. Woodley again, this time taken by msyelf.