Live, from CBS studios, it's Sunday night

Actor George Clooney is ready to take a page from the game-show craze and go live with his latest TV project - a black-and-white, live on-air broadcast of the 1964 nuclear chiller, "Fail Safe" (Sunday, April 9, 9-11 p.m.). Starring as the bomber pilot who accidentally kills several million people, the son of TV newsman and variety-show host Nick Clooney says he wanted to bring the film to today's audiences because it was one of his favorites.

"We didn't necessarily do it just to make a political statement," he says. Noting that the political players have changed since the height of the Cold War standoff between the Soviet Union and the US, Clooney says today's players have as much to lose over the uncontrolled use of nuclear power.

"The question is about whether or not machines and our technology get ahead of us and actually put us in jeopardy of nuclear war. I think that with China and Korea that's still relevant."

As executive producer on a project that hasn't been tried since the days of "Playhouse 90" some 40 years ago, Clooney opted to reach for some of the original creators. "The most gratifying for me was to feel how pertinent it still was," says Walter Bernstein, the writer of the original "Fail Safe" and the new adaptation for CBS. "When we first did it ... there were just two countries that had the bomb. Now you've got a dozen that have it. So the question that the movie concerned itself with is even more apt today."

As for whether live TV and, in particular, black-and-white TV are still relevant, Clooney says the monochrome lends tension to the story. "It's black and white, and there's no sound, there's no score to it, there's no music," he says, all of which serves to focus the storytelling more powerfully.

Knowing that the show will have no safety net is lending a certain focus to the performers' five-week rehearsal period as well. "We're starting to understand that the tension that is built from the story itself is amplified by the fact that we're doing it live."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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