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Clooney's Catch-22 ponders war 'insanity'

george clooney

George Clooney, returning to TV for the first time in 20 years with an adaptation of the classic novel "Catch-22", says the series set in World War II aims to tell a timeless story about the "insanity" of war.

Clooney said he initially resisted the idea of taking on Joseph Heller's 1961 book about member of a U.S. bomber squadron fighting military bureaucracy.

"It's a beloved novel ... I didn't want to get into the middle of that," Clooney, who also served as executive producer and directed two episodes, said at a Television Critics Association event on Monday.

He said he was drawn in because the writers "did an amazing job unspooling these characters" for the six-episode Hulu series, to be released May 17.

That allows the series to expand on Heller's story, which Clooney said was meant "to make fun of all the red tape and bureaucracy of war."

Catch-22 follows a US bombardier named Yossarian infuriated by the army's intransigence on the number of missions he must fly to be released from duty.

Yossarian's only way to avoid the missions is to declare insanity, but the only way to prove insanity is a willingness to embark on more of the highly dangerous bombing runs, creating the novel's "catch-22".

"I think we all wake up every morning these days in this kind of shared global anxiety condition, and this novel is a beautiful distillation, or a prophetic distillation of that," co-writer Luke Davies said.

Christopher Abbott stars as Yossarian and Kyle Chandler plays his commander, Colonel Cathcart. Clooney originally planned to play Cathcart but instead took a supporting role as training commander Scheisskopf.

Clooney, 57, last appeared on television 20 years ago as Dr. Doug Ross in hit medical drama "ER." He then built a successful film career with movies including "Ocean's Eleven," "Gravity" and "Up in the Air."

© RAW 2019 Image credit: George Clooney participates in the "Catch-22" panel during the Hulu presentation at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour at The Langham Huntington on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)