RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Oscar-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones was convinced her "Ocean's Twelve" cast mates disliked her because they didn't play a practical joke on her during the film's 10-week shoot in the United States and Europe.
On this weekend afternoon in the California desert, everyone appears to be playing nicely. Several stars have convened to promote the sequel to the hit 2001 heist caper, "Ocean's Eleven," itself a re-make of a 1960 movie that starred Hollywood's Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., among others).
Divided into two groups, Zeta-Jones, Clooney, Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia and producer Jerry Weintraub (who has a cameo) are here to talk about their experiences revisiting the colorful pack of crooks they play in the movie.
The sequel picks up where the original left off. Danny Ocean and his crew have moved on with their lives after successfully robbing a Las Vegas casino of $160 million. Not surprisingly, the casino's owner, Terry Benedict (Garcia), wants his money returned and, with the help of an informant, tracks down each member of Ocean's crew. The gang has less than two weeks to come up with the money -- plus interest -- or else. Finding it too risky to plan another U.S.-based heist, the gang heads to Europe. There, they attract even more enemies, including a snooping Europol investigator (Zeta-Jones) and a crafty master thief (French actor Vincent Cassel), who challenges the group to steal a priceless Faberge egg.
With writer/director Steven Soderbergh who is absent for the press conferences, Clooney, 43, assumes the role of ringleader. Typically, he is in a playful mood, answering nearly every question directed his way with a snappy, often sarcastic comeback.
Asked how well the ensemble got along this time around, Clooney deadpans, "This was actually a job."
Clooney says Soderbergh conceived the idea for the sequel while the group was promoting the first movie in Rome.
"We were sitting in a restaurant and (Steven) looked up and said, 'I've got an idea for a sequel,' " Clooney recalls. "The problem with a sequel," he explains, "is that it's usually just a rehash of the film before it, and trying to take the things that work and do them again. Steven had a way of saying, 'Well, let's mix up what just happened in the first one and really throw these guys off.' We thought it was an interesting idea."
All of the original players signed on, confident they would enter new territory.
"I'd like to call it work, but it was pretty much automatic for us," admits Pitt. "First of all, there's a very low level of maturity amongst all the guys, so that helps. We bond very quickly because of it."
"Then, we've got the beautiful women to make us look a little better," he adds, glancing over at Zeta-Jones, who plays both his foil and love interest in the sequel.
For Damon, returning to "Ocean's" was a welcome experience after starring in the actioner "The Bourne Supremacy." He delighted in playing a fallible supporting player.
"We're used to doing movies where we go to work every day and are working five or six days a week without a day off," says Damon. "On 'Ocean's Twelve,' we'd have three days a week off or something like that. I mean, the days we worked, we really did work."
No one's saying yet whether there will be another "Ocean's" installment. Most of the cast here appears to be up for another go-round as long as Soderbergh comes up with an interesting new story.
Weintraub isn't so sure about an "Ocean's Thirteen." "I'm superstitious," he says.
As the producer, he knows how difficult it was to get the sequel made. Shot in five countries, seven locations, with several different crews, "Ocean's Twelve" was a "logistical nightmare," he says.
He doesn't rule it out, though.
"To do sequels, you must find a story that's better than the last and continue on with the characters so that these guys can develop these characters and live these characters," he says. "If it happens that'd be great, but who knows."