This Week's Cover: Viola Davis and George Clooney talk Oscars, acting, and their longtime friendship

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Viola Davis, this year’s frontrunner for Best Actress (The Help) and George Clooney, the front-runner for Best Actor (The Descendants), are old pals. When we asked them to do a joint interview and photo shoot, they leapt at the chance to get together again, and their lively conversation ranged from the three films they costarred in, to her stay at Clooney’s Lake Como villa, to their shared frustrations with Hollywood.

“There’s this strange thing that’s happened over the last 25 or 30 years where there’s this decision being made that women aren’t able to carry the box office,” Clooney says. “Now, Bridesmaids has proved that to be bulls—, and The Help has proven it to be bulls—. But it’s much harder to get a film with a woman lead made. When a man hits 40 is when roles just begin to happen. And for women it doesn’t happen. I find that to be a very concerning issue.”

Also, adds Davis, “Only one black actress in history has been back [at the Oscars] more than once, and that’s Whoopi Goldberg. But that’s only because there aren’t a lot of roles out there that are going to bring you back. Say if you have two great roles for an African-American actress in a year — one actress can cover it. So if there’s five really good black actresses out there, and that one actress gets it all, then the other four can sit for the next three years.”

She’s amazed at how the Best Actress race is shaping up this year. “Can you wrap your mind around someone throwing you into the ring with Meryl Streep?” she marvels. “I just don’t understand the competition thing. How can you compare two actors’ performances? How do you say one is better than the other?”

“I know how you do it,” Clooney says to Davis. “You have to play Margaret Thatcher and she has to play the maid.”

For more on Clooney and Davis, plus Dave Karger’s predictions for all the major categories, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Jan. 6. 

Entertainment Weekly is now available on most tablets, including the iPad, Nook Color, Kindle Fire, and Samsung Galaxy. Think of it like the EW you already love, but on steroids: With our digital magazine, you can buy the recommended movies, albums, books, and DVDs while you’re reading about them. Plus you can watch music videos and film trailers, and find movie showtimes in your neighborhood. Current subscribers can access the digital version of EW for free by downloading EW app (also free) and logging in using your name and address or the information on your subscription label. Single copies of the magazine are also for sale through the app if you prefer to read EW that way. If you’re not a subscriber, but would like to become one, you can can do so by going to ew.com/allaccess.

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