Clooney's performance in "The Descendants" landed him in Oscar's best actor race. He won the award, in the supporting category, back in 2006 for "Syriana."
Payne will walk into the Academy Awards a triple-threat with nominations for directing, co-producing and co-writing the film. He's also won before, in 2005, for writing "Sideways."
When it comes to the writing category, one of his competitors will be Clooney, who co-wrote "The Ides of March."
In "The Descendants," Clooney plays a man dealing with infidelity and tragedy at the same time. It's a role that took him outside the box.
"What I'm trying to do is push myself in every direction I possibly can for as long as they let me, because, as you well know about this industry, they don't let you for very long," said Clooney.
Payne has only directed a handful of films, including "Sideways" and "About Schmidt." He says the tough part is the screenplay.
"I want to speak when I have something to say. The tough part, I'm not super-prolific like Woody Allen or these guys who can just sit down and write or crank them out," said Payne. "I hope to acquire confidence and skill and access my own life experiences in the free way that they do. I haven't been able to do that yet."