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From Enquirer Tempo
Sunday, December 15, 1996
GEORGE CLOONEY'S FINE DAYS
With a No. 1 TV show and a slew of hot movie roles,
the hometown kid is at the top in Hollywood --
but he doesn't think it will last
BY MARGARET A. McGURK
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LOS ANGELES - George Clooney has one and only one complaint about the leap from wildly popular TV star to stratospheric, big-screen, hysteria-inducing movie idol: The Batsuit weighs a ton.
''If you really had to wear this thing, everybody would kick the hell out of you,'' he jokes. The most elaborate stunt he can do dressed as Batman is ''walking to my trailer.''
That kind of easy-going humor is the first - well, maybe the second - thing people notice about Mr. Clooney. Nowadays it's also his favorite tactic for deflecting the burden of celebrity bearing down on him with a momentum that has pushed less sturdy actors over a cliff.
His first major studio movie, the romantic comedy One Fine Day, co-staring Michelle Pfeiffer, opens Friday. He recently finished the post-Cold War thriller The Peacemaker, produced by Steven Spielberg and co-starring Nicole Kidman. Last year, he co-starred with Quentin Tarantino in the cult horror flick From Dusk Till Dawn. Right now, he is shooting Batman and Robin with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman.
Meanwhile, he continues to co-star in ER, the most successful dramatic series on TV, drawing mountains of fan letters and the obsessive attention of fans he politely describes as ''blatant.''
For an actor, it doesn't get much bigger, and Mr. Clooney, 35, is savoring his good fortune with infectious high spirits. But during interviews to promote One Fine Day, though he is relaxed, charming and happy, he practices a kind of verbal jujitsu, reflexively deflating any reference to his stardom or any notion that it just might last.
When someone refers to him as a sex symbol, he interrupts to say, ''Today. Tomorrow, it'll be like 'What happened to George? He's so fat and stupid.' ''
Mention the demand for his services in movies, and he says, ''Oh yeah, yeah. I'm the flavor of the month. That'll go away in a week and they won't want me any more.''
The worshipful fans? ''It'll go away, and it'll be like 'I'd like George Clooney to block, please.'''
Enjoying the ride
He expects a limited time to enjoy the heights. ''If you don't you're an idiot,'' he says. ''Most people have about a seven-year career realistically. . . . It so easily goes away. . . . There is no way to avoid it. The most important thing is to understand it and know it's going to happen. And then enjoy the ride.''
That's a lesson he has always credited to his father, broadcaster and columnist Nick Clooney, and to his aunt Rosemary Clooney, whose stardom as a singer disappeared in the age of rock 'n' roll.
''What I learned from that was I wasn't going to take the best moment that I had, the best chance of getting things done and miss it because I was tired.''
He could be forgiven for pleading fatigue. He has been making movies non-stop for a year and a half, as well as working grueling hours on ER.
''Last week I worked 105 hours. I'm working over 100 hours a week every week,'' he says. ''There's days when I get up (and think) I'm not gonna make it. Not 'Woe is me, I'm not gonna make it,' just, 'I'm a little tired right now.'
''But there's a little light at the end of the tunnel. I'm not gonna be doing these seven-day schedules after (Batman). I'll do a film in the summer. I'll get a little time off to do publicity for Batman. I'm in a really good spot right now, I just need to get through February.
''And by the way, if these were tedious projects to do, it would be much worse,'' he says. ''If they weren't fun places to be, it would be so much harder to do.
''You go on the set of Batman and it's just a stand-up comedy routine with (director) Joel Schumacher all day long. And Arnold Schwarzenegger is so great. Not just funny, a very giving, nice man.
''I worried about doing it. I worried about being a guy and going on with a big matinee idol like Arnold, because, quite frankly, people as famous as him can be very tough on the guy the next rung down . . . and Arnold has been nothing but great to me. Overly great, out of his way great, to the point where I'm actually moved by it. . . . That's a real rare thing.''
When he finally does have time for a vacation, Mr. Clooney jokes, ''I think I'm going to buy an island and live with Marlon Brando.''
Meanwhile, he's barreled over by the pleasure of working on movies he likes with co-stars he admires.
On One Fine Day, he has nothing but praise for his co-star. ''What occurs to me when I'm watching it is what a movie star Michelle is. I was intimidated working with her at first. She's not just a movie star. She's not just beautiful. She's also really one of the best actors you could work with. And I was worried about that. I was worried about getting my hat handed to me.''
It's clear from his conversation - and from what co-workers say about him - that he holds fun in high esteem. ''George is not one of those people who come onto a set and suck out all the energy,'' says Ms. Pfeiffer, who describes him as ''sweet'' and ''mischievous.''
With the children on the set, she said, ''He was like the uncle who comes over and gets them all riled up and teaches them bad words and they don't nap, and then he leaves and wonders 'Why are those kids so out of control?'''
The Peacemaker was less fun, although he's happy with the result. ''It was a tedious shoot, away from the controls of the United States. . . . Having seen it now, you go 'Great, it was worth it.'''
The fun scale
It's no accident that Mr. Clooney rates all of his projects on a scale of fun-to-even-more-fun.
''About five or six years ago, I just said, I'm not going to be miserable any more. . . . What I do is a fun job and I won't work on sets that aren't going to be fun.''
Still, it is a job, and he does have to work at it, especially now that he finds himself teamed with seasoned, high-powered film pros. ''It's like playing tennis with (Andre) Agassi,'' he says. ''You gotta go in every time thinking you're overmatched or you're not going to rise to the occasion at all.''
He confesses to having ''no idea'' what other films he will make next, but it's clear they will be carefully chosen.
''I know what I do well and I know what I don't do well,'' he says. ''The secret to what I do well in this business is my understanding of my own limitations.''
That means he probably won't turn to weighty intellectual fare in a big hurry. Still, he says, ''It doesn't mean that I couldn't. I mean that I shouldn't, because right now I couldn't do it as well as Daniel Day-Lewis. It's important to remember both of those things: One is, your limitations, meaning you aren't that. And secondly, that you could; if you worked hard enough, you might get to that.''
The comment hints at qualities that reside alongside Mr. Cloney's affability and self-deprecating wit - that is, a steely determination, and a pragmatic view of celebrity as a tool.
''Fame does interesting things,'' he says. ''There are people who get famous and turn into butt-heads. And there are people who get famous and their personalities get better ... because fame allows you to exactly do what you want to.''
One Fine Day producer Linda Obst, noting that professional success doesn't equal personal self-worth, says, ''That's one of the great things about George. He doesn't think it's due him. He doesn't think it's magical. He knows it's earned.''
In the Tristate, Mr. Clooney is appreciated simultaneously as a star and as a neighbor's kid who got a really good job. He reciprocates by treasuring his hometown roots. ''I had a great growing-up there, and I have nothing but great memories.''
He laughs recalling a visit home years ago for a school appearance that was canceled by a snowstorm. Stranded at his hotel, he wandered over to the Blue Wisp, downtown. ''The New York Philharmonic or somebody was in town to play somewhere else; that was canceled, and they're all in there to play.... There's 35 musicians and me. No one else. I buy drinks for everybody and sit there and say, 'Uuuuuh, play 'Satin Doll!''' It was one of my great memories ever.''
Mr. Clooney's once renowned social life has given way to his work schedule, and to his relationship with an elegant French law student. But he remembers cultivating his taste for nightlife in Cincinnati.
''I was 19 the first time I went to the Conservatory, which was underage. You had to be 21. You could go to the Lighthouse when you were 18 and drink 3.2 beer, but ... the Conservatory had older women there, like 22.... I remember going there and trying to act old.'' (The Conservatory, in Covington, closed in May).
Sweet home, Cincinnati
Although he hasn't been back for an extended visit in more than a year, he remains a cheerleader. ''People don't understand until you get away from Cincinnati how rare the town is,'' he says. ''It's one of the very few really working downtowns.... If you go downtown Cincinnati, you'll see racially a very mixed group of people all going to work, and not the poor going here and the rich there.... It's not an issue like it is in a lot of other places.
''There is a great sense of life to the downtown Cincinnati that I don't see often. You see it in San Francisco. You'll see it in a weird way in New York.... But you don't see it in L.A. At all. In any way shape or form.
''There's a great sense of community in that town (Cincinnati) still, and there always has been.''
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Nice read Katie. Thanks!
- George Clooney fan forever!
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Thanks, Katie - There's so much I haven't read about him. Can you recommend a “good, real” biography of him?
There's a topic on here about books Cinderella...but I don't think any of them are 'real' in the sense that George contributed to them they are mostly made up from magazine/press/tv interviews..
- More than a little bit enthusiastic about Clooney
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