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Ok, it's another long interview, but it's well worth the read.
October 1, 1999, 12:00 AM
Trying To Not Be A Dick Takes Work — Just Ask George Clooney
For a leading man, Clooney has quite the common touch. But, just because he's nice — and he is as nice as they say — doesn't mean he doesn't have to restrain himself at times. Here's how he handles fame.
By John H. Richardson
IT'S TIME FOR GEORGE CLOONEY to put on his dirt. It's time for him to rub grease all over his head. But first let him finish his sentence, because he's talking about the perils of fame, and it's something he talks about a lot, how people treat you like a god or get mad at you for no reason, and sometimes they're even hurt because you don't recognize them--you came into their bedrooms in that little box and now they can't turn you on and turn you off, and the danger is you get resentful and you isolate and pretty soon you're starring in your own private Sunset Boulevard. "Trying not to be a dick takes work," he says. "And there are periods of time that you're not good at it. You know?"
Now let's go to the makeup trailer to put on that dirt. We are down in Jackson, Mississippi, where Clooney is playing an escaped convict in the next Coen brothers movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou? "It's all about my hair, this movie. I'm in love with my hair. Which seems perfect for me."
He laughs, gooping on big handfuls of grease, then combing it and watering it to a high gloss. "You gotta get 'er flattened down a little bit."
It's disgusting. He laughs. "You meet a lot of girls this way, too."
He looks for some dirt to put on his face. They use professional makeup dirt called fuller's earth. "Do a little bit of this. A little bit of that. A bit more of this in the old ear." He seems to take special pleasure in muddying up his famous face.
He works in a little Lubriderm to give the dirt that worn-into-the-creases look. But in his overalls, he still looks like an impossibly handsome hick, Li'l Abner's sexy older brother. It's a cross to bear.
"You dirty up nice."
"I'm a professional."
CLOONEY GREW UP around television, doing commercials for his dad's variety show in Cincinnati. On Saint Patrick's Day he'd play a leprechaun and his dad would interview him. When the Germantown Fair rolled around, Nick Clooney and his kids were there. Almost every day they made some kind of public appearance. Clooney also had the showbiz example of his famous uncle and aunt, Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney, but day to day it was more like vaudeville than Hollywood, strictly local TV stations all over Kentucky and Ohio. And the rest of the family was anything but glamorous--Clooney's grandfather was a sharecropper who hunted with a rock until he could afford a gun. His uncle still works the family tobacco farm.
It was the kind of family where everyone was trying to be first to the punch line. But it was also very strict. Clooney attended parochial schools, got grounded a lot, wrote essays for his father as punishment. And there were tensions Clooney doesn't talk much about beyond passing references to addictive behavior and teenage rebellion. Much more often he cites his parents' high standards of decency. He mentions a time his father reamed him for sitting silently while a classmate used the word nigger. When I ask him why he's so friendly to the grunts on the movie crew--they all love him and go out of their way to tell me so--he says that every Christmas his dad would take him to the house of a poor family. Sometimes they were so poor it embarrassed George and he would spend the meal staring at his plate.
"I remember one in particular. I was like ten or eleven years old. And my dad said, 'You look him in the eye when you talk.' I remember that really specifically, because it meant actually facing that, looking them in the eye and making them--allowing them to be human beings. That was a lesson my dad taught me that actually works. It sort of humanizes all of us."
But the public life had strains. They went to so many banquets and picnics that George developed anxieties about eating in public. "My parents were very concerned with looking right, using the right fork, and I was always very insecure about that." In some ways it was even a bit disturbing. "There were two different families. Driving in the car, my dad and mom would be not talking 'cause they're mad at each other, and my sister and I are hating each other, saying, 'You're touching me on my side of the car!' And then we'd open the door, and all these people'd be standing there, and my dad'd put his arm around Mom and go, 'Isn't this great, Nina? Isn't this great?' And she'd go, 'Oh, it's so beautiful to be here! Right, kids?' And we'd go, 'It's so great to be here!' And we'd be this whole public-figure family. And then it would finish and we'd get back in the car and--silence."
Yeah, it could be weird. You had to be up for it. And sometimes George was up for it and sometimes he wasn't. "Sometimes you lacked confidence," he says. "Sometimes when they'd go, 'Come on, George! Just come on down here!' you'd feel like"--he sighs--" 'All right' and you'd just have to do it. You know? The only way you win on those is pure confidence. Like when you got a duck outfit on and the only way you can do it is by goin', 'That's right! I'm a duck!' "
DRIVING BACK FROM THE SET, Clooney takes a call from his assistant in L. A. about a pilot he's writing and producing for HBO. It's about a subject close to his heart, the life of a young actor named Kilroy. He has strategic concerns. "I don't want to give it to them tonight 'cause there's a lot of guys at Warner Brothers that are going in to watch the NBA Finals, and they'll just be pissed off if we make them stay late."
This is typical Clooney. He's constantly analyzing and strategizing and theorizing, which is one reason he's got--despite a rather spotty career as a movie star--one of the largest actor-driven production companies in Hollywood, with eleven employees and thirty projects seriously in the works. Many of them reflect his interest in politics, from a TV remake of Fail-Safe to the Edward R. Murrow story to the true story of Moe Berg, baseball player and spy.
But the one he talks about the most is Kilroy. Tired of showbiz tales featuring imperious directors and asshole actors, he wanted to show what the actor's life is really like--the ridiculousness of reading a love scene with a male casting director, the psychological warfare of acting class, the hunger for the "ultimate brass ring" of showbiz, and the whole drifting yearning aspiring theatrical life. The show tells the story of Michael Kilroy, a twenty-three-year-old actor who comes to L. A. to be famous, just as Clooney did seventeen years ago. Clooney cared about it enough that when NBC bought the show but insisted on a laugh track, he bought it back with his own money and sold it to HBO. "You don't tell the audience when to laugh," he says.
The twist is that Kilroy is really going to be an actor auditioning for other TV shows, and they'll work his appearances into the plot. "He'll get three lines as Interviewer No. 3 on V.I.P., the Pamela Anderson show. And so he goes on the set, and he does his three lines, and you sort of see the inner workings of the set. And then when you watch V.I.P. a few weeks later, he'll actually be Interviewer No. 3."
He grins. "We wrote one where he does this long monologue on ER and does a great job, and then all of his friends are coming over to watch, and he pushes his answering machine when he comes in the door, and it's the director saying, 'I should have called you last week. We had to cut that scene, I'm sorry.' And you hear the doorbell ring, and all his friends are there. And when you see him on ER, you'll actually see him go, 'Uh--' And then they'll cut away. He'll be just an extra in the background."
But Kilroy isn't just about showbiz, Clooney says. You can't sell a show on that. It's about something even closer to his heart. "This kid's a little nicer than I was. We wanted to start him out being--not wide-eyed, but nicer, because as we go, we want to sort of taint him. And then the question won't be whether or not he makes it as an actor, but will he make it as a man?"
WHEN WE GET TO THE HOTEL, Clooney asks me up to his room to watch the Knicks play the Spurs. An offer of beer follows. The guyness of it all numbs my brain--oh yeah, we're supposed to be doing an interview. "So, uh, do you think you're a good actor?"
"Sometimes. I think I do some things pretty well."
He mentions his performances in the movie Out of Sight and some episodes of ER, and the interesting thing is that he doesn't really talk about himself. He says that doctors don't feel sorry for patients, not really, not most of the time--they react to suffering with the same gallows humor that cops use to insulate their feelings. So he had a hard-and-fast rule that he would display grief only once every eight or nine episodes. But as the show went on and the writing declined, this became harder to do. The temptation was always to "act" excitement into the story. He got so upset about it he even wrote a letter to the producers: "In the first season we had a guy walk into this show with an arrow stuck in his head, and he said, 'Can you tell me where Admitting is?' And we'd point, and he walks off, and that's all. You never see him again. If it were this season, we'd all take him into the Emergency Room and talk about how amazing it is that he's still alive, and then Noah would start to cry because his parents died from an Indian attack."
So the trick is not making the scenes about you. "And it doesn't win you any awards, and it doesn't get any attention, but I was always most proud of walking away from scenes. And we'd sit there and watch it on Thursdays, and Eriq La Salle'd kinda tap you on the leg when he knew you could've hamboned one up and you didn't."
CLOONEY FOUND himself in baseball. At first he wasn't much of a hitter. He was intimidated by the pitches. He remembers being on deck in eighth and ninth grade and wishing something would happen so he didn't have to get up and "be the guy." It was like going up to a girl at a dance and risking the humiliation of rejection. Not his thing at all, then or now--he'd rather stand there and wait for them to come to him. So he'd stand there at the diamond saying, "Oh please just let me hit the ball. Just let me make contact." And he'd strike out every time.
But he was living in Cincinnati then, and those were the years the Reds won the World Series twice in a row. It'd be the ninth inning and they'd be down three runs and you just knew they were going to win. It's like Pete Rose said, they thought like winners.
Little by little, George became a batting-practice fanatic. By his senior year he'd get to the plate and go, "I wonder where I'm going to hit the ball? Do I want to go to the right or to the left?" The next thing that gave him that feeling was when he got a taste of acting and thought, This is it, I can do this. So, in 1982 he dropped out of college and drove west in a rusted Monte Carlo with an engine so funky he never turned it off, just slept on the side of the road with the motor running. He had $300 in his pocket. "My dad said, 'You're never going to survive. You're never going to make it.' "
Those were the go-go years in Hollywood too, when cocaine and quaaludes and acid and women and--well, it was easy to get distracted. And the thing about being an actor is that the job almost requires you to move away from what you really are. You try on so many masks. Soon he was back to standing there going, "I hope they'll like me." Then the idea bulb went off. "One day I just went, You know what? Stick me in a big pot and boil it all down, and I'm a baseball player. That's what I like. That's what I understand. So I'm going to treat this like I treated baseball. Do I want to hit it to right, or do I want to hit it to left?"
The key is, you gotta commit. Even if it's wrong, you gotta commit. You gotta be the Pete Rose of actors, fighting like a pit bull even in an All-Star game. Like the time he auditioned for Francis Ford Coppola like a Kentucky hillbilly. "This goddamn Dracula thing's comin' in here, comin' down this here slide and blowin' up like a ball-a-fire!" Clooney was so bad that Coppola called his agent and asked if there was something mentally wrong with him--but he was committed, dammit.
AT HALFTIME, Clooney wants to go out and eat. With us comes his buddy Waldo, a tall, good-looking guy who doubles as Clooney's hairdresser and basketball partner. Together they get a bit cocky, telling basketball tales--there were these cops in Arizona who thought they were wimps, just a hairdresser and an actor, and they kicked cop ass. And there are tales to tell about the annual golf tour they take with the boys--professional drinking. When you get back, you have to FedEx your liver to your doctor.
At Amerigo, Clooney leads us to the bar. He wants to watch the second half of the game. We barely sit down before it begins. Everyone wants to buy George a drink. But George tells them he's paying off a bet and has to buy his own--otherwise, he tells me in a whisper, they feel they own you a little. Then a tall beefy guy comes up and mentions a name George knows, and George chats with him a bit, but when George turns back to us--putting his napkin in his lap the second it arrives--the guy keeps standing there. He lurks and keeps lurking, trying to pretend that he's just watching the game or something.
Then one bold woman comes up and says, "You don't know how rayre it is for a Natchezian to bah someone a draink."
"It's a bet," George says.
"Ah saw you in L. A.," she says.
"Ah was there to see Leno," she says. "Ah don't like him. Ah had glasses in my cleavage"--she demonstrates, hooking her glasses in her shirt with a revealing tug--"and he didn't even look at me, he looked at my cleavage. He's a pervert."
To be honest, this seems a bit unlikely. For one thing, she could fit three women in that dress. And it's becoming clear that her confidence is fueled by large amounts of white wine. But George is pleasant, says something amusing about Leno.
She doesn't hear it. She's staring at him. "You ate garlic," she says. She seems surprised and a little pleased by this, maybe even a little superior: George Clooney has garlic breath.
Maybe it's this intimacy that gets her started. "How do you get a dog to stop humping your leg?" she asks.
"How?" George says.
"Pick it up and suck its dick."
We groan, and she warns us that her second joke is a little nasty.
"What was blowing the dog?" George says. "That was restrained?"
It was, as the second joke proves. By this time our dinners have come and she is actually leaning on us, pressing one massive breast against George and the other against me. Finally some people come drag her away, apologizing to George.
A few minutes later she comes back, louder and drunker. "Ah'm from Louisiana," she says, as a blanket excuse. She says she's Baptist and George tells her--he's had a couple of drinks himself by now--that he's in a Satanic cult with Jay Leno. He says it very pleasantly. She slaps him upside the head. "Bite me!" she says.
One more Absolut and soda and George starts imitating the way she's slurring her words. She slaps him again.
"Bite my ass," she says.
"She's from Louisiana," George tells us.
Her eyes brighten. "Have you ever been to Vidalia?"
"I was going to," George says, "but I had an appointment with a proctologist I kept putting off."
He says it with a smile, so she doesn't know quite how to take it, and on she goes. It's very difficult eating with her standing there, especially if you've ever had a phobia about eating in public. The bartender offers to call the police and George winces and says, God no--wouldn't that be a tale for the tabloids! Finally her friends drag her away for good.
In the car on the way back to the hotel, we start to trash the drunk woman. Waldo and I are still making ugly comments when Clooney stops. "Yeah, but she wakes up every morning and she's three hundred pounds. And she goes to bed every night and she's still three hundred pounds. That's gotta do something to you."
CLOONEY HAS A THEORY about the showbiz life, and it means enjoying the actual work even when it's cold and miserable. These old actors who sit on the set and tell stories and laugh and make the set part of their lives, they're living in the brass ring. But the guys who retreat into themselves like stars, all they have is a videotape on their shelf and maybe a couple of awards gathering dust. They missed all the fun. "So when I'm on a set and freezing my ass off or whatever, I want to hold that experience. I'm not married. I don't have kids. What I really have is work."
And so his work includes telling Brad the stuntman about our encounter with the drunk woman last night, which leads to various anecdotes about fights and near fights, and the contrast between his unhurried genial vibe and the stories he's telling couldn't be more striking--for such an amiable guy, Clooney seems to get into a lot of fights. Some of them are paper fights, like his well-publicized battle with Hard Copy over its use of stalkerazzi footage. Quite a few are physical. There was the guy who said George insulted his girlfriend, and the guy in the sushi bar in Arizona who was just being a dick, and the guy who tried to take his picture in the bathroom--even the director of his new movie, Three Kings. He's very high on the movie, a black comedy set during the Gulf war--"When we were doing it, I kept saying, 'If we make it right it's M*A*S*H, and if we make it wrong it's Catch-22' "--but that didn't stop him from cocking his fist back and saying, Come on, pussy, come and get me.
Which reminds me of the garlic-breath incident. Why not just let it go? Why the proctology joke? He's thought this through and has a policy on it. "The difference is if you do it to their face," he says. "It's sort of like, Are you a coward or not? If you look at her and do it and she goes, 'You're making fun of me,' and you go, 'No, no.' But if you go bleah bleah to your friend, then you're chickenshit."
The thing is, he's just been through so many of these situations. "You have to raise your tolerance level of a guy," he says. "You gotta walk away from things that normally a guy would have to stand up for himself. It's sort of like as an actor you have to decide there has to be a line you draw and you have to stick to. There has to be a rule. You can't go, 'This shit I eat, this shit I eat, this shit I eat, and normally I don't eat this other shit here, but because they're offering more money or whatever, okay, this shit I'll eat too.' Because the minute you start moving that line around, you lose focus. You lose yourself. So I always sort of keep an eye on those things. This bell that goes off, this click in my head, and then you just go, 'Okay, this shit I don't eat.' "
THAT AFTERNOON, Clooney does another few hours of shooting on a dirt road. While he's jumping in and out of an old car, one of the crew guys tells me about his fight with David O. Russell, the director of Three Kings. Russell was under a lot of pressure on his first big movie and had a habit of blowing up at extras and crew members. But George really is a "crew guy" and knows how the crew feels about stuff, so finally it came to this one day when they had lots of helicopters and extras and lots of pages to shoot, and Russell lost his cool and grabbed this extra and pushed him into line. That's when George took him aside and said, "You really can't talk to people that way. You gotta work on that." And Russell said, "Why don't you just work on your acting and leave me alone?" And then George was like, Hey, you want a piece of me? You want a piece of me? They both had their fists back and George was going, Come on, pussy, come and get me. That's when Russell head-butted George. People got in there and separated them right away, but everybody had to leave the set for a couple of hours to cool down.
AFTER LUNCH, Clooney gets a call. He stands in the door of his trailer with his cell phone to his ear. "Nothing to apologize for," he finally says. "You don't like it, you don't like it." It's an executive with notes on his HBO show.
He listens for a while, concedes a few points, and then starts to draw the line. "One thing you gotta remember," he says, "is that we didn't want him in a great successful working relationship and that's the way we wrote it into the script. If we're going to change the rules and say we gotta like him and the way he handles this romance, that's not his performance or our direction, that's script."
He listens again, conceding a few more points.
"I'm not fighting you, Peter, I'm not. I hear what you're saying, but I am willing to trade a couple of jokes to sell the thing as a little closer to the bone, a little more real, a little more character driven. Anyway, it isn't a guffaw kind of comedy."
This goes on for twenty more minutes, at times getting very technical. "Cutting in on the dolly move is impossible just continuity-wise," he says. "I'll take this to the wire--you can't cut to each person every time they say the line." But his biggest concern seems to be telling the truth as he lived it. He fights for moments of humiliation--"You have to remember that his humiliation is part of what makes this work"--and for an actor's peculiar pride. "He's not going to be embarrassed because he's wearing a dog collar and the character is called Dogboy. He's an actor." Over and over he argues against polishing Kilroy's apple. "He seems green at times, but he is green--that's the gig. Maybe we lose the likability sometimes, but okay. I don't mind him not always being likable--I want us to take a ride with this kid. I don't want us to just love him."
BEFORE I CAME DOWN HERE, I dug up one of Clooney's ex-girlfriends, which was about as hard as throwing a rock and hitting the earth. She warned me about how nice he is. She said he isn't faking it--he really is a great guy, but very carefully controlled and with some kind of tension underneath. He's never alone. He can't keep still.
"Someone suggested to me that you're a guy who tends to run away when things get too personal," I say. "Like with women."
"Yeah, probably," he says.
"Yeah, probably. I mean . . ."
"Intimacy, that sort of thing."
"Intimacy . . ."
"Fear of intimacy. That's the phrase for it now."
"Um, I think that there's some truth in that," he says. "I was in a three-year relationship with this girl, Celine, who I really adored. A great girl. The truth is, it just became tougher and tougher for us to make it. I didn't think that we lacked intimacy, although maybe that was . . . I mean, it might be, in that I kept sort of taking jobs and the jobs kept taking me further and further away. And she lasted as long as I think she was going to last. It was like, 'I don't really think I want to play anymore.' And I really understand that. I mean, I do understand it. It was frustrating for a minute. It was really frustrating. Because you also think, Am I sort of relegated to three-year relationships for the rest of my life? And if that's true, then that is certainly my fear of intimacy, I would suppose."
Then he looks at me. "You want me to be defensive about it and go, 'No, no!' "
"I have no fear of intimacy at all!" he says.
TONIGHT GEORGE TAKES A TABLE instead of sitting at the bar. Once again he's the first one to put his napkin in his lap. He uses the right fork. But he's wearing a baseball cap and keeps his head so low he could eat without one.
The theme for the evening is practical jokes. George is famous for these, like the time his buddy Thom called the house and left a goofy message on George's machine: "It's Thom, and I like cock." Of course George saved the tape, and six months later his assistant snags the access code to Thom's AT&T voice-mail service. George puts the tape of "It's Thom, and I like cock" in place of Thom's outgoing message. Then they all go on a Hawaiian vacation, and after a few days when Thom goes to a pay phone to check his messages, all the guys watch from the bushes. Thom listens to the first couple of messages, then starts to frown. The guys in the bushes are howling. Then they see his finger punch in the code to get the outgoing message, and his whole body crunches. Oh man, it's funny! Especially when he gets to the message from his mother!
As he tells the story, a steady stream of women come up to say hello and get autographs. But after the waiter brings the food, he's had enough. The next woman who approaches gets a look of pain. "Oh please, no," George says.
She's insulted. "I'm the owner's wife, and I have some friends here just busting to meet you."
"Okay," George says. "After we finish eating."
She walks away in a huff.
Just before we leave, a redhead in a short skirt comes by. When she bends over to hand him a piece of paper to autograph, the cleavage display is striking. When she leaves, Waldo groans.
"What? Waldo, what?"
"She's kind of sexy."
"You thought she was sexy?"
Waldo hesitates, looks at me, then shrugs. "Yeah, if you cut her head off." We all wince and laugh at the same time.
"The boys are like my wine tasters," Clooney says, laughing.
"LET ME TRY THIS OUT ON YOU," I say. "When I asked you what you did, what you're good at as an actor, you tell me a story about not acting."
He laughs. "Right, right, right."
"When I asked you about your girlfriends, it's like you went instantly, 'fear of intimacy. You're right. You nailed me.' "
He laughs again.
"Do you think it all connects somehow? I mean, you've got this cool style as an actor. You're not Sean Penn wrecking the scenery. You're one of the guys who holds back a little bit."
"And it's one of the things people like about you. But do you think maybe it, like, keeps you from going too deep?"
He nods. "Well, certainly as an actor it does. I remember watching My Left Foot and thinking, You know what? I can't do that. It's as good a performance as I've seen. It's like when I saw Paul Newman in The Verdict. I thought, Man. And I look at these guys and I think, Well, they're much more willing to open up their rib cage, you know, throw their lungs and their spleen and everything out on the table and go, 'There it is, guys--pick at it.' I don't know that I'm willing to do that. So it's a little bit--yeah, it's limiting, my sort of protective thing."
But the truth is, Clooney's favorite actors are guys like Spencer Tracy and Jimmy Stewart, guys who pretty much played themselves in everything. Cary Grant was another one. You always felt like Cary Grant was kind of winking at you, and you loved him for it. Burt Reynolds was great at it too. And he might even really do it--look at the camera and wink at you. Clooney loves that. "You got the feeling he could look at you at any time and just snap his fingers. You always felt he was acting just for you. It goes away. You don't get to hold it very long. But when it's fun, it's really fun."
It's like he learned from his aunt Rosemary, you don't have to hit the high notes to be a good singer. That's why George never wears makeup. He's never worn makeup. It's like when Spencer Tracy was doing Captains Courageous or something, and he was supposed to have really thick razor stubble. And he said, No, I'll act it. Now that was a guy.
It's also why Clooney insists on maintaining his cool persona in photo shoots. No pouring water. No shiny suits. "I can't go with, 'It's a lavender leather shirt, and you have to wear it.' I'm like, 'You know what? That'll look great on some guys. I can't do it.'"
And yet . . . and yet . . . the job of an actor is to risk humiliation. Clooney knows this. And God knows he's lived it--he's seen some of his early work and in his own humble opinion he is the worst combination of overacting and overconfidence. Even after ten years as the highest-paid unknown in TV, he couldn't stop bobbing his head around. It was an unconscious thing, like you're not going to let anyone focus on you. Like you can't hit a moving target.
It's funny because all those years on TV, he told everybody he was really a movie actor. He said that all through his stints on Sisters and The Facts of Life and Roseanne. Finally he said, Fuck it, I'm a TV actor, so I might as well be the best TV actor I can be. And that's when he got the job on ER and one day Spielberg was watching him on the monitor and he goes, You know, you could be a movie star. But you have to stand still.
THEY SHOOT the first bank-robbery scene just before noon. The whole city of Yazoo stands on the sidelines and watches. "I got a picture of his chair, right where he sits," one says.
Because of the tommy guns, the actors are all wearing earplugs. When the take's over, George walks toward the cameras with his earplugs stuffed in his nose. "Ah don't git it," he says, looking puzzled. "Mah ears are still ringin'."
JIMMY CARTER is his favorite ex-president. Remember the handshake between Begin and Sadat? Then he sacrificed his presidency for the hostages. And remember the debate with Ford, when they asked Ford about Watergate and how much he knew, and when it came time for Carter's rebuttal he said he had no rebuttal, Jack. The question isn't about this man's character. This is a man whose character should never be questioned. What we're questioning is that we have different ideas of how this should work. I believe my way works, he believes his way works, and whichever one you like you should vote for. But I won't be part of accusing him of being part of this scandal.
That was so great, George says. So much class, such decency.
Then we come out of the trailer and
there's a big crowd of twelve-year-olds waiting in the rain. It's Beatlemania. He feints a little, realizes he can't avoid it, and goes over to sign autographs. Immediately they start to crowd in. Girls are laughing, saying, "I can't breathe" and calling him George and then laughing about calling him George--"Oh it's George, we know each other." And George is doing his job. He smudges an autograph and apologizes. "It's got dirt on it," he says. "Do you still want it?"
George's driver steps in with an umbrella. "Note the efforts of the noble driver," he says.
George poses for shots, telling them not to worry, he'll pose for a few. Finally he starts backing off and his noble driver says, "C'mon, give him a rest."
IN CLOONEY'S ROOM, the door hangs open a crack. We're watching the Knicks play the Spurs again, waiting for more buds to show up. A terrific actor named Tim Nelson comes in and shows George his little baseball beeper, which gives him the score of every game currently under way all over the country.
"My respect for you has increased immensely," George says.
Tim is working on the song they sing in the movie, "Man of Constant Sorrow."
"You gotta break your voice with it," he says, trying to break his voice.
Then the record producer T-Bone Burnett comes in. He's tall, dressed in fancy khakis, a little goofy looking. He hugs Clooney. Next in the door is the singer Gillian Welch. Clooney calls room service and orders a ton of food--burgers and salads and cheesecake.
"During the commercial we'll do 'Man of Constant Sorrow,' " Tim says.
So Burnett goes and gets a beautiful old Gibson guitar and they start running through the number. "It's the last note that's really hard," Tim says. "Ethan says it should sort of come up--'born and raiiised.' "
They try it a few times. It's not quite right. "You're not trying to hit normal notes," Burnett says. "You're trying to get more a shaky sound."
They try it some more, Burnett playing the melody on his guitar, but it doesn't quite come together until Burnett asks Gillian Welch for a little help. "This is the tenor part," she says quietly, hitting the notes dead-on.
Tim sings it: "The place where he was born and raiiiised . . ." Then Burnett and Welch join in on harmony as the old Gibson thumps and twinkles. It's beautiful. Carrying the warmth of that moment, Clooney starts doing impressions of Ethan Coen. Like the time he told him to say a line like Popeye--Clooney demonstrates, doing two Popeye voices--or how in the middle of a bank robbery he told him he should hop up and down for a second like he's got to take a leak. Who thinks of stuff like that? And Welch tells her Ethan story, how he told her to go into a music store and ask for a record as if she knows they don't have it. "You're so tired, you're so tired. Nothing ever goes right for you." And she says it like she's so tired, like nothing ever goes right for her, and they all laugh and then a security guard knocks on the open door, just checking to see if everything's all right, and for a moment I think George is going to invite him in to watch the game. Except the game is over and none of us really noticed. They're all having too much fun. Clooney sits under the dead TV with a goofy happy smile on his face--there's something magical about a handsome man acting goofy--telling us all about the chicken mud-wrestling scene and the time he got his buddy Richard Kind to moon Harry Hamlin's camera--whenever anybody puts a camera down in the house, the boys take it into the bathroom and moon it, but this time nobody was in the mood and finally Richard comes over and George says, Hey, we got Harry Hamlin's camera and we all mooned it and now it's your turn--so poor gullible Richard Kind goes into the bathroom and George asks him a question and when he turns around to answer, George spins the camera around to get Kind's face and butt in the same frame. And two days later Harry Hamlin calls and says, "Why is Richard Kind mooning me in my own camera?"
He's howling. They're all howling. And even though it's late and George has another 6:30 call, he's not in any hurry because this is it, right now, right here in this crappy hotel room: the life he chose. Kilroy is here.
- Posts : 12425
Join date : 2010-12-05
Katie, this is by far the best George story I've ever read. I've been a fan for a few years and I can actually see him doing all these goofy thing. LOL
- Happy Clooney-looney!
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Join date : 2010-12-06
Location : NJ, USA
I'm late to the party, still discovering all of the great stuff you have here, but this is a great read! Many thanks.
- Clooney Expert
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Join date : 2012-02-24
Location : Studio City, CA
That's so true: the Esquire interviews are always great. Glad you enjoyed!
- Posts : 12425
Join date : 2010-12-05
it's a good thing you do Astras, you've brought that thread back up.
I did spend some time in the news section but hadn't read that one, it's really fantastic
I did spend some time in the news section but hadn't read that one, it's really fantastic
- Shooting hoops with George Clooney
- Posts : 309
Join date : 2011-09-06
I hate that fat drunk broad that was bothering George. Someone should have bounced her out on her plump rump. Trash!!
- Ooh, Mr Clooney!
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Join date : 2011-04-10
Location : Cincinnati, Ohio
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