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In Depth

People In Film | George Clooney

George Clooney, The American

In The American, George Clooney plays Jack, a weapons maker for professional assassins and a killer himself, who suddenly finds himself at the opposite end of a gun sight. In many ways, the character fits Clooney: smart, handsome, worldly. But the character is hardly the man, who in addition to being voted “sexiest man alive,” is a writer, director, producer and humanitarian. Indeed, as The American director Anton Corbijn told us, Clooney is able to weave all of these identities together: “he’s a director’s favorite in terms of understanding what a director needs from an actor. He’s directed three films and so he knows that it’s very important to have an actor who’s on set. So George is never in the trailers. He’s on set and ready.”

George Clooney, TV Actor

Born in Lexington, Kentucky, Clooney was born into a family of entertainers. His mother was model, his father a TV host and anchorman, and his aunt, the singer Rosemary Clooney. While Clooney briefly flirted with professional sports, playing for the Cincinnati Reds, he was destined to be an entertainer. At age 17, he’d gotten his first part as an extra on the TV series Centennial that was filming in Kentucky.  By the 80s, he’d moved out to Los Angeles and was working full-time getting whatever roles he could, from a part on a show E/R to ongoing role on The Facts of Life as a hunky carpenter. But it wasn’t really till he stepped into ER as the handsome Dr. Doug Ross in 1994 that his career took off.

George Clooney, Serious Actor

While still on ER, Clooney began to star in movies, such as the thriller The Peacemaker, the rom-com One Fine Day, and the superhero franchise Batman & Robin. But it was his appearance in Stephen Soderbergh’s Out of Sight that really made critics sit up and pay attention. As Roger Ebert succinctly put it, “Here Clooney at last looks like a big screen star; the good-looking leading man from television is over with.” But Clooney didn’t rest on his sexy laurels; rather he used his good looks to help redefine his characters.  In Three Kings, Clooney played the rogue officer in Iraq whose handsome face never reveals what’s up his sleeve. In The Perfect Storm, he plays Capt. Billy Tyne, a fisherman whose noble front can’t cover up his financial woes. And finally in Michael Clayton, his perfectly put-together package of a corporate fixer appears to be unraveling before our very eyes.

George Clooney, Comic Talent

It is a truth universally acknowledged that George Clooney is good-looking. Indeed it has been scientifically proved. As Princeton University geneticist Dr. Janet Hargrove explained to the Onion’s AV Club, “The subject's masculine yet disarmingly friendly features, from what we have been able to determine, do not appear to be constricted by the laws of physics.” But Clooney’s talent for turning women (and men) weak in the knees has not taken away from his skill in getting them to roll over with laughter. As the Coen brothers quickly discovered, all that attractiveness could easily be used in the pursuit of comedy. Showing off his goofy side in the siblings’ O Brother Where Art Thou, Clooney continued to demonstrate his comic prowess in works like the 2003 courtroom farce Intolerable Cruelty, the 2008 spy send-up Burn After Reading (out from Focus Features), and his recent feature Up in the Air.

George Clooney: Filmmaker, Producer, Writer

Clooney’s role in Stephen Soderbergh’s Out of Sight started a collaboration that has lasted for over a decade. In 2001, the two joined forces to create Section Eight Productions to help young talent and make their own work. It was through that company that Clooney directed his first feature Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in 2002, as well as helped produce independent work like Christopher Nolan’s 2002 Insomnia and Todd Haynes’ 2002 Focus Features film Far From Heaven. Clooney’s professional multitasking would come to full bloom in 2006 when he was nominated for Oscars for acting (supporting role in Syriana), directing (Good Night, and Good Luck) and writing (Good Night, and Good Luck). He won his one Oscar so far for Syriana.

George Clooney, Humanitarian

While he played a doctor who saved lives on TV, Clooney has also tried to help people in real life. In 2001, he was one of the prime organizers of America: A Tribute to Heroes, the telethon launched to help the families devastated by 9/11. Clooney helped out again to organize Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope for the victims of 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In 2006, he used his celebrity to bring attention to the genocide in Darfur. In addition to launching a publicity campaign, he testified on the issue at the UN Security Council. Clooney continues to speak up for issues he believes in, often trying to detour the tabloid’s insatiable fascination with his private life into an awareness of political realities. “If celebrity is a credit card,” Clooney said, “I'm using my credit. My job is to try and find ways of talking about issues that move us forward. I don’t make policy, but I can shine a light on faulty or good policy….Rather than talk about who I’m dating, let’s talk about saving lives.” The Emmy chose Clooney for their 2010 Bob Hope Humanitarian Award.

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