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George Clooney Biography


Home > Actors > C > Clooney, George > Biography


Birth Name: George Clooney
Born: 05/06/1961
Birth Place: Lexington, Kentucky, USA


Clooney was born on May 6, 1961 and raised in the small Kentucky town of Augusta, a scant 40 miles north of Cincinnati, OH. His father, Nick - brother of famed singer and actress Rosemary Clooney - was a local talk show host-turned-popular news anchor. His mother, Nina, was a beauty queen. Clooney grew up on the set of his father's shows, occasionally serving as a commercial pitchman and sketch player, before later working as a floor manager. With dreams of becoming a professional baseball player, Clooney was invited to tryout for the Cincinnati Reds in 1977 when he was just 16. But his best proved not good enough, and he failed to make the team. Instead, Clooney enrolled at Northern Kentucky University, where he proceeded to party, chase girls and occasionally show up for class. Not that he was entirely irresponsible; Clooney worked odd jobs to put himself through school, selling women's shoes and men's suits. After dropping out of NKU, Clooney's cousin, actor Miguel Ferrer, came to Kentucky to make a low-budget movie about horse racing. Clooney was cast in a small part based on his good looks and became instantly seduced with the business.



In 1982, with money saved up from cutting tobacco, Clooney piled into his rusted 1976 Monte Carlo and drove to Los Angeles, CA in two days without stopping. His car guzzled oil and had ignition problems that forced him to keep it running on the side of the road while he caught an hour's worth of sleep. He eventually sputtered into Beverly Hills, where he stayed with Rosemary, doing odd jobs around the house and driving his aunt and her famous friends around. Clooney then landed a job cleaning a theater, the money from which he used to pay for his first acting class. His first acting job was a Japanese commercial for Panasonic, followed by a part on the detective series "Riptide" (NBC, 1983-86). Clooney quickly made the jump from thankless television roles to forgettable horror flicks like "Grizzly II: The Predator" (1984), "Return to Horror High" (1986) and "Return of the Killer Tomatoes" 1988). But at least he was working.



Undeterred by the dearth of quality projects, Clooney continued plugging away on auditions, taking whatever job came his way (By the time he was a star, Clooney had worked on a total of 15 unsold pilots). Ironically, his first regular series role was as a young physician working in an emergency room in the short-lived sitcom "E/R" (CBS, 1984-85). He maintained a steady stream of bad recurring roles, playing a friendly carpenter on "The Facts of Life" (NBC, 1979-1988) during the 1985-86 season; a womanizing factory manager on "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-1997) for the 1988-89 season; and a construction worker on the short-lived sitcom "Baby Talk" (ABC, 1990-92), which he left after clashing with the show's producer. After playing a detective on "Bodies of Evidence" (CBS, 1992-93), Clooney stayed with law enforcement, but switched to drama, starring as the married detective who falls for Teddy (Sela Ward) during the 1993-94 season of "Sisters" (NBC).



Clooney often said how his peripatetic upbringing and the experiences of both his father and aunt prepared him for the pitfalls of a showbiz career. When he finally achieved stardom on "ER," he took his newfound success in stride. Clooney played womanizing emergency room pediatrician, Doug Ross, whose lack of personal judgment was usually trumped by compassion for his patients, though sometimes he defended an abused child with righteous indignation that bordered on professional misconduct. On the personal front, Ross was a carefree bachelor much like Clooney himself. But his darker nature lead to a stormy romantic entanglement with registered nurse, Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies), who began the series by attempting suicide after he broke her heart. Despite several twists and turns over the course of six seasons, including a few failed marriage proposals and the birth of twins, Ross and Hathaway - and consequently Clooney and Margulies - ended their stints on "ER," having moved to Seattle to get married and raise their daughters.



As film offers poured in, Clooney began stretching as an actor, handling roles in diverse genres, though several efforts fell below expectations. He was alongside Quentin Tarantino, battling vampires in the action adventure "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996), then displayed his boyish charm opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in the romantic comedy "One Fine Day" (1996). Though the former acquired some cult status, neither fared particularly well at the box office. In a bold, but ultimately damaging turn, Clooney inherited the "Batman" franchise from Val Kilmer, making a surprisingly mediocre Bruce Wayne/Batman in Joel Schumacher's "Batman & Robin" (1997). Clooney took the critical drubbings with typical good humor, often joking about his part in the debacle ("I think I've buried that franchise!"). The true culprits, however, were a confusing script, overblown visuals and an ear-splitting soundtrack. Clooney's other big blockbuster from that year, "The Peacemaker," also proved disappointing.



Despite a tough year at the box office, Clooney was dubbed "Sexiest Man Alive" by People magazine in 1997, a time when he was publicly battling the paparazzi for their bounty hunter tactics, especially in light of Princess Diana's August death in Paris while being chased in her car by photographers. The first glimmers of Clooney's activist nature surfaced when he organized a celebrity boycott of "Entertainment Tonight" (syndicated, 1981- ) in retaliation for another Paramount show, "Hard Copy" (syndicated, 1986-1999), which used this new form of intrusive paparazzi. Clooney was joined by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise and Madonna in an effort that proved effective; "Hard Copy" toned down its invasive tactics. Back on screen, Clooney firmly established himself as a bona fide presence in his next project, "Out of Sight" (1998), directed by Steven Soderbergh. As Elmore Leonard's smart-alecky, but fallible escaped con, Jack Foley, Clooney romanced a federal marshal (Jennifer Lopez) while en route to stealing a cache of diamonds from a crooked businessman (Albert Brooks). Both Clooney and Lopez entranced critics with their sizzling onscreen chemistry, while Clooney earned praise for the easy-going charm and intelligence of his debonair bank robber. Despite good reviews, however, few turned up in the theaters, sadly making "Out of Sight" a box office failure.



After making a cameo as a platoon leader in Terrence Malick's elegiac war film, "The Thin Red Line" (1998), his big screen fortunes changed dramatically with David O Russell's "Three Kings" (1999), an uncommonly political Hollywood action feature set during the Gulf War that delivered a cautionary message about the responsibility accompanying America's role as policeman of the world. Clooney proved his mettle as an action star with his turn as career military man Major Archie Gates, though not without paying a price. Despite high critical praise for the film, he later cited the enormous stress of working with Russell, who routinely berated everyone on set. Russell was so combative, that the typically unflappable Clooney eventually put him in a chokehold after the director went ballistic, butting heads with the actor while daring him to strike back. Clooney later told Playboy magazine in 2000 that working on the film "was truly, without exception, the worst experience of my life."



Regardless of his experiences with Russell, Clooney felt that his film career had warranted the decision to leave "ER" in February 2000. He made periodic returns to television, including as executive producer and star of the two-hour live broadcast of "Fail Safe" (CBS, 2000), a black-and-white homage to the days of live television and adapted from the Cold War novel by Harvey Wheeler and Eugene Burdick. Superbly acted and flawlessly produced, this welcome addition amidst the standard small screen fare failed to register with younger audiences weaned on MTV. The quality outing was the first real fruit born of Clooney's production company, Maysville Pictures, and his contract with Warner Bros.;he had previously served as executive producer and co-writer on the failed HBO pilot, "Kilroy" (1999). Clooney next reunited with "Three Kings" co-star Mark Wahlberg for Wolfgang Petersen's film adaptation of Sebastian Junger's best-selling novel "The Perfect Storm" (2000), playing Captain Billy Tyne of the doomed fishing boat, Andrea Gail. Anxiously awaited for its tale of men in the grip of nature's fury, "The Perfect Storm" solidified Clooney as a bankable big screen star in a fine turn as the captain of the doomed boat.



Also in 2000, he starred as escaped con Ulysses Everett McGill in the Coen brothers' deliriously loopy Depression-era jail break movie based loosely on Homer's Odyssey, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Back behind the camera, he served as producer on "Rock Star" (2001), a dopey comedy about a cover band singer (Wahlberg) drafted into the world of his heavy metal heroes. Clooney kept his stellar career in fast motion with a starring in Steven Soderbergh's all-star ensemble hit, "Ocean's Eleven" (2001) opposite Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Bernie Mac, among others. As heist leader Danny Ocean, an ex-con obsessed with robbing a casino heavyweight (Andy Garcia) and winning back his ex-wife (Julia Roberts) from him, Clooney's comic charm was on full blast, easily overshadowing younger co-stars Pitt and Damon. That same year, following the Sept. 11th attacks, Clooney was instrumental in rallying dozens of Hollywood friends and colleagues for a televised fundraiser for the victims of the terrorist attack, "America: A Tribute to Heroes" (2001). Clooney and company managed to raise over $30 million through the telethon. A public row with Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly erupted, however, when the conservative pundit erroneously claimed that the United Way was mishandling the money. Clooney responded with a sharply worded letter excoriating O'Reilly's unsubstantiated accusations and questionable journalism. The two continued their public row over the years on various topics, with Clooney typically getting the better of the ill-informed O'Reilly.



In 2002, Clooney had small but memorable role as a crippled crook in "Welcome to Collinwood." Following up, he made his directorial debut with "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," based on the book by Chuck Barris, the former host of "The Gong Show," who claimed he was a CIA hit man. Clooney aped Soderbergh's off-kilter visual style, while at the same time, infusing his own breezy sense of humor, creating a daring first film that garnered many admirers. Clooney then co-starred with Natascha McElhorne in the thriller feature, "Solaris," a sci-fi remake of a 1972 Russian film which reunited the actor again with pal Steven Soderbergh. A metaphorical meditation on life and death co-produced by James Cameron, "Solaris" failed to attract much attention at the box office. Meanwhile, a spotty track record was being formed for Section Eight, a production company formed by Clooney and Soderbergh. Though developing an interesting array of film and television projects - including the surprisingly subdued Washington insider docudrama "K Street" (HBO, 2003-04) - Section Eight failed to generate much profit outside "Ocean's 11." The team rebounded creatively with "Unscripted" (2005), a chronicle of the ups and downs of a trio of actors making their way in Hollywood.



As he delved further into producing and directing, Clooney remained among the most in-demand A-list leading men in Hollywood. He reunited with the Coen Brothers, taking the lead in the disappointingly unfunny screwball comedy "Intolerable Cruelty" (2003) as divorce attorney Miles Massey, the millionaire author of a prenuptial agreement so tightly written that it has never been cracked. Meanwhile, he falls for a scheming, gold-digging serial divorceé (Catherine Zeta-Jones) looking to get even after Miles defends her ex-husband and leaves her with nothing. Clooney's disarming performance was one of the film's few comic strengths, though critics tagged the film for being intolerably cold, particularly in regards to the lack of chemistry between Clooney and Zeta-Jones. The actor then recruited Zeta-Jones to join his ensemble of actor friends for the inevitable sequel, "Ocean's Twelve" (2004), which did tremendously at the box office, but suffered in comparison to the group's initial effort. Set in Italy, the film was more like a home movie of the gang on an extended vacation than an actual film.



Clooney the director came to full fruition with his sophomore effort, "Good Night and Good Luck" (2005), an ambitious and adroitly executed profile of pioneer newscaster Edward R. Murrow (David Straithairn) and his effort to publicly expose the headline-grabbing, bully-pulpit tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his Communist witch hunt in the 1950s. Clooney, who grew up watching his broadcast journalist father in action, showed a great aptitude for the ethical journalistic issues at hand, co-writing the screenplay with his longtime friend and partner Grant Heslov; the duo took greater-than-average pains to insure the historical accuracy of the events dramatized. As director, Clooney made creative use of real news interviews with McCarthy in place of casting an actor in the part, displaying a measured hand and a stylish touch with the rich black and white footage. Clooney also took on a side role as Murrow's respected news producer and confidant Fred Friendly, a role that displayed the actor in his most assured and adult performance. Clooney earned his first award nominations as a director, earning nods at the Independent Spirit Awards, Golden Globes and Academy Awards.



As an actor, Clooney signed onto writer-director Stephen Gaghan's multi-plot potboiler, "Syriana" (2005), playing a career CIA operative who uncovers a disturbing truth about the politics of oil in the Persian Gulf, before finding himself hung out to dry by his government when a mission goes awry. Clooney grew a scraggly beard and gained several extra pounds to play the role, while suffering a painful back injury on the final day of shooting, which required therapy and rehabilitation in a scene that failed to even make the finished film. But his pain and suffering was well worth it when Clooney won a Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture and an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Clooney next reunited with Soderbergh for "The Good German" (2006), playing an American reporter sent to cover the final Allied summit meeting of World War II, secretly hoping to search for a lost love, but becoming tangled up in a murder mystery.



Clooney was again voted "Sexiest Man Alive" by People magazine in 2006 - only the second time an actor had received the title - with his pal Brad Pitt being the other. Then in a third go-round, Clooney hopped back onto the gravy train for "Ocean's 13" (2007). This time, the gang seeks revenge on a ruthless Las Vegas casino owner (Al Pacino) whose double-crossing of Danny Ocean and company leads to his downfall. He next starred in as the titular "Michael Clayton" (2007), playing a corporate fixer who takes care of all the dirty work for one of the biggest law firms in New York City. But when the firm's top litigator (Tom Wilkinson) suffers from a nervous breakdown and threatens to sabotage the a lucrative settlement suit, Clayton tries cleaning up the mess, only to come face-to-face with who he's really become. Meanwhile, Clooney directed his third film, "Leatherheads" (2008), a period sports comedy set in the 1920s world of professional football. While he was awaiting the release of that film, Clooney received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for "Michael Clayton." Unfortunately, "Leatherheads" tanked horribly, with the Clooney receiving some of the more brutal reviews of his career.



A turn as a slippery federal agent in The Coen Brothers' dark farce "Burn After Reading" (2008) marked one of the filmmakers' bigger commercial successes, and was well-suited to Clooney's penchant for both political-leaning material and social satire, though the film's dips into slapstick territory were a curious choice for an A-list cast. The prolific actor returned to theaters the following year alongside Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor, and Kevin Spacey in "The Men Who Stare at Goats" (2009), a comedy based on a little-known U.S. military program that once trained personnel to develop psychic abilities to be used during combat. In theaters almost simultaneously was Jason Reitman's adaptation of the novel "Up in the Air" (2009), starring Clooney as a traveling executive addicted to his peripatetic lifestyle but faced with the possibility of having to set down both figurative and literal roots. Clooney also voiced the title character of Roald Dahl's "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009) in a stop-motion animated adaptation of the classic tale helmed by Wes Anderson and also starring the voice-over talent of Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. Clooney closed out the year with a beautiful new girlfriend, Italian TV presenter, Elisabetta Canalis, on his arm, as well as nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes, and the Academy for Best Actor for "Up in the Air." Clooney followed his Oscar-nominated performance with "The American" (2010), a low-key that divided critics and failed at the box office in which he played an assassin hiding out in Italy for one last job.



The following year, Clooney returned to Oscar form with his performance in Alexander Payne's downbeat comedy-drama "The Descendants" (2011), in which he played a wealthy businessman whose wife (Pattie Hastie) goes into an coma, triggering a quest with his two rebellious daughters (Amara Miller and Shailene Woodley) to find the man with whom she had an affair. The movie was widely praised by critics, many of whom singled out Clooney's exemplary performance, which was honored with a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture. Soon after his win, Clooney earned an Academy Award nomination in the same category. Meanwhile, he returned to the director's chair with "The Ides of March" (2011), a political thriller about a hotshot campaign manager (Ryan Gosling) who finds himself deeply involved in a scandal that threatens to take down a promising presidential candidate (Clooney) before a primary in Ohio. While critics gave the film a warm reception, audiences were largely disinterested in a politically themed movie, resulting in a mediocre showing at the box office. Still, Clooney's fourth film behind the camera proved that he was capable of consistently writing and directing quality films, proven in part by his shared Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Prior to the release of both movies, Clooney created a bit of stir earlier in 2011 when he announced his split from girlfriend Canalis, whom he begun dating to much international interest in 2009. The pair released a statement in June of that year stating they were no longer together. Clooney moved on rather quickly to publicly dating actress and former pro wrestler Stacy Keibler less than two months later.Clooney had an unusually quiet 2012, aside from his arrest for civil disobedience while protesting outside of Sudan's embassy about the ongoing Darfur conflict. The following year, just a few months before the premiere of "Gravity" (2013), his highly anticipated sci-fi collaboration with Sandra Bullock, it was revealed that Clooney had split from Keibler, returning him to official single-guy status once again. Following the worldwide critical and financial success of "Gravity," Clooney returned to the director's chair with "The Monuments Men" (2014), a fact-based story about art historians in World War II racing against time to recover priceless works of art looted by the Nazis. Unlike most of Clooney's other films as director, "The Monuments Men" received generally lukewarm reviews and was a box-office disappointment.