George Clooney is well on his way to cementing his leading-man status in celluloid history. This year, he adds to his already impressive resume with his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
With suave good looks and Southern charm, Clooney has managed to balance blockbuster success with more personal projects. Rather than soak up the spotlight in the Hollywood hills, he spends his time in a villa in Italy, famously condemning celebrity stalkers and gossip rags. He’s one of a special set of celebrities more likely to be seen in front of the U.N. than in a mug shot.
Clooney’s nomination this year for Best Actor in a Leading Role for “Michael Clayton” marks his fourth Oscar nomination. He plays what the legal world calls a “fixer,” who after 13 years of cleaning up corporate legal messes has become increasingly appalled by the ethically bankrupt behavior of his clients.
The 46-year-old Clooney first gained widespread acclaim playing Dr. Doug Ross on the highly successful medical drama “ER.” In 1999, he left the show to pursue his film career, going on to roles in both critically and commercially successful films like “The Perfect Storm,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and the blockbuster “Ocean’s Eleven” franchise. It seems fitting that in his most financially successful project Clooney reprised a role originally played by Frank Sinatra, Danny Ocean. In the role – as well as off screen – Clooney’s tailored, masculine style harkens back to the golden days of Hollywood when actors like Cary Grant and Paul Newman filled theaters.
Nearly three decades into his own career, Clooney continues to make choices that prove his Hollywood savvy. The actor has no qualms with “selling out” in star vehicles like the Ocean movies to fund his pet projects – films he knows will probably lose money.
In 2006, Clooney tasted Oscar gold for two of these very personal projects. He was reportedly paid $350,000 for “Syriana” and just $1 for “Good Night, and Good Luck,” a far cry from the $20 million per picture he usually commands. The move paid off. He won for his supporting role in “Syriana” as Bob Barnes, a CIA agent whose last mission before retirement lands him in a hornet’s nest of political intrigue and corruption. The actor also received Best Director and, with Grant Heslov, Best Original Screenplay nominations for “Good Night, and Good Luck,” a film about the conflict between journalist Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy. That year, he became the first person in Academy history to receive a nod for acting in one movie and directing another.
Clooney, a political activist, has been outspoken on the Darfur crisis and on Jan. 31, was appointed a United Nations envoy. While some think that he should follow in the footsteps of his father — who ran for Congress in 2004 — and run for political office, Clooney has said that he considers himself “too liberal for politics,” and intends instead to focus on his directorial career as he gets older. It’s more fun, he once said, to be the painter than the paint.
Born: Lexington, Ky., on May 6, 1961
Height: 5 feet 10 1/2 inches tall
Nickname: Gorgeous George
Schools: Northern Kentucky University and the University of Cincinnati but did not receive a degree
Little Known Fact: Tried out for the Cincinnati Reds in 1977 but wasn’t offered a contract
Wife: Talia Balsam, 1989-1993; says he will never get married again or have kids
Early Roles: Dr. Douglas Ross on the hit series “ER” from 1994-1999; one of five actors to play the role of Batman
Accolades: An Oscar in 2006 for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (“Syriana”); People magazine’s “sexiest man alive” in 1997 and 2006; 2008 Oscar nominee for Best Actor in a Leading Role (“Michael Clayton”) — Nathan Storey