We find out what happens when George Clooney Googles George Clooney. And when A.J. Jacobs shows him 2 Girls 1 Cup.
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He is in the backseat of a dark SUV — coffee in hand, dressed in black, hair sharply parted — and is, for the first time in his life, reading his own Wikipedia entry.
George Timothy Clooney (born May 6, 1961) is an American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter who gained fame as one of the lead doctors in the long-running television drama ER (1994-99).
He pauses. “Yes, that”s true.”
He attended St. Susanna school . . . There he developed an interest in theater.
“Sort of . . .”
He was an average student.
“Actually, I pulled out my report cards,” says Clooney. “I was a much better student than I thought I was. I had all A”s and a B. So that”s not so bad.”
Clooney injured himself on Syriana”s set, during a torture scene, in 2004. He had some excruciating headaches and suffered short-term memory loss.
“And,” he adds, looking at me, “I suffered short-term memory loss.”
You may Google yourself from time to time, but George Clooney doesn”t. How could he? It”s different for him. It”s overwhelming. Its infinite madness could disintegrate a man”s personality. “George Clooney” pops up on nearly 11 million sites on the Internet. Spend a day browsing these sites and you will find unfathomable rage and baffling adoration. You will find America with all its insane colors refracted through the prism of George Clooney.
But George Clooney is also a brave man, and today he has agreed to spend a couple of hours exploring what the Internet has to say about George Clooney. A sort of This Is Your Virtual Life. Today he will see things that shock him, scare him, and make him shake with laughter. He will see things so disturbing that he will walk out of the room horrified. Also, he will see his own nipples.
But for now, a little after 9:00 a.m., as we zip down the FDR Drive to the loft where the bepanahpeyar.com photo crew is waiting, he”s reading aloud his comparatively friendly user-generated biography:
He secretly financed and executive-produced a political thriller short film called The Endgame Study in 2006.
“Never heard of that. It was so secret, I have no idea what they”re talking about.”
It is rumored that Clooney was the one to have circulated the videotape of Jesus vs. Santa (the video greeting card that gave birth to South Park) around the Los Angeles area in 1995.
“There”s truth to that.”
Michelle Pfeiffer and Nicole Kidman each bet him $10,000 that he would be a father before he turned forty.
“When I turn forty, I”ll let you know about that.”
Clooney stirred up controversy for his remarks about Charlton Heston, saying Charlton Heston “announced again today that he is suffering from Alzheimer”s.”
“I wrote him a letter saying I usually avoid making jokes at people”s expense, so I”m sending you an apology, and I got a really nice letter back from his wife.”
His entry finishes with the Heston flap. “Huh. Nice way to end,” says Clooney with a humpf. But overall, he has to admit, a pretty favorable assessment of his life — if not entirely accurate. “The hardest thing is trying not to correct everything on the Internet. It”d be night and day — wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. So you just have to say, All right, I”ll take it, bring it on.”
The SUV pulls up to the photo studio. Or what is supposed to be a photo studio. It”s an unmarked brown door on a deserted street in Brooklyn. “Where the hell are we?” asks Clooney. “This is a hit, isn”t it?”
Part I: clooney+career
There is no one inside packing heat, just a photo crew, along with coffee and cookies. Clooney and I withdraw to a bare, industrial, wireless-equipped room in the back. We sit in low-slung chairs at a long table, facing a MacBook.
I figure it”s still too early to alarm Clooney with the sordid details of his bedroom habits. Stick to the career for now. I click to the Internet Movie Database and scroll to his first credit: a part in a 1978 miniseries about the history of Colorado. Andy Griffith played a professor. Clooney distinguished himself as the Village Extra.
“They don”t even have my first gig,” he says. He made his real debut in a horse-racing flick called And They”re Off. “I didn”t even want to be an actor,” he says. “I was just hanging out with my cousin.” The movie was shot in Clooney”s home state of Kentucky and starred his cousin Miguel Ferrer. “I rented my car, a Monte Carlo, to them and got fifty bucks a day. They gave me a part as an extra. And Miguel said, Come to L.A. and be an actor. I had just spent the summer cutting tobacco, which is a miserable job. So that”s what made me move to Hollywood.”
This one looks interesting: a 1993 thriller called The Harvest. Clooney is listed as the “lip-syncing transvestite.” Yeah, he remembers that one. Wishes he didn”t. He went to visit some buddies on the set in Mexico, and the director asked him to be in the background, wearing a gold lamé dress and mouthing the words to a song. “It wasn”t really supposed to be credited, and suddenly this idiot director put our names on it. It was like, Thanks, pal. It didn”t matter when nobody knew who you are, but now it”s come back to haunt me.”
A YouTube commentator has written:
I precisely found it pretty awful. . . . =(
“That”s funny,” Clooney says. “Because that”s usually thought of as a pretty great love scene. Steven Soderbergh really shot the shit out of that movie. That one holds up. I try to get a couple that hold up over the years. O Brother holds up. Three Kings
“And The Peacemaker, of course. Someday, a group of people will discover that one and give me a posthumous award for that.”
I tell him that, without a doubt, somewhere on the Internet, we can find a fan club for his 1997 belly flop about Russian nukes. “There”s no such thing,” he insists.
After a couple of minutes, I concede the point. The closest I can find are a handful of positive reviews of the Peacemaker DVD on Amazon. I also find this review, which Clooney reads aloud:
George Clooney is about as entertaining to watch as Michael Jackson being raped by the Gorton”s fisherman.
“Wow, that”s an angry cat right there,” says Clooney.
One could argue that some would find that immensely entertaining — but I agree that I think it is meant as an insult.
“If you want to see angry, look up Batman & Robin,” Clooney says.
He”s right. The most popular review on Amazon:
I finally understand this movie. It”s the kind of thing that Ed Wood would have directed if someone had handed him umpty-million dollars and not applied any adult supervision.
Clooney unleashes a big laugh. “That”s hilarious.”
Because of his various battles with the tabloids, I”d always considered Clooney to be prickly about criticism. But I”m not sure that”s accurate. In some ways, he”s the most self-aware of celebrities, and he knows that getting trashed is part of the game. He saw his aunt Rosemary go from superstar to has-been to psychiatric patient to respected elder. He saw his dad”s career wax and wane. He understands fame.
“You ever hear of the Hollywood Stock Exchange?” I ask. “They set up a stock exchange where people trade celebrities.”
“Really? I must be waaaay down. It”s been a bad year.”
Clooney”s definition of a bad year, apparently, includes an Oscar nomination for Michael Clayton and a $311 million gross for Ocean”s Thirteen. Not to mention the upcoming release of Leatherheads, the first movie he”s directed since his Oscar winner, Good Night, and Good Luck, in 2005.
Clooney”s stock is trading at $46, down from a career high in 2000, the year of The Perfect Storm and O Brother, Where Art Thou?
“What”s Damon at?” Clooney asks. “He should be way up. Forbes did something recently where they said he”s the most bankable star.”