May 6 2021 marks a milestone 60th birthday for one of Hollywood’s most renowned and recognisable actors: George Clooney. In concurrence with our personalised birthday book, we look back over a life that has included being a star on both the small and the big screen, as well as United Nations Messenger of Peace.
George Clooney at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival
Image: Wikimedia Commons
George Timothy Clooney was born May 6, 1961 in Lexington, Kentucky, to a beauty queen mother, Nina, and a TV anchorman father, Nick. On his mother’s side, he is a distant cousin of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. Incidentally, Clooney was born just a few months after the inauguration of another historic President, John F. Kennedy – something you can read about in our 1961 newspapers.
A young George grew up between Kentucky and Ohio, attending school in both states, and then also university, although he dropped out of both Northern Kentucky University and the University of Ohio without graduating.
Initial Acting Roles
Clooney’s first appearance on screen actually occurred in his then-hometown of Augusta, Kentucky, with a role as an extra in the 1978 mini-series Centennial. Throughout his twenties, while studying at the Beverly Hills Playhouse acting school, Clooney made a series of guest appearances in TV shows such as The Facts of Life, Roseanne and The Golden Girls. His first major role was in 1984, on the short-lived sitcom E/R, a coincidental precursor to what would be his breakout role on the unrelated ER ten years later.
ER would run for 15 seasons and 331 episodes, beginning in 1994. George Clooney was cast as Dr. Doug Ross from the pilot, a lead role that he would play until 1999 and which would catapult him into the public psyche. Clooney was named People’s Sexiest Man Alive in 1997, and utilised his new-found popularity to cross over to the silver screen.
While still starring in ER, Clooney landed a lead role in Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn, as well as another opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in the romantic comedy One Fine Day. This led to his replacing Val Kilmer as the eponymous hero in the final instalment of Warner Bros.’ Batman series, Batman & Robin. Clooney followed this up with a memorable turn as a bank robber alongside Jennifer Lopez in 1998’s Out of Sight, reuniting him with Batman director Steven Soderbergh.
Critical Success and Recognition
After leaving ER, Clooney wasted no time in establishing himself as one of Hollywood’s leading men. In 2001 he won a Golden Globe award for his performance in the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? The following year, he was cast as Danny Ocean in Soderbergh’s reboot of the Rat Pack heist classic Ocean’s Eleven. Clooney would remain in the role for two sequels, as the Ocean’s trilogy amassed over one billion dollars in revenue worldwide.
In 2005, Clooney picked up his second Golden Globe, as well as his first Oscar, for his supporting role in the geopolitical thriller Syriana. He would later win a third Golden Globe for his role in The Descendants.
From 2002 onwards, Clooney has also regularly branched out into writing, directing and producing. As producer, he won his second Academy Award for 2012’s Best Picture, Argo. In doing so, he also became only the third person in history to be nominated in six different Academy Awards categories, following Walt Disney and Alfonso Cuaron.
Before his second marriage in 2014, George Clooney enjoyed a reputation as one of the entertainment industry’s most eligible bachelors. After dating actress Kelly Preston, Clooney married his first wife Talia Balsam in 1989 in Las Vegas. They divorced four years later.
Across the nineties and noughties Clooney dated or was linked to a string of female celebrities, including Charlize Theron, Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, Lisa Snowdon, Renee Zellweger and Stacey Kiebler. For a long time, many tabloids speculated that the aging Clooney had no interest in marriage, but this was quashed when, at 52 years old, he became engaged to human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin. The pair wed five months later in Venice.
On June 6, 2017, Amal gave birth to twins Ella and Alexander, making George a first-time father at the ripe old age of 56.
Activism and Legacy
George Clooney has on many occasions used his platform to make political stands and raise awareness. He has led campaigns to raise money for such causes as gay rights, the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and the 2020 Beirut explosion. Clooney has also spoken publicly against genocide in Sudan and Armenia, alongside fighting to help Syrian refugees.
Clooney with President Obama
Image: SNL.co – Creative Commons
In his sixty years, George Clooney has certainly made his presence felt across many corners of the globe. For four straight years from 2006 onwards, Clooney was included in Time’s list of the 100 most influential people on the planet. He launched the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity in 2016, a year after being awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the 72nd Golden Globes.