Oscar Nomination for Best Actor
George Clooney draws singular attention from women, and has often been described as a womanizer, even a drunk. But his fans tell me that these are misnomers. His frankness with women and his forthright attitude could have created the dark impression about him.
Now in the race for the Best Actor Oscar, he has perhaps essayed a role in Up in the Air that runs close to his own life, at least a chapter from it. As Ryan Bingham, the club class flying executive who delivers pink slips with a baby touch, he believes that marriage and relationships are akin to the albatross in Coleridge's poem. Never get entangled, and drop them as you go along. That will lighten life's load!
At 48, he is single, having got out of a marriage with Talia Balsam in 1993 that lasted four years. He said he would never marry again, though he has dated a string of women, including British model Lisa Snowdown and the current, heartthrob, Elisabetta Canalis. At a point, media speculated that he was seeing Fatima Bhutto, granddaughter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and niece of Benazir Bhutto.
Will Clooney marry again? Actress Nicole Kidman once challenged him: that he would break his vow to remain single by age 40 or she would give me $10,000. On his 40th birthday, she did send him a cheque, which the star returned with a note, "Double or nothing on my 50th". Clooney is close to clinching his booty, unless Canalis coaxes him to the altar before that.
Clooney has made other headlines. When asked to run for political office in his home State of Kentucky, he quipped in his classic style: "Run for office? No. I've slept with too many women, I've done too many drugs, and I've been to too many parties".
The man just loves controversy. A fierce critic of America's gun culture, he reportedly described actor Charlton Heston, chief of the National Rifle Association, as one suffering from Alzheimer's.A political liberal, he averred that "you can't beat your enemy anymore through wars (in reference to the Iraq conflict); instead you create an entire generation of people seeking revenge. These days it only matters who's in charge. Right now that's us-for a while at least. Our opponents are going to resort to car bombs and suicide attacks because they have no other way to win...."
Clooney's comments have been as dramatic as his rise to stardom. Born in Lexington, he became a big hero through the small screen in the 1990s. As Doctor Doug Ross, Clooney was the "sexy centerpiece of the television serial called "ER". His wit, his timing and his great good looks pushed the serial up the popularity charts, and he became a face to look forward to.
He auditioned for Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, but finally worked with him in Dusk Till Dawn, a strange movie about vampires. Both were actors here.
However, films such as Good Luck, Good Night (Oscar for Writing the Original Screenplay), Syrianna (Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), Michael Clayton (Oscar nod for Best Actor) and now Up in the Air (Oscar nom for Best Actor) got him into the big league. Co-writing Good Luck, Good Night and essaying a television producer who helped stop the anti-Communist witch hunt in America, Clooney gave for the first time screen life to his political vision. In Syrianna, he portrays an operator hunting down terrorists in West Asia, a movie that explores Washington's shady dealings in oil and guns. He is the fixer for a firm accused of fatal pollution in Michael Clayton, and as the divorced, addicted to gambling and deeply-in-debt Clayton, Clooney is marvellous. So is he in Up in the Air, troubleshooting his way till someone gets hold of a bow and shoots the arrow at his heart. Boy, did we see George Clooney stop in his tracks?
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has been writing on the Oscars for many years.)