Want to know if he, a boozer of some renown, maybe has a drinking problem? Thrusting his noble head forward, he would be pleased to answer that question. "I'm not a big drink-by-myself kind of guy, but I drink plenty," he says. "I enjoy drinking. I've gone through phases where I've drunk too much and had to say, 'OK, I've had too many hangovers in a row now, and I need to mellow this out.' Last time I had a real good bender was after I injured my neck while making Syriana. Getting hammered made the pain a lot easier to deal with, and for a good three months I was pretty thumped every night."
Want to go back a few years and discuss the circumstances of his first orgasm? Not a problem; in fact, he's enthusiastic. "I believe it was while climbing a rope when I was six or seven years old," he says, his voice rising. "I mean, nothing came out, but all the other elements were there. I remember getting to the top of the rope, hanging off the rope, and going, 'Oh, my God, this feels great!'"
Want to know if Max, the Vietnamese black-bristled potbellied pig he owned and loved for 18 years, had bed-sharing rights? Ask away. "Yes, he did, for quite some time, until he got a little too fat."
Want to know if he has a girlfriend right now? Um, actually, no, he will not answer that question. "I might have a girlfriend, but I'm never going to talk about it. I get one thing to keep to myself." And let's say you take a tour of his house that ends up in his sleeping quarters, where in the dressing alcove he keeps dozens of white shirts encased behind glass like they were rare wine, and after looking under his bed and finding that baseball bat, you want to know if there's anything interesting in his bedside table; what he'll gently say as he ushers you out is, "Probably not," which can only mean, probably yes. But other than those few things, he's more than willing to open himself up, as he always has been.
At the same time, however, that doesn't mean absolutely everything is out there. He's not keeping secrets. It's just that some parts of his life have never really been looked at or examined. His angry-George period, for example. He had one of those, big-time. It was back in the Nineties. His career was doing OK. But he was angry. He'd get angry at other drivers on the road, "the fucking idiots," and roll down his window to yell, "You fucking assholes!" He'd break his golf clubs and throw them in the lake. He'd smash his tennis racket. He'd fly into jealous rages – "horrible rages where you drive around the girl's apartment, 'I know she's with this other guy!'" Offended by some acquaintance, he'd draft a letter that featured words like "cocksucker" and "flaming asshole." It was bad. And it wasn't driven by anything like, say, his longstanding distaste for bullies, which led to the infamous incident where he throttled abusive director David O. Russell during the making of 1999's Three Kings and had to be physically dragged away. That's a justifiable anger. This other anger wasn't.
"I haven't been like that for years and years," Clooney says today, "but, yeah, there was that period. I wish I had some understanding of where it all came from. But who the fuck knows, right?" Well, no one if not him. But he's not a guy naturally given to introspection. One day, for instance, he's asked to complete a few half-started sentences.
"Sure," he says. "Go."
I am "50."
It's fun to daydream about "Cabo San Lucas."
I feel that my father seldom "Disappoints me."
Masturbation is "Crucial!"
My conscience bothers me "Only at night and during the day."
My friends don't know that I'm afraid of "My friends."
See how he is, all quippy and deflective? Could he please stop that?
What I like least about women – He opens his mouth, nothing comes out. Then he says, "There's nothing but quippy answers."
How about they all want to get married? He frowns. "But that's not true, and that's not what I like least about women."
Then what is?
"I don't know. I've never thought it through. I would also argue that you've boxed me in by saying, 'Don't do what you do.' I'd argue that you've taken away all my tools." He looks agitated. He doesn't like this game anymore. But that's OK, because Clooney is not a guy you'd ever like to see at a loss for words. It just seems wrong, like some kind of cosmic violation of the way things should be.
My name is –, and the world is – He smiles. This one he can handle. "My name is George and the world is in trouble," he says. "I can name you 40 hot spots in the world right now, and not just physically violent hot spots, but financially violent hot spots as well." And off he goes, back on an even keel.
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