And of course there is the movie star's loss of privacy, which is the one thing that Clooney says bothers him most about being a celebrity. But, really, there just has to be something more.
One day, Clooney's at his office, doing what he does best, being perfect. Let's say you're returning from using the bathroom where you have contemplated washing your hands but haven't. He sees you. The first thing he says is, "Hey, I hope you washed your hands." How is that possible? Are there hidden cameras in the bathroom? How could he know that you didn't? Probably because, along with everything else, he divines truth.
But then the discussion begins to revolve around irrational fears and whether he's ever had any. He crosses his legs. "When I was young," he says, "I had this very irrational fear that I could just fucking do something. My father and I would climb up on a bridge, 200 feet to the ground, and I'd think, 'I could just jump. I could step out, and it would be all over.' And when that gets in your head, it's all you can think of." He pauses, shifts, continues. "In a more practical sense, when I was 12, I would run the teleprompter for my dad when he was doing the news live and I kept thinking, 'I could just jump in front of the camera right now and go, "Fuck, fuck, fuck!" and there's nothing anyone could do.' And then that's all I could think about, and I had to force myself not to do it. And then it became this thing I had with everything. I could stand up in church and yell obscenities. I could just get up and do this right now. And walls would come crashing down, and the whole world would shatter."
And there it is, just like that. Why Clooney is the way he is, and the price he has had to pay. When the fate of the world rests on your shoulders, perfection is its own price. It's like with the mustard-can-give-you-a-heart-attack thing: It's not true, of course, but somewhere, deep down, the belief persists. He may have had that angry period, but it did not last because it could not last, because if it did, the world would shatter. And he would be responsible. What a great guy this Clooney is. The world is in trouble. But fear not. He is on the case and looking out for us all.
This story is from the November 24th, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.
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