Friday, February 22, 2008

George Clooney is a bit Fake

Especially if this Radar article is to be believed

Indeed, for the past few years [Clooney's] public image has hovered above those of his famous colleagues like a gleaming bubble rising from a heavily perfumed bath. But recently, Clooney's impossibly flawless exterior seems to have taken on too much air, with reports of some very un-Clooney-like behavior. There was, for instance, that motorcycle crash in Weehawken, New Jersey, which left girlfriend Sarah Larson with a broken toe (the parties blame each other, and the case is still under investigation), and a near-fistfight with romance-novel cover boy Fabio in November. Suddenly, Clooney's become the bubble people are lining up to pop.

The most recent salvo was fired by, of all people, Rupert Everett, who in a December 15 interview with the UK Independent, took aim at the actor's unusually diverse résumé: "Clooney thinks that provided he does films which are politically committed he's allowed to do Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen. But the Ocean's movies are a cancer to world culture. They're destroying us."

Everett didn't confine his comments to Clooney's filmic output. "He's not the brightest spark on the boulevard," he went on, predicting, "He'll be president one day. Mark my words, if he's straight, he'll be president." Though Everett seems to have meant it as an insult (and in the waning days of the Bush years, it's gotta sting), Clooney's name has, in fact, been bandied about recently as a possible candidate for governor of California, and, according to gossip columnist Cindy Adams, Arnold himself is fanning the flames. (Of the buzz, the actor has said, "Believe me, you don't want me in politics." Self-deprecating, sexy, yet slyly ambiguous—that's Clooney!)

But increasingly, an avid anti-Clooney faction is emerging. No one, save Everett, wants to go on the record, but under cover of anonymity the tales emerge, sprinkled in many cases with a dose of real resentment. According to Hollywood insiders, Clooney is an overhyped egomaniac, a phony, and a "bully" with a "whopping temper." And worst of all, at least in Hollywood: He can't open a movie.

"Oh. you mean Mr. Beautiful, Mr. Nice, Mr. Politically Correct, and All That Other Crap Guy?" growled a formidable Hollywood agent when asked about the actor. "He's the perfect human being, except that he has the biggest ego in the world and never lets the public know because it wouldn't be the right kind of image."

Lately, though, we've been treated to tiny glimpses of that other Clooney. Back in August, for instance, an Italian reporter at the Venice Film Festival asked him how he squared Michael Clayton's critique of corporate greed with his recent ad for Nespresso, given the international boycott of Nestlé for pushing what critics say is potentially harmful infant formula in developing countries.

The Clooney Bin from RADAR on Vimeo.
As he listened to the question being translated on a headset, a deeply tanned Clooney ran through an amazing array of expressions (annoyed, condescending, threatening, confused, disgusted...) before offering the most dismissive response imaginable: "Yeah, okay—look, I'm not going to apologize to you for trying to make a living every once in a while," he offered before mentioning his efforts in the Sudan and concluding with a wave of the hand, "It's sort of an irritating question."

The actor was dining at the swanky Hollywood eatery Madeo when a camera flash raised his ire. He seems to have thought the group of women at a nearby table were snapping his picture, but in fact they were documenting their evening with another sex symbol. Harlequin heartthrob Fabio was participating in a charity event on behalf of the 11-99 Foundation, benefiting California Highway Patrol family members—and Clooney, for once, was in the background.

As Fabio tells it, one of the six women at his table informed him that "a gentleman" a few tables behind him was flipping the bird every time she took a picture. Recognizing Clooney, Fabio says he approached the actor's table to explain the situation.

"He says, 'Fuck you,' and tried to push me—but I didn't move, and instead he fell back," Fabio recalls. "Then I got in his face, and I called him every name in the book. And he says, 'Get away from me, you big thing.'" Fabio's impression of Clooney's voice is decidedly unmanly. He also notes that the actor appeared to be in his cups.

The former cover boy returned to his table, but says he finally lost his temper when the actor dropped by on his way out to call one woman a "fat bitch" and another a "fat cow."

"That's when I got up, but he ran out of the restaurant," Fabio says, adding philosophically, "It doesn't matter how much money you have. If you're white trash, you're always white trash. He's not even half a man."

Clooney may owe his sinking reputation, like so many pop cultural phenomena, to South Park.
They parodied the actor in Team America: World Police, and pounced again after Clooney's 2006 Oscar acceptance speech for Syriana. "We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while," the actor proclaimed. "I think it's probably a good thing. We're the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular."

In the 2006 South Park episode, the speech gives rise to a cloud of smugness that, combined with the emissions of hybrid cars, ultimately endangers the nation. It is, says a local weatherman, "the perfect storm of self-satisfaction."

It was widely felt that Clooney's self-righteousness got the better of him, for instance, during his infamous 2002 dispute with his longtime agent at CAA, Michael Gruber. The conflict involved Clooney's purchase of Villa Oleandra, on the shore of Lake Como. Gruber, who helped steer the actor from prime-time television to his first blockbuster hit, The Perfect Storm, introduced the sellers to Clooney, and contemplated pocketing a $250,000 finder's fee for his efforts. "I introduced friends to George," Gruber later told Variety. "While a finder's fee was discussed, and disclosed to Clooney, it was never expected, and it was never received."

When Clooney heard about the proposed payment, he went ballistic, apparently making such an issue over the incident that Gruber was forced to leave CAA. "He ruined that guy in this town," claims a well-placed source with a major talent agency. "Maybe Gruber was an idiot to try it, but get over it! Change agents, move on! It's enough that he lost his job. But that wasn't enough for George. He just had to ruin his career. He had to kill him." (Clooney declined to comment.)

Before running afoul of Clooney, Gruber repped the likes of Brett Ratner and Ice Cube. After a brief return to agency work at ICM in 2005, he's currently working in the nightclub business.

"George has a whopping temper. I mean volcanic," asserts a well-placed studio executive who has worked with Clooney in the past, adding that alcohol often helps bring out the beast in him.The executive points to Clooney's dustup with Good Night, and Good Luck producer Simon Franks at an afterparty for the film's London premiere at the Floridita nightclub on November 3, 2005.

"Depending on who you believe," says the studio exec, who spoke with a number of witnesses to the event, "it was either that Simon Franks was trying to pick up Clooney's girlfriend, or that Clooney was mad because he went outside to get his limo in the back alley and it wasn't there, or that somebody just looked at somebody the wrong way and he went off. It was a late-night—maybe not a brawl—but a good, solid fistfight."

Various accounts of the fight were reported in the UK tabloids, most of which pegged Clooney as the aggressor.

"George was livid and trying to knock the living daylights out of the other guy," a witness told the London Sun. Clooney's publicist, Stan Rosenfield, explained things this way: It had "to do with someone being unkind to a woman. No punches were thrown, [but] George told the person to knock it off."

Clooney himself released a statement the following day, declaring, "I won't stand by while someone is being insulted and maligned."

Whatever the truth, the event apparently so rankled Clooney that three months later, he was still holding a grudge, according to the Daily Telegraph, which claimed the actor had Franks barred from Harvey Weinstein's glitzy BAFTA party at London nightclub The Hospital.

he responded to a savage review of his directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, by egging the house of the writer, Los Angeles Times movie critic Kenneth Turan. "He and a bunch of guys who were all in black tie got in a limo, and they each took a dozen eggs," recalls a studio suit who heard the tale from the actor himself. "They went by Turan's house and they egged it.

When Turan began telling the story, the exec continues, "George then used that to his advantage. He contacted the editor of the Los Angeles Times and basically said, 'It's bad enough that Kenny Turan has lambasted all my movies, and particularly the one I directed, but now he's going around saying I've egged his house. For God's sake, I'm a 43-year-old man! I mean, will he stop at nothing?'"

Perhaps Clooney's biggest scrap was with director David O. Russell on the set of Three Kings. Russell and Clooney reportedly had a tense relationship from the start because Clooney was not Russell's first choice for the role. According to Sharon Waxman's Hollywood tell-all, Rebels on the Backlot, the director even went so far as to make Clooney do yogic breathing exercises to curb the actor's tendency to squint when he delivered his lines. Depending on which version you believe, the two either almost came to blows or Russell wound up on the receiving end of a Clooney headlock. One thing that cannot be disputed is that Clooney kicked Russell's ass in the PR spin war that followed.

"I would not stand for him humiliating and yelling and screaming at crew members, who weren't allowed to defend themselves," the actor told Vanity Fair in October 2003. "I don't believe in it, and it makes me crazy. So my job was to humiliate the people who were doing the humiliating."

"George Clooney can suck my dick," Russell responded, adding, "He's a really good person, and I'm a really bad person, right? He's a super-political, extremely manipulative guy, and he's not an artist. I think George is super-invested in making himself look like a good guy all the time. I think George will be president."

Anyone inclined to take Russell's side was likely persuaded otherwise when a clip of the director verbally abusing Lily Tomlin on the set of I Heart Huckabees was leaked to YouTube last year. Speculation as to its origins immediately pointed to Clooney.

"Clooney paid the [cameraman] to release it," insists the well-placed agent. "It was all him."

George Clooney is as entitled to his occasional missteps as anyone—that is, he would be, say his critics, if his movies earned money. Unfortunately, they rarely do. "Look at his box office!" says the power agent. "The bottom line is, the only movies he's made money on are either movies costarring Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, and Mark Wahlberg, or one starring a giant wave. Everything else: nothing."

Even Michael Clayton, for which Clooney was tipped as a likely Oscar nominee, has been fairly flat, bringing in just $39 million on an estimated $25 million budget—a payday that wouldn't make up even half the losses on last year's ill-fated Clooney vehicle, a black-and-white World War II noir called The Good German, which earned just $1.3 million of its estimated $32 million budget. One prominent screenwriter sees that film as a rare case in which Clooney eagerly spread the credit around: "It was always promoted as starring George Clooney, Tobey Maguire, and Cate Blanchett—though clearly it was George's movie."

"When that thing completely cratered, no stink got attached," notes the screenwriter with annoyance.

Actually, Clooney's big-screen career has generated quite a lot of stink for such a major celebrity. Excluding the star-studded Ocean's Eleven and its sequels, which have made a fortune for Warner Bros., most of Clooney's films have actually lost money at the domestic box office. Even the critically acclaimed Steven Soderbergh film Out of Sight, costarring Jennifer Lopez, failed to make back the $48 million it cost.

The fact that Soderbergh and Clooney had final cut on the films they produced was intended as a buffer against studio interference. But some directors soon found that they had more to worry about from the partners themselves. "They didn't always stand up for the artist," recalls the studio exec, "which was the thing that they were promising. Sometimes it was just ego-driven stuff, and then there were other occasions where it was like, 'Well, yeah, but we see it differently and we're going to get what we want.'"

The exec reports that during the production company's six-year run, numerous talent felt they'd been undercut by the duo—among them writer/director Ted Griffin, who was signed to helm his script Rumor Has It, but was sacked after 10 days of filming. "Famously, the biggest fight was with Syriana director Steve Gaghan," recalls the exec, who had direct knowledge of the day-to-day production. "Syriana is the most regretful case, because they wound up cutting a lot of the heart out of the movie," he continued, noting that at least four scenes were deleted "that [Gaghan] was very dedicated to keeping in."

In an interview with the Financial Times, Gaghan said Soderbergh "ruined my movie" by shaving off 24 critical minutes. "It's ego and power," Gaghan told interviewer Nigel Andrews. "End of story." At which point, Andrews notes, the writer/director, who received no mention in Clooney's Oscar acceptance speech, unleashed an off-the-record "blistering attack on another significant player in Syriana who insisted on cutting the film just where, for Gaghan, its major veins and arteries were." Clooney was the only other person with final-cut approval.

And if that weren’t proof enough here are some strangely almost animation like airbrushed images from the promotional campaign for his new film Leatherheads (from the Daily Mail)

Where have you gone, non self important George Clooney?

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