Movie that nearly killed Clooney’s career
He is now one of Hollywood's biggest stars, yet George Clooney has said his disastrous 1997 movie Batman & Robin nearly ruined his career as people refused to work with him.
The 59-year-old also said film industry types looked down on him because he spent years in TV drama ER.
It was only when he and director Steven Soderbergh landed the 1998 crime comedy Out Of Sight that his fortune changed.
Speaking from his Los Angeles home, Clooney told The Sun: "Steven was coming off a couple of flops and I was coming off Batman & Robin and we both needed a success. Our backs were against the wall, in a way.
"I was still doing ER at the time and there were always these conversations about whether you can go from television to film.
"It was a big deal - and I was losing that argument.
"After Batman & Robin I realised I was going to be held responsible for the movie, not just for the performance. And so we waited, and when I found that movie (Out Of Sight), we chased Steven down to direct it.
"There was a director attached and he walked away because he said I wasn't a movie actor.
"It all worked out. Steven directed the hell out of that movie - he did a beautiful job with it."
Clooney said he has always been grateful for any job he landed. He grew up in Kentucky where his father, Nick, was an anchorman and TV host, and mum Nina, was a former beauty queen.
WORLD'S SEXIEST MALE
He said: "I cut tobacco for a living for $3.33 an hour. And I knew one thing when I left Kentucky, which was I didn't want to be a tobacco cutter - I was pretty sure of that. So everything on top of that has been gravy for me.
"That's why I tend to find it silly when people are tortured by it (being an actor). It doesn't mean they don't have rough times and something doesn't make somebody mad, but the general overall spirit should be exciting.
"I was a struggling actor for 15 years. Any job you got, it was, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.' And you'd show up and some guy is a jerk and you're like, 'I don't care. I got a job. I'm getting paid and paying the rent. I'm thrilled to be here. I'm lucky.'"
As well as acting, Clooney is now also a director, producer and screenwriter. He has four Golden Globes, two Oscars and has been awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award.
He spent years being voted the world's sexiest man before he married international human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin in 2014.
They went on to have twins Ella and Alexander, now three.
The couple now divide their time between Los Angeles, their UK Berkshire home and their 25-room mansion on Lake Como in Italy, where they have hosted friends including the Beckhams, Cindy Crawford, Stella McCartney, and Harry and Meghan.
Even so, Clooney - who joked during our group Zoom interview that he was "wearing nothing from the waist down" - does still get impressed by some famous people.
He said: "I'm still starstruck by certain actors. I got a note from Robert Redford the other day and I went upstairs and showed Amal: 'Look, a note from Robert Redford.'
"Paul Newman was a big influence on me. He was really funny and, because we had a very funny relationship late in life, we were going to do The Notebook together. We'd been sent the script and we were like, 'This is the one. We can do this together.' I would play him as a young man.
"It was funny. We met and we were like, 'OK, this is it. We're going to do this. It's going to be great.'
"Then I went home and I was watching The Sting or Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, where he's the handsomest guy you've ever seen, with these bright-blue eyes. And he's my age.
"So we met up, had dinner and I said, 'I can't play you as young; everybody knows what you look like. I don't look anything like you. This is insane.'
"We just wanted to do it because we wanted to work together. It ended up not being the right thing for us to do. I think it was Ryan Gosling and James Garner who did it many years later."
Besides acting, Clooney's passion now lies in directing.
His latest movie is Netflix Christmas blockbuster The Midnight Sky, a space adventure he stars in as well as being behind the camera.
He plays an elderly scientist stranded in the Arctic who is racing to stop an astronaut (Felicity Jones) returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.
One location for The Midnight Sky was Iceland and temperatures dropped to -40C, with 110km/h winds. Clooney had to be bald and grow a long beard for his part. He said with a laugh: "My wife was really happy when the movie was over."
It is the seventh film that Clooney has directed, and he has appeared in a host of hit movies including Gravity, the Ocean's trilogy and O Brother, Where Art Thou?
KEEP MESSING AROUND
But he said: "I've had incredible successes and incredible failures as a director and as an actor.
"And the funny thing about that is it actually puts you in a position where you don't get pigeonholed. I was never a big action guy, I never was a huge comedy guy.
"So because none of them ended up being gigantic hits, it allowed me to just keep messing around and being able to do very, very different kinds of performances. And directing has been the same.
"Some of the less successful films, in a way, have allowed me to continue to try other things, which has been fun. This is pretty different from anything I've done before."
Clooney considered casting other actors in the lead before himself, such as Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, but decided they were too young.
He said: "I'm only a couple of years older than them but I'm a little well-worn, I suppose. And it just felt like there really weren't many other people that were at the right age for this and in the right place in their career to do it."
And while it can be a "drag" and a "horrible, egotistical thing" to direct himself, Clooney said he felt fortunate to be in the position he is in. He said: "If you get lucky enough to be able to pick and to be part of the process and eventually to be the leader of the process, it's lucky - you should be celebrating.
"Anybody who's angry or upset in that position needs some therapy. We get to play make-believe and somebody pays us to do it."
With regards to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, one thing the star misses is going to cinemas.
He said: "It is a fantastic thing to sit in that theatre with everybody and watch movies. And I miss that. And I wish we were all able to do that right now."
This story originally appeared on The Sun and is republished here with permission
Originally published as Movie that nearly killed Clooney's career