If being “singular” means being sexy, savvy, independent, adventurous and single, no man does it better than George Clooney.
When George Clooney smiles, half the planet swoons. He has been Hollywood’s most eligible bachelor for so long now that any speculation about Gorgeous George marrying the latest in a long line of Eurobabe girlfriends needs to be taken with large pinch of salt — ideally washed down with a freshly mixed margarita on the terrace of his palatial villa overlooking Italy’s Lake Como.
Even on the cusp of turning 50, Clooney remains a poll-topping sex symbol and a one-man weapon of mass seduction. From Oscar-winning playboy superstar to jet-setting global humanitarian, he seems equally at ease sipping cocktails with former topless models or hosting fundraisers for presidents in waiting, as he did for Barack Obama in 2008. He is America’s bachelor supreme, surrounded by beautiful and famous women, an enviable example for single men everywhere. It is hard to imagine him giving that up without a fight.
In person, that signature Clooney charm seems easy and effortless. He is trim, tanned and suspiciously healthy-looking for a self-styled “professional drinker” with a notoriously hedonistic lifestyle. Those classically handsome features, even in their increasingly gray and crinkled form, still ooze Clark Gable mischief and Cary Grant twinkle — with just a hint of Buzz Lightyear in his square jaw and boyish grin.
Sometimes it seems like the Ocean’s Eleven and Michael Clayton star beamed here from an earlier Hollywood golden age of dinner-jacketed, unflustered, understated cool. Clooney’s screen heroes are certainly cut from finer, more traditional cloth than most of his acting peers: Paul Newman, Humphrey Bogart, Montgomery Clift, Spencer Tracy. He is fond of quoting Tracey’s maxim: “Never let them catch you acting.”
Clooney is known the world over for his suave image and his crowded, colorful love life. But since last year, he has been in a very public relationship with the Italian model and television star, Elisabetta Canalis. When not based at his Los Angeles home, the globe-trotting screen idol likes to lie low for long periods at his Italian villa.
“It takes you out of the spotlight for several months at a time,” he told Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper recently. “My life over there takes me away from the circus aspects of being a celebrity and that’s a pleasant change for me. Whenever I want, I can always stage a diversion and invite Brad, Angie and their 15 children to come and visit.”
Media matchmakers in the European press now seem keen to marry off Gorgeous George to Canalis before he turns 50, which he will do next May. Last month, after spotting a ring on the 31-year-old beauty’s finger, some pundits declared them engaged. A Clooney spokesperson later claimed Canalis was actually modeling a “napkin ring.” Very romantic.
Previous reports that the couple had separated were dismissed by Clooney himself, who quipped to reporters: “Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.” Canalis is a controversial figure in Italy, and was recently named as a fringe figure in a cocaine and prostitution scandal. Even so, she certainly seems blissfully happy with Clooney in the current issue of Vanity Fair, claiming “I am happy like I was when I was 18 years old. Those who criticize or invent stories about us are just jealous.”
All the same, Canalis would be wise not to order her bridal bouquet just yet. Clooney has been linked to dozens of glamorous girls over the years, with much talk of engagement, but the singular life has always proved more appealing. Nicole Kidman once bet her former co-star $10,000 that he would be married by his 40th birthday, and lost. Another former co-star, Michelle Pfeiffer, has now raised the stakes to $100,000 that Clooney will wed one day.
Armchair psychologists often blame Clooney’s allergy to long-term romantic commitment on his failed marriage to the actress Talia Balsam, which lasted from 1989 to 1993. He has since vowed to never wed again, although he admits he was too young at the time. “I just don’t feel like I gave Talia a fair shot,” he confessed. “Instead of figuring out how to make it work, I looked for a way to get out of it. The truth is, you shouldn’t be married if you’re that kind of person.”
In the 1990s, as Clooney’s profile went supernova in the wake of E.R., his love life began to feature heavily in gossip columns. He was frequently pictured with a dazzling date on his arm, although some were clearly more serious contenders than others.
In 1995, while shooting his global terrorism thriller The Peacemaker with Kidman in Paris, he began a four-year relationship with a young French waitress and law student, Celine Balitran. Their 1999 split was followed by a long on-off affair with the British model Lisa Snowdon, who Clooney met on the set of a Martini advertisement in 2000.
Meanwhile, Clooney became a press byword for the archetypal jet-setting playboy bachelor, his name linked to a string of beauties, many of them famous, which he typically declined to confirm or deny. “I don’t like to share my personal life,” he once explained, “it wouldn’t be personal if I shared it.”
However, when Esquire magazine pressed him into fact-checking his alleged romantic history in 2008, Clooney relented. He admitted to affairs with fellow actors Brooke Langton, Traylor Howard, and Renee Zellweger (“a little bit”), plus a brief involvement with Jennifer Siebel, the actress turned film producer and current First Lady of San Francisco. But he denied claims of liaisons with Julia Roberts, Salma Hayek, Lucy Liu, Teri Hatcher and Ellen Barkin.
He may be a man’s man in many ways, with his avowed love of motorcycles and gambling, but it is crucial to Clooney’s widescreen charm that he can boast so many female friends, from Roberts to Kidman to Angelina Jolie. Not for him the inarticulate rebel posturing of the stereotypical bad-boy actor brigade. He is playful, giggly and gossipy good company.
In 2007, Clooney began dating the former cocktail waitress Sarah Larson, whose official girlfriend status was confirmed when she accompanied the star to the 2008 Academy Awards and even moved into his L.A. home. However, the couple split soon afterwards.
“I’ve had some easy and natural break-ups as well as some rough ones,” Clooney told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper last year. “I deal with them the same way we all do: I’m successful with some and not so successful with others. I don’t think my experiences are any different than anybody else’s, they’ve just been amplified a little more.”
It may just be coincidence, but Clooney’s more recent films have tended to chip away at his twinkly-eyed playboy facade to reveal a more fragile, lonely and complex character. In last year’s bittersweet Up In The Air, he played a human resources hit-man whose cool and calculating job firing employees is reflected in his remote attitude to family, friends and lovers. When he finally surrenders to love, his own cynicism about relationships comes back to bite him.
“It’s a bit close to home and to my own persona,” Clooney admitted to the Daily Mirror, “so I knew I’d have to take that baggage on as well. But if you’re a grown-up, you are able to look at how other people look at you.
In his latest movie, Anton Corbijn’s moody and stylish Euro-thriller The American, Clooney again flaunts his crinkled features and emotional vulnerability as an assassin on the brink of retirement who goes into hiding in a small Italian town. After years of shunning close human relationships for professional reasons, he finds himself drawn into a dangerous affair with a local prostitute. It is a gritty and dark turn for a major Hollywood star.
“I want to try and keep things a little more desperate, a little more on the edge,” Clooney once told me. “I’m trying desperately not to get caught up in protecting an image, because that image and that audience will change or go away. You can end up missing out on great opportunities, or short-changing the performance because you’re protecting something. The worst thing you can do as an actor is to try to play to an audience.”
In recent interviews, Clooney has begun mocking his sex-symbol image, pointing out just how old and gray he now appears on screen. But even as his 50th birthday looms, he remains ambivalent about the benefits of marriage, children and long-term relationships. Although some media matchmakers may be hearing wedding bells, Hollywood’s most “eligible bachelor” is still sitting on the fence, where he has always been. Romantic contentment is a noble ideal, but sometimes the single life is simply more satisfying.
“I’ve had some absolutely great relationships and some not so great relationships,” Clooney told The Daily Telegraph. “I’ve been in some relationships where I’ve felt terribly alone. Just because you’re with someone it doesn’t mean you’re incredibly happy and complete.”
Copyright © Stephen Dalton / 2010 Singular Communications, LLC.
Check out this bio-video that highlights Clooney’s career: