Clooney has had a long screen career, appearing in movies and television since 1978, albeit in small roles to begin with. His most famous role from his earlier career is most probably that of Matt Stevens in 1988’s Return of the Killer Tomatoes!, the sequel to cult movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, a film infamous for all the wrong reasons. It was not until Clooney won the role of Dr Doug Ross in ER in 1994 that he would hit his stride career wise, and begin to achieve fame.
Clooney became a heart-throb as a result of ER, winning sexiest man awards, making housewives swoon the world over. Such fame so suddenly on TV obviously brings with it talk of mounting a successful film career, but at first it seemed Clooney might be a victim of the ‘TV curse’ that may or may not actually exist.
For me, he scored perfectly straight out of the blocks. Considering the nature of his role on ER, taking on the part of cold-hearted criminal Seth Gecko in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s’ blood soaked vampire movie From Dusk Til Dawn could be seen as a big risk. Was it an attempt to show he couldn’t just play the warm-hearted doctor role, or simply the first big offer he received? I don’t know the answer, but I feel his work in From Dusk Til Dawn is still some of his best. Tough, menacing and uber cool, Clooney as Gecko is a joy to watch, making the transition from cuddly teddy bear to ice-cold killer look easy. I had never seen ER when I first watched From Dusk Til Dawn, but I knew I was watching a star.
From Dusk Til Dawn was, however, not a mainstream success, and Clooney’s attempts at movie superstardom stumbled for a while. Lead roles in generic romcom (One Fine Day) and generic actioner (The Peacemaker) hardly set the world alight. Worse, however, was to come when George assumed the codpiece of Joel Schumacher’s Batman, in the frankly awful Batman and Robin. This choice could very easily have ended his film career before it ever truly began, as he became somewhat of a joke as a result.
Thankfully, Clooney must have had a pretty shrewd agent, as he dusted himself off and gave a career defining performance in Steven Soderbergh’s Elmore Leonard adaptation of Out of Sight. In what was in hindsight almost a warm-up role for Soderbergh’s Ocean’s series several years later, Clooney played Jack Foley, infamous bank robber and much softer version of Clooney’s Gecko. His subsequent roles enjoyed the same quality, working with fantastic directors Terrence Malik and David O. Russell in The Thin Red Line and Three Kings respectively. Then came the aforementioned Ocean’s Eleven, which cemented his place as Hollywood’s suavest leading man.
Clooney did not rest on his laurels though. Perhaps fearing being typecast in his career, he took on several slightly different parts, exploring his oddball side. His role in O Brother, Where Art Though proved a big surprise, with Clooney showing an incredible sense of comedy timing, followed by a fleeting but hilarious appearance in the fantastic Welcome To Collingwood. It was at this time that Clooney released his directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. A great film, it slipped under the radar due to a relatively unknown leading man, and a plot that proved impossible to market.
This branch out into directing saw his career make a turn into more serious and political films. After great work as an actor in the unfairly overlooked Solaris, Clooney achieved his first Academy Award nominations and win. In the same year he was nominated for screenplay and director for Good Night, and Good Luck and won his first Oscar for supporting actor in Syriana. He continued on this new path of critical acclaim with his first nominations as a lead actor for Michael Clayton, and then Up In The Air. He has still managed to find time for more comedic roles.
I would be lying if i said Clooney had not put a foot wrong. The Ocean’s series was allowed to outstay its welcome, and Clooney’s third movie as director, Leatherheads, which he also starred in, was probably one of the bigger turkeys of his resurgent career. He has however managed to keep a level of quality rare amongst leading men of any age, and he continues to seek out great roles, whilst also carrying on his directorial work. He has, as an actor, reached a difficult point. George Clooney has been a classical leading man thanks to his good looks and suave manner, but as we are celebrating his fiftieth birthday, it’ll be interesting to see how this changes. In The American, he embraced his advancing years by playing an ageing assassin. There are not, however, a surplus of these types of roles, and with his looks starting to fade a little, only time will tell how much longer he can get away with playing the role of romantic lead man.
Clooney does, of course, have his burgeoning directorial career as back up, and despite the blip that was Leatherheads, he has impressed in this field.Despite finding prominence relatively late in his career, George Clooney will go down as one of Hollywood’s greatest all time stars. Whether you are a fan or not, this cannot be denied. An interesting variety of roles, some genuinely great movies, and his recent critical acclaim make him an all round top movie star, and a very rare commodity in the industry today. I look forward to more great work, both as an actor and director, in the years to come.
Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at