b&b co-founders bill bodkin and brent johnson recall the best roles from one of hollywood’s best actors …
We’re not going to lie: George Clooney might be the coolest man to walk the face of the earth since Frank Sinatra. He’s come a long way from his “suave Eddie” role as Dr. Ross on ER and his super, super lame push as a Hollywood star in the mid-’90s when he starred in such clunkers as One Fine Day, The Peacemaker and of course, Batman & Robin.
— Bill Bodkin
1. Danny Ocean in Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
This was the role that made Clooney Hollywood gold. He had just started regaining both critical and commercial ground with Out Of Sight (which was the beginning of his working relationship with Steven Soderbergh) and Three Kings, but Ocean’s is what put him over the top. Stepping into the role Sinatra made famous, Clooney exudes what would become his ultra-cool, funny and sometimes self-deprecating charm that has made millions of women swoon.
2. Michael Clayton< in Michael Clayton (2007)
After starring in the box office version of lay-up in the Ocean’s sequels, Clooney proved once again that he has tremendous acting chops. Here, he plays a legal fixer, whose comfortable job is challenged by a possible cover-up his friend (Tom Wilkinson) has discovered. Clooney portrays Clayton as a man wearing his moral conflicts on his sleeve, and we’re at the edge of our seat wondering which way he’ll go.
3. Everett T. McGill in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
If Ocean’s was Clooney’s commercial home run, he certainly knocked it out of the park for critics here. In his first film with the Coen Brothers (who took a huge casting risk), Clooney plays the always-scheming, hair-product-obsessed Everett T. McGill with sublime idiocy. And he delivers great one-liners — especially “You guys are dumber than a bag of hammers.”
4. Fred Friendly in Good Night, And Good Luck (2005)
Clooney plays a stocky second banana to David Strathairn’s Edward R. Murrow. While Strathairn completely owns this film, Clooney’s turn as the always-worrying, yet always-supportive friend is brilliant. The fact Clooney also wrote and directed the film, which I consider one of the best about journalism ever, makes his performance even better.
5. Lynn Cassady in The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009)
Not many people have gotten into this film. But one thing is certain: Clooney was brilliant. Watching him dance around in a bad long-haired wig with a silly mustache to a cheesy ’80s song shows that this guy knows how to pick meaty roles and is not afraid to embarrass himself on camera.
I was shocked.
The year was 2001. The event was the Golden Globe Awards. And George Clooney won Best Actor in a Comedy for O Brother, Where Art Thou?
I was a 17-year-old who I didn’t like George Clooney. He seemed nothing but canned charm and a pretty smile — who didn’t need to know how to act to attract fans.
But now he had a Golden Globe. Really? Wasn’t he the guy who butchered Batman worse than Val Kilmer?
Nine years later, Clooney is the man I most want to be. Not just because of the charm and smile. But because he does it all so effortlessly — acting included. He’s arguably the most underrated actor in Hollywood — a star who can pull off comedy, romance, light action and heavy drama.
So, from a Clooney convert, here are my favorite of his roles.
— Brent Johnson
1. Danny Ocean in Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
This is where Clooney’s appeal hit me. Even more so than the first Ocean film, the second sequel is where Clooney proves he’s a master of subtle control — whether it’s charming a disarming woman or making the audience believe he knows exactly what’s going on. You trust his confidence — even when he’s knocking off casinos. That’s the essence of cool.
2. Jack Foley in Out Of Sight (1998)
Danny Ocean with a little less confidence, but no less charm. Here — in one of his earlier films, just before leaving ER — Clooney shows even that the coolest men have flaws. Which, of course, gives average men hope. But he’s still cool enough here to call a federal marshal just to flirt, even when she’s trying to track him down for escaping from prison. (By the way, this is a great, underrated flick — a precursor to the Ocean films, which were also directed by Steven Soderbergh.)
3. Everett T. McGill in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
This is what makes Clooney different from Carey Grant, who was a fine actor but rarely stretched out of his handsome, well-spoken realm. Here, Clooney subverts the stereotype by adopting an accent, cock-eyed reactions and a scruffy resolve. He’s not above playing quirky comedy — which is often when he’s at his best.
4. Harry Pfarrer in Burn After Reading (2008)
As he gets older and grayer, he’s not above playing a supporting role. And this one has some stellar lines (about not discharging his gun and his penchant for after-sex jogs) and one killer scene (where his finally discharges his gun). Once again, Clooney subverts his persona by oozing more smarm than charm.
5. Michael Clayton in Michael Clayton (2007)
Yes, it’s a study in understated acting, with measured reactions and calm conversation — a performance that earned his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. But try not to be utterly thrilled by the final scene. His fixer attorney cuts his opponent down to size — without ever entering a courtroom. And the last line is spectacular, delivered with perfect panache.
Seth Gecko in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
The most fun of all his roles, Danny Ocean included. Maybe because he knows how to deliver Quentin Tarantino dialogue — which not every actor does.
Speaking of which, they should work together again. I get the feeling Q.T. is the kind of guy who is cool in his own way — but still wishes he can be as cool as Clooney.