George Clooney is Hollywood's undisputed golden boy. Colin Farrell has his sex tape and Brad Pitt has Angelina Jolie - but only George Clooney has Tinseltown in the palm of his hand.
Sure, a lot of that has to do with his award-collecting spree for two little movies - Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck. And yes, Clooney has always been a bit of a stud muffin. But his appeal has now reached its apex. He's part cavalier dashing hero and part earnest activist, showing up at awards shows in the back of an environmentally friendly hybrid limo. He has an inflated ego - but given the way he looks, acts, and directs, he has every right to one.
I know this because I, too, have succumbed to the Charisma of Clooney. When Ocean's Twelve was opening, I attended a screening in Palm Springs. There was a scene towards the end when Clooney is sitting on the verandah of a villa on the Italian Riviera, a glowing Julia Roberts by his side. He looked so devastatingly handsome I thought the screen would catch fire. That night, I dreamed of Clooney.
The next morning at breakfast, a few other female journalists all told me that they'd dreamed of him, too.
Later that day, he was doing interviews with journalists at a country club. An Australian television reporter friend told me that she was given five minutes with him. They had a nice enough chat, Clooney all pleasant banter, my friend proffering polite questions. But even though she was a seasoned professional, she was so unnerved by his magnetism that she started to cry, right in front of him. And what did Clooney do? He reached over and hugged her, saying 'Awww' and patting her shoulder.
A week later, I met my friend for lunch. She told me she couldn't get Clooney out of her head. Earlier, she'd called a French radio journalist friend, who'd also been at the Palm Springs event, and who'd been obsessing about him as well. 'I keep thinking he's going to walk into the room,' she said, glancing around the restaurant. 'What is it with that guy?' Indeed.
Women who are way past the point when they have useless crushes on teen stars are using Clooney's image as their screensaver. It might have something to do with his square-jawed masculinity, or that silvery-grey hair, or his proportioned features. It probably also has something to do with his self-deprecating humour, that he can appear in an interview with Barbara Walters and poke fun at his movie role choices (Batman, anyone?). Then there are those lingering images of him as an emergency room doctor on ER, the doctor everyone wants to be saved by.
But there's more to it than that. Clooney is the man that no woman can pin down. He's not into marriage or kids, unless they're someone else's. (Catherine Zeta-Jones said that she and her little ones would often stop by Clooney's house on a Sunday afternoon and he was perfectly gracious, knowing that eventually they'd all go home).
He dates models and owns a sumptuous spread on Lake Como, where apparently he's very nice to the neighbours. There's a little bit of the cad in him - his recent romance with Teri Hatcher reportedly hit the skids when she wanted him to hang out with her daughter, Madison. And his on-off flame, Krista Allen, supposedly stormed out of an Oscar-viewing party in Beverly Hills when she saw Clooney on screen with his agent, when he could have taken her. Lucy Liu has been spotted leaving his home early in the morning, in the same clothes from the night before, and he apparently broke Renee Zellweger's heart after she tried to get serious.
But guys also like Clooney - his sincerity, his earthy 'let's have a beer together' accessibility.
Now, Hollywood bigwigs are flinging scripts his way and Clooney is sitting back, enjoying the moment. He's building a hotel in Las Vegas with chums Pitt and Rande Gerber, Cindy Crawford's husband. He wants to develop more of his own films. He can pick and choose his projects. And that, more than anything else in Hollywood, spells power.
Of course, if Clooney decides to chuck it all in and head to Washington, it's a safe bet he'd be a political star as well. He's known for his outspoken liberal views, and is against the Iraq war and Republican agendas. And, on the remote chance that he runs for president in 2008, he probably could give other contenders a run for their money. When Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California, I said to one woman who'd voted for him: 'What were you thinking? He's an actor!'
But George Clooney for president? He'd get my vote, any day.