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The Politics of George Clooney, Actor and Liberal Activist

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The Politics of George Clooney, Actor and Liberal Activist

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

"I'm a liberal. I'm confused when that became a bad word..." George Clooney told CNN's Larry King on February 16, 2006. "It's interesting. I think what happened over a period of time probably in the late '80s when it became sort of a political tool...."

Clooney continued, "...the liberal movement morally, you know, has stood on the right side of an awful lot of issues. We thought that blacks should be allowed to sit at the front of the bus and women should be able to vote, McCarthy was wrong, Vietnam was a mistake."

Mr. Clooney was appearing on the CNN program as a prelude to the March 5 Academy Awards, at which he won a coveted Oscar for supporting actor in Syriana, a Clooney-produced film infused in the political intrigue of the global oil industry and the dogged pursuit of wealth and power.

Actor, Director, Producer
George Clooney is best-known as a TV and film actor for over twenty years, and more recently, as acclaimed film director and producer. Most Americans first noticed him as the handsome Dr. Doug Ross on popular televison show ER from 1994 to 1999. Clooney regularly appeared in five other shows prior to ER.

From 1986 through 2005, Clooney acted in 28 films, ranging widely in quality and seriousness from Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988) and the poorly-regarded Batman & Robin (1997), to his recent successful film forays into political-commentary with Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) and Syriana (2005).

In 2006, George Clooney became the first person in Academy Award history to be nominated for directing one film, Good Night, and Good Luck, and for acting in another, Syriana, in the same year.

George Clooney on Darfur
In 2006, George Clooney's longtime liberal activism and unabashed political views also rose to headline-attracting public prominence. In April 2006 after a 5-day visit to Darfur, Clooney spoke out against genocide in that country and urged greater US and NATO involvement. In September 2006, Clooney testified before the UN Security Council, urging that UN peacekeepers enter Darfur.

The Clooney Family
He was born in 1961 near Lexington, Kentucky to Nick Clooney, a regional newscaster and well-liked TV personality, and Nina Warren Clooney, local city council member and former Kentucky beauty queen. He's also the nephew of the late post-World War II singer Rosemary Clooney and cousin of actor Miguel Ferrer. One 2003 article dubs the Clooney clan "the Kennedys of Kentucky" for their formidable influence in the conservative northern part of that state.

"My parents were the biggest liberal Democrats. They both voted for George McGovern." Clooney told a Playboy interviewer in 2000 about his parents. And he told another interviewer in 2005, "My dad, who went after OPEC for raising gas prices and Gerald Ford for pardoning Richard Nixon, believed it's your responsibiity---not just your right---to question authority."

By all reports, the Clooneys are a close-knit, Irish-Catholic family, and George is fiercely loyal to his father. When Nick Clooney ran for Congress in 2004, George raised over $600,000 from fellow celebrity-activists for his father's unsuccessful campaign, and made personal appearances on behalf of his father.

Young George Clooney
At Kentucky's Augusta High School, Clooney was an excellent baseball player, but uninterested in academics. He tried out for the Cincinnati Reds, but failed to make the cut. He studied broadcasting at Northern Kentucky University, but soon dropped out because he "was no good at it....I wasn't nearly as good as my father. From the beginning, I was always compared to him." (Quote from July 2000 Playboy interview with George Clooney.) He admits that his college time was spent mainly on girls and partying. While pondering his future, he picked tobacco, sold mens' suits, and took a bit-part in never-released horse-racing film with cousin Miguel Ferrer and his father, actor Jose Ferrer, then married to Rosemary Clooney.

And the rest is Hollywood history
Enthralled by this acting stint, in 1982 with $450 in his pocket, 21-year-old George Clooney drove cross-country in a rusted Monte Carlo to Aunt Rosemary's Los Angeles home, where he chauffeured for her while taking acting lessons and working in construction. He landed his first TV series by 1984 and next film role by 1987.

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