The Stunning Transformation Of George Clooney

George Clooney — with his classic old-Hollywood leading man good looks — was once dubbed the sexiest man alive by People. But, of course, the famed Clooney isn't just known for being handsome in a Cary Grant sort of way. He has also proven himself to be one of the most talented actors working today. From "Up in the Air" to "The Ides of March" to "Ocean's Eleven" to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," Clooney has conquered the movie business.


However, before all of his success, Clooney seemed like an unlikely candidate for Hollywood fame. Growing up in Kentucky, the young Clooney had a modest upbringing and few acting opportunities. However, after moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting, he eventually landed a role in the TV series "ER" that would change the course of his career forever. Since then, he's racked up over 80 acting credits, while also exploring the worlds of directing, producing, and screenwriting. He eventually earned eight Oscar nominations across all disciplines. Want to learn more about this Hollywood legend's journey? Here is the stunning transformation of George Clooney.

George Clooney grew up in Kentucky with a famous family

George Clooney was born on May 6, 1961. His father was a TV journalist and his mother was a former beauty pageant contestant, per IMDb. His aunt was the famous actress from "White Christmas," Rosemary Clooney. As Clooney told The Guardian, he always felt famous thanks to his father's fame. Apparently, children would stare at him in school. "You have to remember that in the microcosm of Cincinnati, Ohio through northern Kentucky, my father was a big, big star," Clooney once told Rolling Stone. "So that made my sister and me really visible. Everybody knew us, talked about us. If I scored 15 points in a basketball game, the paper would say, 'Nick Clooney's son scored 15 points.'"


His family's theatrical genes also meant that Clooney was raised to be performative. As he told The Guardian, he had a famed Nat King Cole impersonation that he used to entertain his family; at school, he was the class clown, constantly entertaining the other children. In most ways, however, Clooney's childhood was unremarkable.

Acting is in his blood, but he launched his career by chance at 21

George Clooney's aunt was the Hollywood star Rosemary Clooney, and while he didn't see her often as a child, she inspired a love of Hollywood in the young boy. "I didn't really grow up with her, because I lived in Kentucky and she was in Los Angeles," he told The Guardian. "But we all worshipped her and I loved the idea of Hollywood — I'd dream about it!"


Even so, Clooney didn't initially feel drawn to acting as a potential career. "I didn't even want to be an actor," he told Esquire. In fact, he ended up making his first movie because of a bizarre fluke. "I was just hanging out with my cousin, [actor Miguel Ferrer]," he recalled. Ferrer was in Kentucky making the horse-racing movie "And They're Off." Clooney rented his car to the production for $50 a day and took on an extra role.

The next thing he knew, Ferrer was asking him to come to LA to pursue acting. "I had just spent the summer cutting tobacco, which is a miserable job," Clooney said. "So that's what made me move to Hollywood."

George Clooney didn't initially find success in LA

George Clooney took his cousin's advice and made the move to Hollywood with only one role as an extra under his belt. Naturally, it took some time before the actor broke into the industry. As he told The Guardian in 2003, his first few years (12 of them, to be precise) were filled with unsuccessful auditions. His few successful auditions led to roles in underwhelming (and occasionally embarrassing) movies such as "Grizzly II: Revenge," "Riptide," and, famously, "Return of the Killer Tomatoes."


So, what was Clooney like as a young actor in auditions? ​"I was a big props guy," he told W Magazine. "I took a dog to one audition and just held it under my arm, even though there was no dog in the scene. It was for 'Family Ties.' I didn't get the job, so clearly it didn't work." It's hard to imagine Clooney ever struggling to get parts, but as it turns out, it took years before Hollywood took much notice of him.

Starring in ER in 1994 was life-changing for George Clooney

It wasn't until 1994 that George Clooney finally landed what could be considered his big break. In his 30s, after a dozen years of trying to break onto the scene, the actor was cast in "ER" as the dashing Dr. Doug Ross. As the actor told W Magazine, "'ER' changed my life." Not only did the part offer steady work, but it also put him on the map and opened plenty of doors for Clooney. "'ER' was a nutty moment in my career, but also in the lives of a bunch of actors," he told Fox News. "There were six of us who were thrown into the stratosphere. It was life-changing for all of us."


As Clooney told TNT years later, he actually chose to do "ER" over another, better-paid project because he wanted to work with Steven Spielberg. He was also eager to play a smaller character who didn't have to carry the show. "The show itself was spectacular," Clooney said, explaining the reason for its success. "The ensemble, they were so good." Clearly, Clooney made the right choice when he decided to join the cast.

George Clooney began focusing on establishing a film career

After "ER" put George Clooney on the map, he found himself in the position to pick and choose his projects. Instead of accepting any film or TV show that came his way, he began to think more carefully about the direction of his career, and decided to focus on films rather than television.


As the actor explained to The Guardian, he made the decision after noticing the difference between television fame and movie fame. He recalled a time when he was walking through an airport with Mel Gibson. Most people simply stared at Gibson, while fans didn't hesitate to come up to Clooney, giving him hugs and slaps on the back. Being on TV, Clooney noted, meant that fans felt more comfortable approaching him.

Following "ER," the actor appeared in films like "One Fine Day," "Batman & Robin," "The Peacemaker," "Out of Sight," "The Thin Red Line," "Three Kings," and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" within the space of six years. By the year 2000, Clooney was reportedly making $10 million per film. It seemed the transition from TV star to movie star was complete.


He became known for his work as a director

After conquering Hollywood and becoming one of his generation's top movie stars by the early 2000s, George Clooney moved on to something new: directing. His first film was "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" in 2002. Some critics were so impressed with his directorial debut that they assumed someone else had actually done the directing, which prompted Clooney to write a letter to the critics that was slyly signed, "Letter actually written by George Clooney" (via GQ). After this success, Clooney directed five episodes of the show "Unscripted" before his second film, "Good Night, and Good Luck," which earned him an Oscar nomination for best director.


For Clooney, the world of directing offered more opportunities to exercise creativity and control. "I'll tell you, [when] directing you get to be the boss all the time," he told The Tech in 2005. "In acting, you have to listen to the director. So it's fun to be the boss. By the way, directing is something you can do when you get old and fat. So, believe me, directing is the way to go. It's actually much more creative. All kidding aside, it's actually a very creative place to be."

George Clooney sustained a life-changing injury in 2005

George Clooney's life changed in 2005 when a freak accident left him with chronic, debilitating pain for years to come. While filming the movie "Syriana," someone happened to kick a chair he was sitting in. When he fell, he tore his dura mater, which holds the spinal fluid. For the next few months, Clooney was in pain that was severe enough to make him consider suicide. "I was at a point where I thought, 'I can't exist like this. I can't actually live,'" the actor told Rolling Stone (via Huffington Post). "I was lying in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm, unable to move, having these headaches where it feels like you're having a stroke, and for a short three-week period, I started to think, 'I may have to do something drastic about this.'"


Eventually, he sought help from an expert, who recommended that Clooney learn to live with the pain until he no longer registered it in his brain. "Basically, the idea is, you try to reset your pain threshold," he told GQ. "Because a lot of times, what happens with pain is you're constantly mourning for how it used to feel." And eventually, it worked — the pain vanished, and for Clooney, it was like "euphoria."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

He was dubbed the sexiest man alive

By 2006, George Clooney had become famous not only for his acting, but also for his looks. In fact, that year, he won the People award for "Sexiest Man Alive" for the second time, becoming the second person to receive the award twice, alongside Brad Pitt. "Brad's going to be upset," he joked at the time. By the sounds of things, he didn't let the praise get to his head too much, but saw the funny side of the award. "There's a lot of pressure," he joked. "There are all the events you have to show up for. The sash you have to wear is embarrassing."


It seems like Clooney enjoyed receiving the award. In fact, in 2020, when asked about whether he preferred his Oscars or his "Sexiest Man Alive" title, he joked to SiriusXM, "I think you know. I'm lobbying for a third one; no one's ever won three."

George Clooney became known as an icon for liberal America

In the beginning of his career, George Clooney wasn't exactly known for his politics. However, over the years, he began to speak out about his political convictions, and by 2014, he was known as an "icon for liberal America." "Look, I've been involved in social and political things my whole life," George Clooney told Uncut. "I campaigned for a guy for governor when I was 13 years old. The truth in the matter is that at this time in history, unless you're a Republican helping out a Republican, you can't show up, you do damage."


In another discussion with Interview magazine, he spoke about how being a liberal from Kentucky wasn't always easy. "The greatest thing you can pull out if you want to win [a fight in Kentucky] is just scream, 'That guy's a liberal!' And I just keep going back to the idea that, yeah, I'm a liberal. I believe in all the qualities of being a liberal."

He actively started turning down superhero roles as he got older

In his early career, George Clooney took on a few superhero roles and even played Batman. However, as the actor got older, he began to move away from these action-packed roles and toward new territory.


"I'm not going to do any more films in rubber suits, I've decided," he said to NPR in 2012. As the actor went on to explain, aging in Hollywood isn't always easy. "There's a certain cruelty to being on a big screen as your eyelids start to sag and your hair falls out and turns gray that you either have to be able to handle or not," he said. "What you can't do is try to force yourself into roles that you could have played or would have played 10 years earlier. You have to constantly be looking forward." 

Instead of the roles Clooney played in his 20s and 30s, he began to play roles that suited his age — an astronaut in "Gravity" in 2013, an art conservationist in "The Monuments Men" in 2014, and an aging outcast attempting to save the world in "Tomorrowland" in 2015. And there were no rubber suits in sight. He also began to focus more on off-camera work like writing and directing — as he put it, "something you can do well into your old age."


George Clooney's perspective on life changed when he met Amal in 2013

For most of his life, George Clooney was famously known for being a confirmed bachelor (although he was married for a four-year stint starting in 1989). In fact, he even won $10,000 bets against Nicole Kidman and Michelle Pfeiffer that he'd still be single at 40. But then he met Amal Clooney (nee Alamuddin) in 2013. As the actor told David Letterman, his agent introduced the pair. "I got a call from my agent, who said, 'I met this woman who's coming to your house who you're going to marry,'" said Clooney.


Even though Clooney had never thought he'd marry, that changed when he met Amal. "The truth was I met this amazing woman, and she took my breath away," he told the "SmartLess" podcast in 2021. "She was brilliant and funny and beautiful and kind. I was sort of swept off my feet." He proposed in 2014, and Clooney and Amal tied the knot in Italy a few months later, via The Hollywood Reporter.

He became a father in 2017

After finally changing his opinion on marriage and settling down with Amal, George Clooney took another major life step — in 2017, he became a first-time father to twins. "We are really happy and really excited. It's going to be an adventure," the actor said on the French TV show "Rencontres de Cinema" at the time. "We've sort of embraced it all ... with arms wide open" (via CNN).


Becoming a father at 56 wasn't always easy for the actor. "The hard part is being 60 and just the sheer running around of it," Clooney said on the podcast "WTF with Marc Maron." But fatherhood was filled with positives for the actor, too. His favorite part? Apparently, it was teaching his kids how to play pranks on their mother. "My whole job, really, is to teach them terrible things," Clooney told ET. "I really do enjoy teaching my children to do things that shock their mother." It seems that Clooney never stopped being the class clown.

George Clooney didn't enjoy turning 60

As most fans probably agree, George Clooney has only gotten better with age. However, for the actor, aging hasn't exactly been welcomed. Clooney reached his sixth decade in 2021 and, as he told The Times, he had mixed feelings about the landmark birthday. "Turning 60 is a bummer," he said. "But it's that or dead."


After turning 60, Clooney began to consider what he had achieved so far in his life — and what the rest of his life might look like. "I said to Amal, knock on wood, I'm healthy," he said. "I still play basketball with the younger gang. I feel good. But in 20 years I'm 80 — and 80 is a real number." For the rest of his life, Clooney said, he plans on focusing on what matters to him. "I said the next 20 years are halcyon and we need to celebrate that, we should focus on the work we do being just the stuff we have to, that we feel in our chest."