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Clooney caps journey from heartthrob to heavyweight

Written by: Staff

LOS ANGELES, Mar 2 (Reuters) Believe it or not, George Clooney has never been to the Academy Awards.

With three nominations this year, Clooney's first walk down that red carpet not only makes a bit of Oscar history but cements his journey from People magazine's ''sexiest man alive'' to Total Film magazine's ''most dangerous man in Hollywood.'' ''I don't really feel like I'm going to win. I just like the idea of showing up,'' Clooney quipped last week.

The 44-year-old actor, who a decade ago set pulses racing as Doctor Douglas Ross on the TV hospital show ''ER,'' has become the mischievous A-list star who can turn capers like ''Ocean's Eleven'' into box office gold and write, direct and act in risky projects that most studios shrink from.

Then there's his role in organizing star-studded tsunami fund-raisers, campaigning with U2 singer Bono for African debt relief, opening a Las Vegas casino and somehow getting the rap for breaking up every faltering celebrity marriage.

''He is today's Clark Gable. He's got the chiseled good looks with the debonair way that is emblematic of his generation. This man is right out of central casting as the Hollywood glamour boy who can do it all,'' said veteran Oscar watcher Tom O'Neil, columnist for TheEnvelope.com.

''He has distinguished himself this year as an actor, writer and director/producer. It feels like this is his moment,'' said O'Neil.

Clooney is the first person in Oscar history to be nominated for acting and directing in two different films in the same year. He earned a nod for best original screenplay and best director for his black-and-white McCarthy-era drama ''Good Night, and Good Luck.'' But he is strong favorite to take home the Oscar as best supporting actor for his role as a paunchy CIA agent in the West Asia oil and politics thriller ''Syriana.'' BOX OFFICE BARTERS Like Robert Redford and Mel Gibson before him, Clooney has parlayed his box office muscle into making movies that are close to his heart.

The questions posed by ''Good Night'' about threats to civil liberties in a national climate of fear, and about political and corporate corruption in ''Syriana,'' have turned him into both a visible ''actorvist'' and the favorite ''limousine liberal'' whipping boy of America's conservative right.

''It's not like these studios, that are owned by big corporations, are jumping to do these films. But I can say, 'Well, we'll give you 'Ocean's Twelve' if you give us this.' It's a bargaining system,'' he told Reuters in a Berlin interview this month.

Despite the past golden year, it hasn't always been such smooth sailing for Clooney. His performance in ''Batman and Robin'' in 1997 was derided as one of the worst ever.

''People wax and wane, it ebbs and flows on what my standing is,'' Clooney said recently. ''Next year, I will be the butt of all the jokes. So it's cyclical.'' Unlike movie stars Clint Eastwood, who was briefly mayor of Carmel, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, now California governor, Clooney says he has no political ambitions.

''There are so many compromises that go into anything important,'' Clooney told Los Angeles magazine this month. Besides, he added wickedly: ''I've slept with too many, drunk too many ...

I'd have to run on the 'Yeah, I did it' ticket.'' REUTERS KD PC0849

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