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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With George Clooney

Aired February 16, 2006 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, George Clooney, one of Hollywood's most outspoken and controversial stars, a rare in-depth one-on-one with my man George Clooney for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's always great to see him and it's been too long between visits. George Clooney returns to LARRY KING LIVE, what a year. He's the first person ever to be Oscar nominated for acting and behind-the- scenes work for two different films in one year.

He's nominated for best director and best original screenplay for "Good Night and Good Luck," and for best supporting actor in "Syriana." Did you ever figure this?

GEORGE CLOONEY: No, I didn't figure it but it's, you know, you have to find very specific things to make it sound really good. You know I think it should be the best former Batman nominated for things.

KING: You are the best former Batman.

CLOONEY: Well I don't know. I don't even think I can pull that one off.

KING: What came first "Syriana"?

CLOONEY: "Syriana," we bought the book and then developed it with Steve Gaghan and we were working on it and I wasn't going to play the part. There was another actor that was going to play the part that fell out and I was writing "Good Night and Good Luck" at the same time.

KING: And you gained weight during that period?

CLOONEY: Well, I finished "Ocean's Twelve" August 1st, finished shooting, and then September 1st started shooting "Syriana," so I had 30 days to put on 35 pounds.

KING: How did you do it?

CLOONEY: Well it's depressing that you can put on 35 pounds in 30 days I'll tell you but I did it the old-fashioned way. I ate. I went to Italy and ate until I couldn't (INAUDIBLE). It was like a pie eating contest though, you know. It wasn't fun jamming food down your throat.

KING: Did you drink malteds, milkshakes? CLOONEY: Yes, well you know what you drink a lot of is beer. Beer will do it and, you know, and get you through.

KING: Why did you have to be so fat?

CLOONEY: I wasn't trying to be fat. I just wanted to be, you know, the script read that this is a guy who was out of shape and frumpy and falling apart and I didn't want to look like I looked in films before. I wanted to look different. And Bob Baer, who was initially in the screenplay when we first started working on it I was playing Bob Baer he had a beard when he was over there in Beirut in '85 working and he was -- he's now in great shape and he was a little, a little dumpy then, so it seemed appropriate for the part.

KING: Did you -- what was it like then to lose it all?

CLOONEY: Well that was, you know, it's the same thing. It's miserable both ways but you do it the same way you do, anybody does it. You eat less.

KING: You re-beer.

CLOONEY: Yes, you throw up every day. I highly recommend that to all. No, you know, you just work out and eat less. I had gotten injured so it took a lot longer than I'd hoped, so and I was also working. I was in pre-production on "Good Night and Good Luck".

KING: Injured how?

CLOONEY: We were doing the torture scene in the movie, which is a pretty rough scene. I had them tape my hands and legs to the desk because it seemed sort of appropriate and I was -- it was my fault, you know. I'm jumping around and I fell backwards over the thing and I cracked the back of my head and I thought I had an aneurysm because my head hurt so bad.

So, I got a plane and got out of Morocco and went to Cedars-Sinai out here and I was there for about a week and a half before they figured out what was wrong and...

KING: Which was?

CLOONEY: I tore what's called the CSF leak, which is a spinal fluid leak but I tore my spine, the dura around your spine.

KING: Did you make, by the way "Good Night and Good Luck," great movie and I lived through that era because I'm younger than you.

CLOONEY: Yes.

KING: I remember Ed Murrow. I remember McCarthy and that whole scene. Did you do that because of your political leanings?

CLOONEY: Sure in some way, not necessarily because of my political leanings. I grew up the son of a journalist, you know. I did it also because it's a point in history that I'm most proud of is our -- I think there are two great moments in broadcast journalism, Murrow taking on McCarthy and Cronkite coming home from Vietnam and saying "This was doesn't work." Those are two points that you can actually point directly to and say they had an effect on American policy and I thought it was an interesting time.

Listen, I was -- it was a time where any sort of dissent was -- you were labeled. I was put on the cover of a magazine and called a traitor and that's fair enough. If I'm going to say we should ask some questions, then, you know, then along the way you can't say but don't, you know, if I'm demanding freedom of speech I can't say but don't say bad things about me.

KING: Do you find it directly relates to today?

CLOONEY: Sure I think it does. Listen, when you hear Murrow saying "We mustn't confuse dissent with disloyalty and we should lead not only in the area of bombs but in the area of ideas" and when he says "We can't defend freedom abroad by disserting it at home," I think those have a lot to do with things that are going on today.

And I thought -- what's important to me about the film was it reminds us that these things are cyclical and that fear often at the end of the day are the reasons that we erode away civil liberties for very brief periods of time and then we come to our senses and fix them.

KING: What do you make of tapping phones?

CLOONEY: It's a -- I think it's a dangerous step especially when you look at the FISA law and you say well the whole idea of it, in fact the things that were changed in it, in the Patriot Act, which were fairly recent said that you could retroactively get a warrant 72 hours afterward.

So, to me it doesn't seem like there's really all that much of a reason to decide that you can do warrantless taps. I worry about those things. When you say "trust us," governments unchecked have never, ever not corrupted ever in the history of the world, so "trust us" is a dangerous place to go. That's what our country's founded on.

KING: Do you feel it could get worse?

CLOONEY: Do you think it could get worse? We didn't think it was so bad until we found out we were spying on Martin Luther King, you know. I think we were surprised by that with the Freedom of Information Act when we find out all these things that we were doing. Can it get worse? Will it get worse? Of course it can because fear is sort of an amazing motivator.

KING: You realize that when you take on the things you take on or speak out that it doesn't do you any good professionally.

CLOONEY: Sure. You know you got to remember this. I'm not holding press conferences. I'm not standing up saying OK this is what you should think. I mean really I'm not. I'll answer a question, you know. I sit here with you and I'll answer a question. Now should I not say what I believe or say what I think?

KING: Many would not.

CLOONEY: But many would and I think the truth is and the secret to this is in a way of trying to not be polarizing and I find that people on the left and right are -- it's an incredibly polarized time.

In general we're trying to find things that we can agree on and one of them for me is we have to agree on the idea that we're allowed to question authority. We have to agree on the idea that that's not unpatriotic and I think most people do, you know.

KING: How did you react though when even a spokesman for the White House criticized people for speaking out and endangering our war effort?

CLOONEY: Oh, endangering the war effort I know. Well that's, you know, it's a double-edged sword. I mean I would be ashamed if I 20 years from now wasn't standing on what I think will probably be partially the right side of history.

Certainly we weren't wrong about the idea that there was no ties to al Qaeda before we went into Iraq and there were no ties to, you know, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. We weren't wrong about those. My job isn't to stand up and say hey we were right. My feeling is when asked to say let's ask questions.

KING: Our guest is George Clooney, nominated in three categories, best director and best original screenplay for "Good Night and Good Luck," and best supporting actor for "Syriana." Right back, don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLOONEY: We are going with a story that says that the U.S. Air Force tried Milo Radulovich without one shred of evidence and found him guilty of being a security risk without his constitutional rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You who also have not seen the evidence are claiming he's not a security risk. Wouldn't you guess that the people who have seen the contents of that envelope might...

CLOONEY: Who?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...have a better idea of what makes someone a danger to his country or do you think it should just be you that decides?

CLOONEY: Who? Who are these people sir? Who are the people?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLOONEY: I punched in Prince Nasir Al-Subai (ph) and my computer gets seized. Now where did that job come from? Where did the Nasir job come from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm advising you to drop it.

CLOONEY: Why am I being investigated? Why am I being investigated Fred?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goodbye, Bob.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with George Clooney, nominated in three categories and hope you win.

CLOONEY: Well, I'll tell you...

KING: What if you win all three?

CLOONEY: I don't think that's going to happen. I'll tell you I don't think it's going to happen. You know the truth is right now is sort of a great time because you go a film that you sat down and wrote is nominated for six Academy Awards and the other film that you produced is nominated for two but we're not going to win six and two so right now is really a good period of time.

KING: (INAUDIBLE).

CLOONEY: Exactly in between. Afterwards it's all you know.

KING: I'm going to move back to politics and other things in a little while. I want to get to other areas. By the way, do you think when people say Hollywood's out of touch with ordinary Americans they have a point?

CLOONEY: I seriously doubt it. I mean you know people were talking about this year and how there's so many politically motivated films and isn't that sort of out of touch with the mainstream?

And I think that it's exactly the opposite. I think that when we had politically motivated films the last time, the mid-'60s to the mid-'70s, from "Network" to "All the President's Men," "Dr. Strangelove" and all of those things, there was a million things going on in society that we were paying attention to.

We cared about the civil rights movement, the women's rights movement and the drug counter culture, sexual revolution, the Vietnam War and we were talking about those things. Then after Watergate we seemed to not talk about them for quite some time at home or at dinner and films reflected that.

I think now films are reflecting the exact same thing that goes on in society today which is for the first time since then people are sitting at restaurants and having conversations about their concerns or their beliefs in the political system and I think that films reflect that.

We're not good first responder films. We have to write a script after things happen. We have to direct it. We have to shoot it. We have to edit it and release it. So, in general we tend to be, you know, is there a liberal bend, sure. I don't make any apologies about that. I'm a liberal, you know. I believe in it.

KING: Is that what you are?

CLOONEY: Exactly. Well, listen people whisper that. They whisper it like you'd whisper Nazi now, you know. You'll go, yes you know I'm a liberal. I'm confused when that became a bad word, you know. Liberals thought (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: Well why is it a bad word. Liberals basically there's Social Security, Medicare, most Americans kind of favor those things.

CLOONEY: No, I know. 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 to say, I mean liberals say they're not liberals, you know. Liberal Democrats say they're not liberals. I am not a liberal. Of course you're a liberal meaning that a great many of these people, the liberal movement morally, you know, has stood on the right side of an awful lot of issues.

We thought that black 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. You know we haven't been always wrong.

KING: How did you get in trouble with O'Reilly?

CLOONEY: He started it. He started it. I mean it's that simple. I was doing a telethon for 9/11. He wanted to do an interview for it and I was putting together the interviews that we were going to do and the networks said everybody gets one. He said "I'm the news man for FOX" and I said "No, you're not."

And then the month after that he claimed that the thing was a fraud and people canceled checks because of that and my job was to defend the people who showed up and put their name on something because they wanted to do something good.

And he said I said it was a ratings thing that he was doing because he tried to get everyone to come on his show and he said "There's no such thing as sweeps in cable." It was the same week he ran an ad that said "Bill O'Reilly beats Larry King for the first time." I thought well that's sort of unusual.

And then I said if it's truly just about helping the people because he said he just wants to help the people, I go "If it's truly about helping the people and nothing to do with ratings, then debate me on Larry King during sweeps if that's what you want to do, if that's what you believe" and that's how it started.

KING: And is it ended now? CLOONEY: No, listen, I've asked him a dozen places. I'd debate him here again on any of those subjects but he doesn't want to do that, you know. He doesn't want to debate anywhere but a place where he owns the microphone and that's fair. You know, listen, I wouldn't want to debate it either. He's sort of got some vulnerabilities now, you know.

KING: Oh, I see. All right, let's get to other areas and then we'll go back to "Good Night and Good Luck" as we said.

CLOONEY: Sure.

KING: By the way did you like Ed Murrow?

CLOONEY: Oh...

KING: Was there anything about him you didn't like?

CLOONEY: No, there's nothing about him I didn't like. You know I grew up with him looming over our household. He was a big part of our lives and he represented to us -- I'm sure, listen, I'm sure he was tough and I'm sure he could, you know, fall short of many of your ideas but I think most great people do personally but in the scheme of things, in the scheme of broadcast journalism especially.

KING: OK. What do you make of tabloids in general? Do you read them?

CLOONEY: I have certainly, yes.

KING: Do you tend to believe them?

CLOONEY: No. You know it will depend on the story, you know. The truth is if you throw, you know, 50 things at the wall a couple of them are going to stick and they're going to be right about a couple of them. It's sort of, you know, the horoscope people. The problem, the danger for me, listen I grew up around tabloids.

KING: You sure did.

CLOONEY: And I know all about it. My aunt knew about it.

KING: His aunt was Rosie Clooney by the way who we'll talk about.

CLOONEY: So, I knew all about it. I don't mind it. It's entertainment. I don't mind that. The bigger concern I have is when tabloid journalism, which is, it becomes the first or second source for real news I start to worry about that. When you see stories that are sourced by, you know, a London tabloid says this and then suddenly those become the news source or the source for important real news I worry about that.

KING: Are they generally inaccurate about you?

CLOONEY: Sometimes. Look, you know, you've had a lot of people on who will go it's all lies, you know. They'll get some things right and they'll get some things wrong. There's never been a day in my life ever since I got famous that they -- that I won't read something on my Blackberry or get a note or something that's completely false. There's never been a day but you can't defend all of those because you'll just, you'll a jerk. All you do is...

KING: Do they drive you nuts?

CLOONEY: Only the ones that I think can hurt other people, I mean because sometimes they can really bang into other people's lives and I think that those are unfair. You know, I went into this with my eyes wide open. My aunt was a big star. I knew what the game was.

If anybody had an introduction into fame I did but friends or acquaintances or people who happen to be walking by who get sort of shot in the, you know, along the way I feel bad for them.

KING: Your aunt sure loved you.

CLOONEY: She was great.

KING: Rosie Clooney. We'll be back with George Clooney. He's everywhere nominated. He's going to win...

CLOONEY: I'm all over the place.

KING: ...on Oscar night. At least you're going to see him in the audience a lot right, hopefully getting on stage but you'll see him in the audience a lot. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think you can call this a neutral piece.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other side's been represented rather well for the last couple of years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We tried to talk to the Air Force. They haven't gone on the record.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you forego the standards you've stuck to for 15 years, both sides, no commentary?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all editorialize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just making sure we identify what it is you (INAUDIBLE).

CLOONEY: We're giving them the information up front and we're asking them to comment on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) hold on. I've searched my conscience and I can't for the life of me find any justification for this and I simply cannot accept that there are on every story two equal and logical sides to an argument. Call it editorializing if you'd like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it is editorializing Ed period.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to have equal time to defend themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you understand the position you're putting us in?

CLOONEY: We are all in this together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLOONEY: Because the house always wins. You play long enough you never change the stakes the house takes you unless when that perfect hand comes along you bet big and then you take the house.

BRAD PITT, ACTOR: You've been practicing that speech haven't you?

CLOONEY: A little bit. Did I rush it? It felt like I rushed it.

PITT: No, it was good. I liked it.

CLOONEY: (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with George Clooney. Brad Pitt is a very close friend of yours.

CLOONEY: Yes, sure is.

KING: How are they doing?

CLOONEY: Well, I don't know. They're on the road now. They're traveling around so I would imagine they're doing well. We talk, you know, when you say very good friends he's not -- I have my friends and then I have sort of my showbiz friends and showbiz friends are people that you actually care about and spend a little time with but it's not like we call each other every day or something like the (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Oh, you're not like friend friends?

CLOONEY: Yes, we don't, you know, it's not like we go, I mean he's come to my house and stayed and, you know, like that but it's not like we, you know, we go backpacking together.

KING: Did you offer him your house for a honeymoon?

CLOONEY: No but I will now. He can come there if he wants. A bunch of tabloids, all the tabloids had that that he's coming to my house to get married. I wanted to rent a bunch of tables, you know, and put them outside and then get a bunch of like kids or something dressed up in tuxes and watch them in tuxes and watch all the cameras come by.

KING: Do you keep in -- you don't keep in close touch though?

CLOONEY: I do. I mean I talk to him probably once a month or so.

KING: Good guy?

CLOONEY: A great guy. I mean a great, truly great guy.

KING: Do you like working with him?

CLOONEY: Love working with him. Yes, he's, you know, he -- Steven Soderbergh and I have a -- we're partners. We have a company together and we have sort of this life's too short rule and the life's too short rule for us is work with actors that are good and enjoy what they do and don't make other people unhappy. I think we're very lucky and very privileged to be here.

You know I was -- I grew up, I cut tobacco for a living. I sold insurance door to door. I didn't really think I was ever going to get to this place in my life and so I think we should enjoy it and have fun with it.

KING: How did Brad deal with that public divorce?

CLOONEY: I don't -- I think -- I think how does anybody deal with it, you know. We've all been through sort of public issues at times and he probably does it the same way that most do which is by trying to listen as little to it as you possibly can and it will go away eventually.

KING: It's hard though isn't it?

CLOONEY: Yes, I think -- well, I mean if you look at the magazines I don't think there's been a magazine in the last three months that didn't have them on the cover so, yes, I think it's hard. I would imagine it's very hard for them.

KING: Yes and how do you deal with that. You can't look away.

CLOONEY: I think you can at some point. I think at some point you have to look away because if you just stare at it I think it will make you crazy.

KING: Do you think back to the days when you were just hanging around selling insurance?

CLOONEY: Sure all the time.

KING: Do you ever pinch yourself? CLOONEY: That I do and I also, you know, yes, I do all the things that people who were broke for a long time do which is you pay cash for everything. You know I bought my house and paid cash because you still have this thought in the back of your head that you'll, you know, you'll eventually be broke again so you're always very careful.

KING: You still think that?

CLOONEY: Sure, you do. You know it's a good place to -- listen, let's be honest the truth is everybody in this industry at some point or another you are going to be done, you know, and you will be struggling in your career and all those things so you hope you save your money up along the way. Nobody gets to be Paul Newman and have a career, you know, 60 and 70. Nobody does that.

KING: You're fully expecting a day when there will be no script?

CLOONEY: Sure. Well that's why you direct and that's why you write and produce is you hope you'll have other jobs besides acting because you're only allowed to be in front of the camera for a period of time.

KING: Because of age?

CLOONEY: That and I think people get sick of you. I think it's -- it's, you know, it's -- listen, again, you watch "This is Your Life," you know with Ralph Edwards and he will have, you know, Charlie Chaplin on there, the biggest star in the world, everybody loved you and then tragedy struck and like that (INAUDIBLE) went away. It happens.

KING: Were you a good insurance salesman?

CLOONEY: I was a horrible insurance salesman. I'll tell you why. The selling part I could do but then they wanted you to always tack on a little something extra. You know we'd take it from, you know, we'd take it from a whole life insurance to term life insurance and put some money away in an annuity for them or in an IRA but maybe you could use a little other insurance as well.

KING: You weren't good at that?

CLOONEY: And I couldn't because you felt like you were pulling their leg then.

KING: What were you good at in the menial area?

CLOONEY: I was good at cutting tobacco. I was fast.

KING: Oh, you were in Kentucky?

CLOONEY: In Kentucky, sure. That was -- that's a miserable job by the way.

KING: Cutting tobacco.

CLOONEY: Sure, housing it, stripping it, cutting it, topping it, you know, all of it it's a miserable job.

KING: Did you smoke?

CLOONEY: No, I never was. You know everybody in my family except for my father really but my parents don't smoke but I had...

KING: Rosie smoked.

CLOONEY: Yes and I had eight, nine great uncles and aunts all of whom died between like 60 and 70 from smoking, yes, so I didn't really have a great interest in smoking.

KING: We'll be right back with George Clooney. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID STRATHAIRN, ACTOR: The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies and whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear. He merely exploited it and rather successfully. Cassius was right, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves." Good night and good luck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with George Clooney. He is nominated for best director and best original screenplay for "Good Night, and Good Luck" and for best supporting actor in "Syriana." When I broke into broadcasting, it was 1957 and everybody smoked, I was in television and radio. Not one person did not smoke. And of course in the era, you filmed in "Good Night, and Good Luck," everybody smoked.

CLOONEY: It was interesting because you know, there's policies at the studios now that you can't show films where people are smoking. The problem is, of course, this is -- most of these guys died of lung cancer, you can't change history. You have to accept that.

We were well aware of how romantic we were making it, in black and white, you make smoking look. That's why we put the Kent commercial in there. We wanted to sort of wink at everybody and say, we know, we get it.

KING: Was there any thought to not having them smoke?

CLOONEY: No, because...

KING: ... I mean, you show Murrow without smoking, it's not Murrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. The Atomic Energy Commission has just announced... (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He closed every show, he smoked all the time.

CLOONEY: And he died at a very young age from lung cancer.

KING: But every character -- your character smoked?

CLOONEY: No, mine didn't.

KING: Fred didn't.

CLOONEY: That's right, Fred didn't. He was something -- I met him.

KING: I had a panel with him.

CLOONEY: Did you really?

KING: Yes.

CLOONEY: I love the things he did with what he did with Columbia later, the ethics in America pieces. Those were amazing, they hold up.

KING: So there is no question you would do smoking scenes?

CLOONEY: Yes, we had to.

KING: Why did you use black and white?

CLOONEY: Two reasons. One was, we're going to use original footage of McCarthy, because we wanted to because we thought it was important. I think it was important because there is a faction of people out there right now that are trying to change history and say that McCarthy was right, which is sort of a dangerous place. And I thought it was important to see him really do it. I actually don't know those guys in color. I've never seen Murrow or McCarthy in color, not in a color photograph.

KING: Yes, no one has. As a child, you had bell's palsy. That's like a paralysis.

CLOONEY: Half your face.

KING: I've never seen it in children, usually adults.

CLOONEY: My sister had it as well. And it's not a hereditary thing.

KING: Did it just go away?

CLOONEY: Yes, it goes away. It takes about nine months to go away. It was the first year of high school, which was a bad time for having half your face paralyzed. But yes, it's a weird -- it's one of those things, I remember what happened. I had been watching a film called "The Pride of the Yankees" on T.V. Gary Cooper gets Lou Gehrig and he becomes Lou Gehrig's Disease. And he's trying to pick up a bat and it falls out of his hand. And the next day we were sitting in church and I was in the back of the pew and my tongue was numb. And then we would always go out to dinner, go up to Frisch's Big Boy, which is, you know, that's where everybody went for lunch after church, after mass.

And I was drinking and milk was pouring out of my mouth. And I thought "Oh, my God, I have Lou Gehrig's disease." Because you know, I wasn't the brightest kid, and eventually, your eye and everything gets paralyzed.

KING: Were you strict Catholic?

CLOONEY: Yes, we were Catholic, big time, whole family, whole group.

KING: Mass?

CLOONEY: Oh yes, I was an altar boy, did the whole thing. Latin masses too. (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

KING: Do that again, I liked that.

CLOONEY: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

KING: Did you ever stray from it?

CLOONEY: From Catholicism? I got in trouble a couple of times when I was young because I asked some interesting questions, you know? I thought it was an interesting idea when I was a kid, I was saying, "Well, without Judas, this whole thing doesn't work." So I thought well maybe Judas understood that it was his job and he actually decided he would be the -- and I've written a piece like that. It was just experimenting, I got in a lot of trouble for that.

KING: Did you lose your faith or do you still have it?

CLOONEY: I don't have a specific -- I don't -- it's an interesting thing. I'll tell you what's tricky about this. In talking about religion, if you're well known, anything you say sort of ticks off a bunch of other people and sort of attacks their belief.

So I always try to say that I, first and foremost, I think that whatever anybody believes, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, it's fair enough and works. And I think it's real and matters. I don't happen to have those beliefs as much. I don't believe in those things.

KING: Your father still does?

CLOONEY: Sure, he's Catholic.

KING: He ran for office. CLOONEY: Yes, he ran last year for Congress in Kentucky.

KING: Lost.

CLOONEY: Yes, it was a bad year. He had a tough time of it.

KING: Did you go out and support him?

CLOONEY: I did, but I did it in the same way that I did -- that I would support Kerry, which is it's a time right now in our country where the idea of Hollywood -- it's Hollywood versus the heartland.

And they can use it sort of pretty well. So I knew that I couldn't help my dad by campaigning for him. John Kerry's people called and said, after the nomination, take a train across the country, why don't you come with us? And I said because I hurt you, I don't help you, but I can help raise money. And I can do that I can help fund-raisers. So I did a lot of fund raisers for my father.

KING: By the way, do you want to marry again, do you want to settle down? How old are you, George?

CLOONEY: I'm thinking about doing it today.

KING: Today? You've got a few girls here.

CLOONEY: I'm taking numbers.

KING: How old are you?

CLOONEY: Forty-four, but I have the liver of a 72-year-old.

KING: Too much time at Dantana's.

CLOONEY: Exactly, sitting in the corner, drinking. No, you know, I'm 44. Honestly, I don't really think about it, because I don't think you can go, "I got to get married again." Because if you do that -- you can, but I can't do that.

KING: It's nice to know you remember me.

CLOONEY: Now I'm in big trouble. But I can't -- you know, I don't think you can look at it like, the end result. I think you just sort of try and find somebody that's right.

KING: OK, Rosie, your aunt.

CLOONEY: Yes.

KING: And a great singer.

CLOONEY: Yes.

KING: Did she have any effect on your getting into show business? CLOONEY: Yes, I'm sure. Rosie and my father were both in show business, in the microcosm of Ohio and Kentucky, my father was as big a star as you've ever seen.

KING: Television.

CLOONEY: Television star. So I was always around fame, whatever that would be called. I remember when I was a kid, my dad said, what do you want to be, and I said, I want to be famous, because I thought that was a job. Because that's all I'd ever seen my father be. And Rosemary too. So it certainly had some effect. I thought I'd go into broadcasting, I tried it, broadcast journalism.

KING: Really? News?

CLOONEY: Yes, news. And I wasn't very -- I was, in fact, I was really bad at it. I wasn't good at listening at the time.

KING: The whole key.

CLOONEY: It is the key. And my dad was the best at it. And I'd watch him, I'd go, I don't know why he does that so well.

KING: Did you watch Rosie sing?

CLOONEY: She taught me a lot about what can happen to you. She taught me a lot about the mistakes you can make as well.

KING: We'll be right back with George Clooney. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

ROSEMARY CLOONEY, SINGER: He's an awful good kid. He's a wonderful actor, but he's been at it for awhile, you know, Dennis. He's been working at this for a good 10 years. So it isn't an overnight thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Back with George Clooney. All right, what did you learn from Rosie?

CLOONEY: I remember about six years ago, before she got really sick, we were backstage, she had just done a show at -- down in Long Beach. And she really killed that night. She was great in small venues, especially. I mean, she really killed this night. And I said why are you a better singer now than were you 20 years ago? Why are you -- can't hit the notes you used to hit and you can't hold the notes as long as you used to hold them. She said because I don't have to prove I can sing anymore. and it was such a good lesson in acting for me, because it was like, oh -- the harder you work, the more you have to prove your acting, then you're probably making a mistake along the way. So I learned a lot from her.

KING: Were you afraid -- did you not take -- someone said you didn't take pain killers?

CLOONEY: I took some when I first -- after the first bit of surgery. They gave me Demerol, fantastic drug, I highly recommend it kids at home. Yes, they gave me Demerol for a period of time on the I.V.

But afterwards, Rosie had some problems with it. A lot of my family members have issues of addiction. So I was a little more nervous with that.

KING: Did Rosie die well?

CLOONEY: She died gracefully.

KING: That's what I mean.

CLOONEY: She died with class. Hard to do, I think. I was there with her the day she died. And it's a tricky thing, you know? It is -- the interesting thing I found was it was the most personal thing you can do, it's the most private thing you can do.

People always say, aren't you afraid of dying alone? You die alone, you know, it is the one journey that only you are taking. And it was interesting to watch how graceful and how beautiful she did that. She made everyone understand that she could handle it, and that's -- you know, that makes it easier on the people who stick around.

KING: She knew she was dying?

CLOONEY: Oh yes, yes. Well I think we all live in a little denial for a period of time. When she first was diagnosed, I think she thought she was going to beat it. Lung cancer is a though one to beat.

KING: She worked pretty far up until the end, though.

CLOONEY: Yes, she worked until the last year. And the last year was just surgery, so up until then.

KING: Now, one of the first things you told me last night, I'm not involved with Teri Hatcher.

CLOONEY: I didn't say that. Are you crazy?

KING: Are you not involved with her? That's been written about. CLOONEY: It's been written, I know. You're allowed to ask any of those questions.

KING: I can ask anything, you don't have to answer them.

CLOONEY: I know, and I will say this, in 15 years of doing interviews, I've never talked about that part of my personal life, ever, because I find that every once in a while, I find certain elements that I try to keep my own.

KING: So break it tonight.

CLOONEY: OK, I will. Listen, that whole world of mine is, you try to find whatever elements you can keep kind of to yourself. And I've worked hard at doing that.

KING: All right, is it hard for you, since most people who date, go out, right?

CLOONEY: Right.

KING: Unless you hide in the house.

CLOONEY: Right.

KING: You go to dinner. People see you at dinner with a girl.

CLOONEY: I've seen you at dinner at Dantana's, for instance.

KING: OK, so they see you at dinner with a girl. It's natural to assume. Therefore, someone would ask you.

CLOONEY: And that's a fair question. And they're allowed to ask it. But I just never answer it.

KING: Because?

CLOONEY: Because the truth is, because the secret to the idea of telling people anything about your private life is that you get to decide what it is you want to divulge. They can see you, or talk about you, or do whatever you want, but your job is to try and find certain elements that you can hold on to that actually still belong to you.

KING: Is it possible to have truly a private life in your position? You're probably trying to think -- you're probably the No. 1 figure in Hollywood today. By that, I mean with all the things you've done with these nominations, with the starring roles. I would say it's hard to make the pitch for someone else.

CLOONEY: Paris Hilton's big.

KING: You got me.

CLOONEY: There's big out there.

KING: What does she do?

CLOONEY: She's done very well for herself.

KING: Doing what?

CLOONEY: She has a T.V. show, she's doing very well, she's very famous. You know, listen. Can you have a private life?

KING: Yes, can you?

CLOONEY: No, not really. The secret is, the trick is, people will say, well you sort of owe the public. And I always think, well I'm not a public figure, really. That's an interesting dilemma. Public figure to me is someone who...

KING: ... An elected official?

CLOONEY: Yes. You give them a vote, and then they take your vote.

KING: And spend your money?

CLOONEY: Spend your tax dollars, fair enough. That seems to be something that -- then I need to know if you're living on a yacht. But for me, the idea is, whatever you decide is fair. Now they're going to print things and say things and talk about things, all along. But I only give what I feel is fair.

KING: We'll be right back with George Clooney. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CATHERINE ZETA JONES, ACTRESS: Is that all?

CLOONEY: No, that's not all.

ZETA JONES: I could have you disbarred for that.

CLOONEY: It was worth it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLOONEY: And first your son will disappear, his body will never be found. Then your wife. Her body will never be found either. Now, this is guaranteed. Then whatever is the most dangerous thing that you do in your life, it might be flying in a small plane. I'd be walking to the bank, you'll be killed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We have two segments left with George Clooney, he's nominated for best director and best original screenplay for "Good Luck, and Good Luck" and supporting actor in "Syriana."

A couple of other things. On the Golden Globes, when accepting the best supporting actor for "Syriana."

CLOONEY: Yes.

KING: Clooney made an off-color joke at Jack Abramoff saying, "Who would name their kid Jack with the last words 'off' at the end of your last name. No wonder the guy's screwed up." Any regrets about that since Abdalla was very angry, as were others.

CLOONEY: No, no regrets at all. This is a joke, and I think, listen. Believe me, the person who's besmirched the Abramoff name is not me. Unfortunately I think you also, you hurt the House of Representatives along the way. no, I make no apologies for that. That's just a joke.

I actually, his father wrote a piece and was upset. And I applauded his father for -- if it was my dad, which my father then wrote another piece, I think that's good too. I appreciate people who stick up for family members even in the face of, confessing to felonies, which is what he's doing.

KING: What about Pat Robertson's remarks?

CLOONEY: Well Pat's a tricky one, you know, Pat is -- I called Pat up when we were doing the One campaign and you know, going for the African debt relief and aid. And we were doing this commercial, and then we were going to go to G8 summit. And I called under Pat and I said, "We need you, we need somebody from the religious right." And I said, "Dr. Robertson, you and I never going to agree. We're going to agree that we don't agree on anything except there are no two sides to this issue." And he said OK.

He and I did "Nightline" together. I went on the "700 Club" on his show and talked. Funny for me to be doing that, but I felt like there were issues here that we have to actually be talking about, that have to not have a political structure. I worry about the ideas of saying "Let's go assassinate Chavez." That concerns me. I worry about a lot of those things. I worry about Falwell saying that planes flew into buildings because of homosexuality. So I think that everyone has issues.

KING: What did you think about "Brokeback Mountain?"

CLOONEY: I loved it. I think it's a terrific film. I don't think it's a political film, you know, in that sense.

KING: It's a love story.

CLOONEY: Yes, and I think people have gone -- I think it's become this issue again, because it's a year of political films. I think he's just a wonderful filmmaker.

KING: Where were you on 9/11?

CLOONEY: I woke up, after I saw the first one, I went into the...

KING: You were you in L.A.?

CLOONEY: I was in L.A., I was in Los Angeles. And of course, it was one of those other moments, probably like when Oswald was shot on public television, where everyone had tuned in because you saw the first one, you thought it was a horrible accident. So the second one really destroyed you because you knew it was actually an attack.

KING: Did you know the world would change?

CLOONEY: It's interesting, I thought it would. My father wrote a really interesting article about it the next day, and said these are the things that are probably going to happen. And he was in some ways right about it. Yes, I knew it was going to change, didn't you?

KING: Sure.

CLOONEY: I wasn't around for Pearl Harbor, but I think you understand that we're going to react and sometimes overreact.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with George Clooney right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In our remaining moments, let's cover a few bases. You're shooting a film in London?

CLOONEY: No, I'm shooting a film in New York right now. I was just in London, but for doing press. but I'm shooting a film in New York tight now.

KING: What are you shooting?

CLOONEY: A film called "Michael Clayton," about...

KING: ... "Michael Clayton?"

CLOONEY: "Michael Clayton." It's about lawyers. It's a man's name. It's about corruption in a law firm.

KING: Do you play a good guy or a bad guy?

CLOONEY: I play a guy who doesn't really know he's a bad guy for a while.

KING: But he's a bad guy.

CLOONEY: Probably.

KING: What are you doing in Las Vegas?

CLOONEY: I'm doing a casino there.

KING: You're building a casino? CLOONEY: Well I'm not physically doing it myself.

KING: No, I didn't mean that. Hard work.

CLOONEY: I don't do hard work anymore. I pay people to do those things. I pay people to tell me all kinds of things. We're building a casino that hopefully will be the one thing that I think Las Vegas could use is a place you can put on a jacket.

KING: A dress up?

CLOONEY: Yes, you have a big band play, you push the tables back and everybody can dance.

KING: Hotel or just a casino?

CLOONEY: It's a hotel and casino. It's several different phases of a really large project.

KING: Where's the property left?

CLOONEY: There's 25 acres right next to the Hard Rock that we own, that the company that's building this, owns.

KING: So what is it, a group of investors?

CLOONEY: Yes, it is. It's called Las Ramblas.

KING: Las Ramblas? CLOONEY: I'm taking 25 percent and donating it to the African relief effort so I can give that -- that seems fair to me, I can contribute, I don't make any apologies for trying.

KING: So you will not make money with this venture?

CLOONEY: Well, I could, we'll see. Who knows? But first and foremost, the money will go -- 25 percent of it, will go to...

KING: ... And you're calling it?

CLOONEY: Las Ramblas.

KING: Meaning?

CLOONEY: It's named after the road in Barcelona, a street in Barcelona.

KING: It's going to be like one of those casinos you see in movies that you don't exist anymore.

CLOONEY: It'd be nice. That don't exist, that I miss. I mean, I used to go see Rosie sing when I was a kid and everyone would put on a jacket.

KING: Dressed up. When did that change? CLOONEY: I think when it became -- the whole place -- I mean, the whole country did. Look at baseball games and I remember going to the airport and having to put on a tie.

KING: That's right. You never wore jeans on a plane.

CLOONEY: Couldn't imagine it. Now we all wear...

KING: ... If you sat in a box seat, you wore a tie.

CLOONEY: That's right. Now I where a tube top and coolats (ph). Espadrills. It's not a good luck, I'll admit.

KING: You don't want to discuss your personal life, would you like to be a father?

CLOONEY: I actually want to be a father, maybe tomorrow or the next day. I've been thinking of adopting actually.

KING: You can.

CLOONEY: I've been thinking about adopting.

KING: Single people adopt.

CLOONEY: I'm going to adopt like a 23-year-old though.

KING: A girl?

CLOONEY: Why not?

KING: I don't think that's the way.

CLOONEY: You can do that?

KING: Would you like to be a father?

CLOONEY: Not particularly. I mean, I'm not...

KING: ... You'd be a good father.

CLOONEY: How do you know?

KING: I think you've got that...come see Las Ramblas with me.

CLOONEY: Come here, young man. I think it's something you ave to do if it's something that you're driven to do and I'm not. And I don't think you should it casually. I don't think you should just go up and have a kid. So I think if I had that thing pounding in my ear at some point, then I'll probably try to do it.

KING: Are you always seeing scripts?

CLOONEY: Yes, every day.

KING: Every day. What's the determining factor on yes or no? CLOONEY: A unique voice, usually. You know, I had a run of doing some really bad films -- or being really bad in some not very good films. And then I thought, OK, well if I'm going to be held responsible for the films that are being made, because now I'm not just an actor in a film, I'm now green lighting a film.

So if I'm going to be responsible not just for my performance, but for the film, then I've got to pick better. And if I'm going to fail, then I'll fail on my own taste. And the first film I did after that was "Out of Sight" and "Three Kings" and "O Brother" and I felt like, OK, at least I'm picking OK, the screen plays. Because screen plays are the only thing that make you a better actor, is a good screen play.

KING: And who are you going to take to the Oscars?

CLOONEY: I was thinking -- I asked Dick Cheney. He took a shot at me, I was surprised at. So I don't know, if Dick's not going to come, I don't know.

KING: Don't have to be a girl, does it?

CLOONEY: No, I could bring you if you'd like to come.

KING: I'll go with you.

CLOONEY: OK, good. It's a deal.

KING: Thank you George.

CLOONEY: Thank you very much.

CLOONEY: George Clooney. He stars in -- he's best supporting actor in "Syriana" and he's nominated for best director and best original screenplay in "Good Night, and Good Luck." Thanks for a wonderful hour. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is next in New York. Good night.

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