George Clooney: 9 Cool And Interesting Facts About The Actor/Director

George Clooney - The Descendants

You know George Clooney. The actor/director is one of the biggest, most well-recognized, and most revered A-list stars in the business today. While he isn't of the same career stature as he was maybe 10 or so years ago, Clooney is undoubtedly a major league talent with dashing good looks and a wealth of charisma to boot. He's among the last bonafide stars left in Hollywood, and he continues to prove himself in front and behind the camera. If you love George Clooney as an actor, writer, director, or all of the above, here are some cool or interesting facts you should know about the superstar.

George Clooney - The Ides of March

George Clooney Is A Distant Relative Of Abraham Lincoln

Throughout his career, George Clooney has remained a political personality with a great interest in national and international affairs. This might relate back to his father, Nick Clooney, who is a journalist and anchorman, though it might date back even farther to a distant relative in his family history.

As People reported, The Ides of March actor/director has some overlap in his family tree with a famous American president: Abraham Lincoln. They both have deep roots in Kentucky, and they're ultimately connected through Lucy Hanks, who was Lincoln's maternal grandmother. Through marriages and births, Clooney is the U.S. president's half-first cousin five times removed. Certainly, both of them have their great share of charisma and intellect, and they're both smooth-talkers, so one can see some similarities in these specific regards. But it's not every day that you discover you're related to Lincoln.

George Clooney - Tomorrowland

George Clooney Initially Wanted To Play Baseball, Tried Out For The Reds

There are many folks who dream of being a movie star, living in the limelight and soaking up the glamor. But that wasn't what George Clooney initially had in mind. The future A-list actor originally had aspirations of being a journalist, like his father, and a professional baseball player, for which Clooney did try his hand at hitting the big leagues. He tried out for the Cincinnati Reds, though he didn't make the cut. While Clooney often makes it seem like he can do it all — acting, writing, producing, directing, the works — his professional baseball career didn't pan out. But things certainly worked out in the acting business, it's fair to say.

Brad Pitt - Thelma & Louise

George Clooney Lost A Role In Thelma And Louise To Brad Pitt

There are several "what ifs" in Hollywood. Casting is always a gamble, and there are always a number of different options when it comes to picking out the actors best suited to play any respective part. When it comes to Ridley Scott's Thelma & Louise, Brad Pitt ultimately scored the role of J.D., an attractive young drifter Thelma (Geena Davis) falls for, but George Clooney was also in the running for this supporting, star-making turn. He reportedly auditioned five times for the part, but he ultimately lost it to his future friend.

While Pitt and Clooney would be on good graces later in life, particularly after they made the Ocean's movies together, Clooney admits he couldn't watch the film due to the sting of this rejection. But it wasn't long after that Clooney became a star himself.

George Clooney - Three Kings

He Fought With David O. Russell A Lot On The Set Of Three Kings

Actors and directors can often share beautiful, meaningful collaborations together, resulting in a healthy, progressive work environment where both artists express themselves fully, producing their best work. But not every set provides such luxuries. While 1999's Three Kings became a very good film, the production was fraught with problems, notably with George Clooney and writer/director David O. Russell feuding throughout the extensive, delayed production. Russell is known to occasionally have very contentious, embittered arguments with his talented actors, but this difficult working relationship with Clooney became one of his most public battles.

Eventually, it reached a boiling point where the actor and director were literally at blows. Suffice to say, while Russell has reunited with several actors, it's no surprise that this is the only collaboration between Clooney and Russell. Here's how producer Charles Roven detailed this incident:

Now we're shooting the climax of the movie. Helicopters, explosions, gunfire. It's chaos, madness. And George sees David talking to the extras' [assistant director], and it looks like he's yelling at him. But he's yelling to be heard. And George comes running over and goes, 'I told you, motherfucker, if you're going to pick on somebody, pick on me.' And David goes, 'Why don't you just fucking remember your lines for once?' And boom! They grab each other, and they're tussling. And so I pulled George away. That was it.

Screenshot from South Park

George Clooney Helped South Park Find Its Success

One might not naturally associate George Clooney with Comedy Central's raunchy, long-running irreverent satire, South Park, but it appears that the actor played a hand in helping the crudely animated show find an audience. Before Trey Parker and Matt Stone worked on their popular program, the Colorado-based animators worked on a series of short films that involved Santa Claus and Jesus Christ duking it out.

This video, titled The Spirit of Christmas, won its fair share of admirers, including George Clooney — believe it or not. Not only was Clooney taken by this animated comedy video, he apparently sent out hundreds of VHS copies to his friends to spread the word. After South Park found its way onto Comedy Central, Parker and Stone repaid the favor by having Clooney voice a minor character on the growingly-popular comedy show: Sparky, i.e. Stan's gay dog.

Since George Clooney did his voice work remotely, Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn't get a chance to meet the A-list actor during this cameo role. But they did meet him when he came to the voice booth to record his lines for South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. The comedy duo might've soured their status with the star when they made fun of him in Team America: World Police, though Clooney claims he didn't mind being the butt of the joke.

George Clooney - Syriana

His Syriana Set Injury Was So Painful, He Had Suicidal Thoughts

While George Clooney's challenging performance in Syriana ultimately won him his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, the toll that it took on the star was a heavy burden to bear. During production on this political drama, Clooney endured a spinal injury and a cracked skull while performing a dangerous stunt. The damage done to his body damn near killed the actor.

He had debilitating full-body pain, which was the result of a two-and-a-half inch rip in the middle of his back, a half-inch tear in his neck. And he was leaking spinal fluid, to the point where it was coming out of his nose. He was subsequently injected with blood for 15 days straight, with painkillers not agreeing with him. The pain was so consistent and so immense that he contemplated suicide, believing the pain would be never-ending.

I was at a point where I thought, 'I can't exist like this. I can't actually live. 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.' You start to think in terms of, you don't want to leave a mess, so go in the garage, go in the car, start the engine. It seems like the nicest way to do it.

While George Clooney never acted on these thoughts, he still apparently felt discomfort even ten years after this incident. The superstar traveled to Germany to meet with one of the world's leading specialists to see if they could fix his aching back. It's a challenge that seemingly still haunts him.

Screenshot from Babe

George Clooney Owned A Pig For Nearly Two Decades

In the late '80s, George Clooney was in a relationship with the late Kelly Preston. It wasn't meant to last, but before the couple called it quits, Clooney bought his girlfriend a pig. When she left, the pig stayed behind. Rather than give it away, Clooney adopted the animal, who was later named Max, under his wing —and the ham and hunk became an unlikely Hollywood duo.

As a famously uncommitted person in his personal life, there were folks who'd joke that Clooney shared his longest relationship with the pig, as they were ultimately together as close buddies for 19 years. When Max died, Clooney admits that Max was "a big part" of his life. The sight (or, rather, the mental image) of this Hollywood heartthrob and a 300-pound pig makes for an odd sight, but a rather lovely one, too.

George Clooney - Up in the Air

George Clooney Is The First Actor To Be Nominated In Six Separate Oscar Categories

As a two-time Oscar winner, George Clooney has certainly seen his fair share of success at the Academy Awards. But in addition to these accolades, Clooney earned another Oscar distinction: he is the first actor to be nominated in six separate categories. More specifically, Clooney was nominated for Best Supporting Actor with Syriana, Best Actor for Michael Clayton, Up in the Air, and The Descendants, respectively, Best Director for Good Night, and Good Luck, Best Original Screenplay for Good Night, and Good Luck, which he shared with Grant Heslov, Best Adapted Screenplay for The Ides of March, which he shared with Heslov and Beau Willimon, and Best Picture for Argo, which he shared with Heslov and Ben Affleck and won. It's clear that Clooney is among the most respected professionals working in the business today.

George Clooney, Vera Farmiga - Up in the Air

He Co-Founded A Tequila Brand Which Eventually Sold For $1 Billion

George Clooney was the highest-earning actor of 2017-2018, but he hasn't starred in a film since 2016's Money Monster. So, how is this possible? As it turns out, Clooney made his newest fortune selling a tequila brand he co-founded for a whopping $1 billion. That's quite a pretty penny. To make it even more surprising, the actor-director reportedly only invested $600,000 into the newfound company, yet he walked away making $239 million for this year-end round-up.

Clooney is certainly a wealthy man, and he doesn't even need to act in movies to make his capital. This might explain, in part, why the filmmaker hasn't been acting as much of late, though he has been easing back into the profession of late. Clooney starred in a few episodes of Hulu's adaptation of Catch-22, which he also produced and helped direct.

Additionally, George Clooney is starring in his latest directorial vehicle, The Midnight Sky, alongside Felicity Jones, Kyle Chandler, David Oyelowo, and more. Adapted from the book, Good Morning, Midnight, by Lily Brooks-Dalton, the drama is expected to come out on Netflix sometime later this year. While Clooney also helmed 2017's Suburbicon, that film was the only time Clooney stayed strictly behind the camera for one of his directorial efforts.

These are only a handful of fun and interesting facts about George Clooney. It should also be noted that the actor/director owns an Italian villa, initially worked a number of odd jobs, including cutting tobacco and selling women's shoes, before he became an A-list actor, and reportedly offers refunds to disgruntled audience members who left Batman & Robin disappointed. What are some of your favorite George Clooney movies and performances? Please let us know in the comment section below!

Will Ashton

Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.