LOS ANGELES—“I have an incredible wife and two children who literally don’t even care that I exist right now,” George Clooney said with a laugh about his dual roles these days to Amal and their twins whom he fondly calls “knuckleheads.”
“I have nothing to give them,” George said of Alexander and Ella, who were born last June 6. In just a couple of years, the world’s most famous bachelor not only got married (in 2014), but also became what he himself thought might never happen—a dad.
“I can give them a bottle every once in a while, and they’re happy,” shared the actor-director in our recent interview in Toronto. “But, other than that, it’s all Amal right now, which is beautiful and it’s a sight to see.”
So, what did he give up since becoming the world’s most famous dad of twins? “I can only have room for so many people, so I got rid of two friends,” he joked. Looking slim in a gray polo shirt and jeans, he talked openly about his new life as a dad and husband.
“I wasn’t completely unaware of what life would be like with children,” he said. “All my friends have kids, and I’m godfather to about 20 kids. So I knew what I was in for. The surprise for me was how much more complicated having twins is than one. It’s not like twice as much work—it’s more than that.
“So, I have such admiration for my wife, who’s getting about two hours of sleep for intervals for a couple of hours a night. In the meantime, she is up breastfeeding these two knuckleheads. All they want to do is eat, and I don’t understand what’s going on.
“What it (parenthood) changes fundamentally is, instantaneously, you are responsible for other people’s lives in a way that you haven’t been before.
“I’ve always had a great sense of responsibility, but it is [much more] when they’re your children and you hope that you make an example that they would follow. That’s the main thing.
“In my life, what you want to do is make sure that your children understand that, by birthright, they’re given things that other children aren’t [given].”
He added what else changed for him: “Your capacity for things—your love for someone grows exponentially. I couldn’t be more in love and happier with my family. I’m at a wonderful place in my life. I am 56 years old, which is old to be doing this. I am like Tony Randall (an actor who had kids late in his life).
‘Icing on the cake’
“So, all of this is icing on the cake. I thought that my life was going to be focused on my career, and not necessarily relationships. I found them all. Look, today is the first time that I have been away from them since they were born. My wife sends me pictures and you sit there thinking, God, I wish I was with my kids, which is fun. I am excited to get home.”
On Amal, a lawyer specializing in international law and human rights who was suddenly thrust into the spotlight, the beaming husband said, “It’s funny because Amal is such a professional. She’s so elegant. She doesn’t really do interviews. But, when they start talking to her, everybody realizes that she’s actually very funny.”
George recently went home with the babies to his native Kentucky. “After I left Venice (for the film festival), I flew to Augusta, Kentucky, to see both my parents. My father hadn’t seen the babies because he had a bout with pneumonia.
“My parents are thrilled by the whole thing. It’s funny to watch my parents because they aren’t young grandparents either. They think it’s hysterical. My sister has two kids. So, it’s fun.”
On being a dad at 56, George mulled, “Does it change—is there an age for being a parent? All I can do is play catch-up and hope that I am not with a walker and a cane chasing my kids around (he talks and acts like an old man) … switching diapers with them (laughs).
In the 1950s-set black comedy “Suburbicon,” his sixth feature directorial effort, George elicits a fine performance from child actor Noah Jupe. He plays Nicky, the son of Gardner (Matt Damon) and Rose (Julianne Moore), who seem to be living an idyllic suburban life. But, the script was written by Joel and Ethan Coen with George and Grant Heslov, so a dark satire of murder and mayhem ensues.
The brand-new dad pointed out that he’s had experience working with child actors. “When I was on ‘ER,’ I played a pediatrician, so I worked with three or four kid actors every day.
“For the most part, they shouldn’t be there. Most of these kids—it’s their parents living vicariously through their kids. The kids weren’t able to be kids. I hated it.
“But, this kid (Noah)—his parents are fantastic. He is unbelievably normal. We did that scene with Matt, where Matt basically tells him that he’s going to kill him, and the kid has tears coming down his eyes.
“The mom was like, ‘Just tell him some mean sh*t, and he’ll cry.’ I talked to the kid, and he was alright. We did the scene and the minute I said, ‘Cut,’ he was high fiving everybody. He was completely normal.”
The man known for being a prankster got to direct his buddy, Matt, in the film. Of course, George thought of a challenge for his actor.
“Do you know what I enjoyed most?” George volunteered with a naughty grin. “I enjoyed putting Matt on that little f**king bicycle (laughs). I picked it specifically. They brought me a bigger bike. I looked at Matt. He’s standing there with his hands on his hips, and he has a little gut on him. I was like, ‘No, that bike is too big.’
“I got him on this bike where his knees would hit the handle bars, so he would have to put his knees out and ride like that.
“I rode around in a couple of circles because he was like, ‘No way.’ He rode around and he finally got it. It brought me joy to watch him on that (laughs).”
But, he praised his pal. “Matt is a good guy. He likes playing buffoons. This is the thing that people don’t get about Matt. He’s an incredibly versatile actor. He does the ‘Bourne’ movies, and he’s going around kicking everybody’s ass. He’s a tough guy. Then, he is just a big goofball in other movies.
“It’s very hard to find an actor who can be the guy who gets his ass kicked, then does the ass-kicking in another movie, and does them both believably.
“He’s also, as you know, a sweet guy. He’s fun to work with. For Julie (Julianne Moore), Matt and I, it was so much fun. You have known her a long time, too, and she’s a pro, man. She’s funny and easy. You don’t have to do a whole lot of directing.”
“I hope they get a sense of humor because they’re going to need it as time goes on,” George said of his twins. “With the Coen Brothers, it’s always been somewhat easy. They wanted to take this Clark Gable matinee idol thing when we did ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ and just make me look like an idiot, which, anybody who knows me, is much more fitting of who I am. From the very beginning, the Coens understood that me being a goofball was a funny thing.”
Still on filmmakers, guess who George has not yet met? “I’ve never met Robert Redford,” he admitted. “He was just in Venice, and I went walking around trying to find him (laughs). He was instrumental in ‘All the President’s Men,’ which I consider the best film about journalism ever. I think it’s a perfect film.
“He was also instrumental in many other independent films. The first big independent film was ‘Downhill Racer’ (director Michael Ritchie’s film starring Robert). So, I’ve always been an admirer of his and would love to meet him. Oddly, we’ve never crossed paths.”
On what challenges are left, George answered, “The challenges for us are different obviously from what they were when I first moved to Los Angeles. I was trying to get a job. I didn’t have insurance and couldn’t go to the dentist for 10 years. But, the challenges now are different. Money isn’t an issue. Privacy is obviously an issue.
“I did grow up and remember cutting tobacco. I remember watching ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.’ I’d see some schmuck actor talking about how tough his life was. I would be cutting tobacco for three dollars and 33 cents an hour and going, ‘F**k you. Your life isn’t so tough.’
“So, answering that question, I could tell you the truth—which is, I miss walking in Central Park with my wife and kids. I’d like to do that but I can’t. I miss certain elements of privacy, but it’s not worth complaining about.”
‘Still a lot to learn’
Asked to complete this sentence, “George Clooney is …,” he paused until he finally replied, “Stumped (laughs). George Clooney is learning. I still have a lot to learn. I just feel like there’s no point in being satisfied with anything. It’s more important to just continually grow.
“It’s fun that now I get to learn from two kids who get to see the world through a different set of eyes.
“I am learning about Lebanon (Amal’s birthplace), which I didn’t know that much about, unfortunately. I am learning about many different countries constantly.
“And I’m happy to say that my job in general means that you have to be learning constantly—and I like it.”
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Bone of conflicting contentions