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The Sexy Interview: George Clooney

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He kicked off the year in dapper style to accept his first-ever Oscar, but on this cool L.A. evening, George Clooney is movie-star dazzling in an offhanded way: jeans, scuffed Harley motorcycle boots, a black tee and a green rubber bracelet that reads “Not on Our Watch,” a reference to his activism on behalf of the troubled Darfur region of Sudan. He’s just caught a screening of Ocean’s 13 (due next summer) and exchanged a friendly hello with Clint Eastwood, whose office is next door.

Now Clooney settles into a leather chair in his own modest office (think basketballs and a plastic Batman mug) to sit down and chat with West Coast bureau chief Elizabeth Leonard. Relaxed and gracious, Clooney, 45, is thoroughly the Hollywood gentleman – and, now, the Sexiest Man Alive 2006.

George Answers the Big (and Not-So-Big) Questions

What’s it like to go on a date with you? I don’t go on that many dates, because the truth is, anytime you go out in public with a girl when you’re well-known, there are pictures of you everywhere and it’s like you’re a thing. So mostly I spend time getting to know people at work or a party at a friend’s house before I’m willing to go out to a restaurant and get clobbered by photographers. It puts so much pressure on dating immediately, and you just go, “Uh, sorry” – you’re just always apologizing.

Augusta High School, 1979: “This is me as the center on my varsity basketball team,” Clooney says, looking back. “At 5’11”, I was the tallest guy in the school. We were 1-and-25 my senior year, the worst team in the state.”
What’s your perfect first date? Not getting your picture in the paper. The second date, take your hits – but it would be nice to see if you have anything in common before it’s in the paper.

What’s your “type?” All different types. … Everybody says this, but sense of humor is No. 1 for me. It’s certainly what’s most attractive. It’s not the first thing you notice at 21, but it’s the first thing you notice now. You also have to have a sense of humor about my life. It certainly has had an effect on relationships, but I would bet less of an effect than my own issues or insecurities. You can’t really blame outside forces for things not working out. You have to take some responsibility.

You told Barbara Walters back in 1995 that “I’ll never marry again.” Have you changed your mind? The truth is, I haven’t softened my position on anything, but it’s not something I deal with on a regular basis. Who knows? I’ve been married [in the early ’90s, to actress Talia Balsam]. It’s not something I’m looking out for. The truth is, I’m really happy. People always go, Aren’t you afraid of being alone or dying alone? And I just go, I’ve also been in relationships where I’ve been shockingly alone. I don’t agree with the idea that you have to have that or it’s a failed life. I’ve been my most happy and my most unhappy in relationships. I have family and friends and people I care very much about. I’ve got a really, really, really good life.

Clooney, at the Academy Awards in March, owns one tux, a single-button Armani. “There’s only one mistake guys can make,” he says of wearing a tuxedo, “and that is to try to do anything fancy.”
Will you ever have kids? I think it’s the most responsible thing you can do, to have kids. It’s not something to be taken lightly. I don’t have that gene that people have to replicate. But everything in my life has changed over time.

What do you love about Italy? I think people in Italy live their lives better than we do. It’s an older country, and they’ve learned to celebrate dinner and lunch, whereas we sort of eat as quickly as we can to get through it. We’re constantly going – work, work, work. Italians have taught me about stopping.

What have you learned from your family? My father [broadcast journalist Nick Clooney], my mother [Nina], my aunt [the late singer Rosemary Clooney] – they all had talent, but they also had that thing that I’ve always admired: the willingness to get beat up for the right reasons. I always liked that, and that’s one of those things you aim for in life. In my family we’ve all flopped pretty badly over the years at times, and that’s always okay. What wouldn’t be okay is to fail in integrity. When we were growing up [in Kentucky], it was the middle of the civil rights movement and we were around people who were certainly fairly bigoted at times. And I remember if someone would even just make a reference to “those people,” my sister and I knew to start pounding the food if we were out at a restaurant, because my dad was going to make a scene and we were going to leave. That happened all the time. As a kid, I was kind of embarrassed by it. As an adult, I am immensely proud of it.

Before he was sexy: “There’s my buddy Max, and that’s my 1960 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88,” Clooney says of this ’89 photo in Beverly Hills. “I gave that car to Noah Wyle. I was living with Kelly Preston and doing the <em>Roseanne</em> show then, and Max was a little baby pig. And now he’s a hog.”
How does it feel to grow older in Hollywood? I feel as if I’m gently working my way into being a character actor along the way. I like it. You’ve got to figure I’m not going to be the leading man anymore. And I vacillate whether it’s something I can pull off or not. You look at Brad [Pitt] and Matt [Damon] and Don [Cheadle,] and they all look pretty much the same after six or seven years [of shooting the Ocean’s series]. I’m probably the least mature of all of them, but I’m still the dad figure. They always give me sh–. It’s always like, “Okay, old man.”

Will you ever run for office? No. I can get more done from where I am on issues than I could trying to make policy. I don’t have to compromise on anything. I don’t have to worry about alienating anyone. I can go in headfirst.

Being George

On his screen saver: A picture of my two bulldogs Bud and Lou, both of whom have passed away. They’re gone, but I keep them on my screen saver because they’re my buddies.

On his iPod: I’m really fond of this kid Peter Cincotti and of Michael Bublé. They sing some of the same arrangements that my Aunt Rosemary used to do. I just downloaded 25 or 30 songs from iTunes from a bunch of Rosemary’s albums because I didn’t really have my version of her greatest hits. There are certain songs she did better than anybody. She has a version of Don’t Fence Me In that is mind-bogglingly good.

On the set of <em>Ocean’s 13,</em> Clooney gets by on his favorite mode of transportation: the motorcycle. “I have a Harley, an Indian and a bike called an Exile that’s a chopper.”
On his TiVo: Jon Stewart. I always put on the three network-news channels. Keith Olbermann. I still love Letterman. The Office.

In his shower: A steam room. Growing up, in my early 20s, we’d go to the Desert Inn and they had this great steam room, so I built one. There is eucalyptus for the steam and then a big tub of generic shampoo and some generic conditioner. I have no hair products and no great grooming habits. I use Ivory soap. But I have an old-fashioned shaving brush, and you can get a really good foam going with the soap. I like the normal disposable razors.

In his refrigerator: Burrito makings. I always have tortillas, ground beef, a little lettuce and tomato and salsa and cheese. You can make an entire meal in seven minutes. Throw it all together, with guacamole. And it makes me happy when I eat it.

For more of George Clooney’s sexy interview, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.