Dave Benett/Getty Images; Carlo Allegri/Getty Images
December 10, 2004 06:00 AM

To pull off his latest heist, George Clooney had to have a sure thing: camaraderie. “The caper is the least important part,” says the actor, 43, who rounded up friends Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and the rest of his merry gang of thieves once again for director Steven Soderbergh’s stylish sequel Ocean’s Twelve. And this time the pals, led by Clooney’s smooth-talking Danny Ocean, hit Rome, Amsterdam and other foreign locales. Clooney and Damon, 34, who’s back as clumsy Linus Caldwell, recently chatted about taking it overseas, playing pranks and enjoying every second of it all.

How have you changed since the first film?
Damon: I think that we’re just older and we look less glamorous.
Clooney: Thank you.
Damon: And by we, you know who I’m talking about.

What about the film itself?
Clooney: It’s a little grittier, but it’s still sort of high-end entertainment. We’re not disemboweling anyone.

Matt, were you hoping to have a bigger role this time?
Damon: I actually asked for a smaller part. I wanted to do less and work less.
Clooney: He shows up and was like, “I’ve got a big hit sequel (The Bourne Supremacy) coming out already. I think that I should have a bigger part.” So we gave it to him.

This character is so different from the clever assassin Jason Bourne.
Damon: Actually, I don’t know how the character ended up being such a kind of bumbler in this movie. I think that it was a reaction to doing Bourne and I was so sick of being right in every scene that I wanted to play a guy that wasn’t really right that often.

How was doing the sequel different from the first?
Clooney: It’s that we really planned it out.
Damon: Also, you’re introducing a new central character (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who was trying to catch us. So unlike in the first film, if we had seemed like we’re just going to get away with it, it would kind of weaken that character’s structure.

George, this is your second movie with Catherine (after 2003’s Intolerable Cruelty), and yet again, you don’t end up with her.
Clooney: I was a little upset by that, but it’s okay. I’ll get her back. I’m doing a love scene with Michael Douglas later to even the score. That’ll teach her.

Filming took you to Europe. What drew you there?
Clooney: Good food. No, I’ve been lucky enough to have a home in Italy and spend some time there. I’m a huge fan of all of it. I grew up in Kentucky, so I didn’t get to travel too much when I was young. And so, I’ve been sort of discovering a lot.

We’ve heard you liked to play jokes on each other on the set.
Clooney: When we first got to Rome, Brad had a memo put out in Italian that said to all the Italian crew that Mr. Clooney would appreciate it if you only engaged him as Danny Ocean or Mr. Ocean and don’t look at him in the eyes.
Damon: The memo was as if George had written it.
Clooney: Everywhere I went, they were like, “Okay, Mr. Ocean,” until I finally said, “What the hell is going on?” It also got in the paper that I was like this diva that made all the crew call me Mr. Ocean.

You guys seem to lead pretty fun lives. Ever think of slowing down?
Clooney: No, face it, it’s a great gig.

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