By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated December 30, 2002 01:00 AM

George Clooney, the actor-director-producer, knows something about business too, The New York times reports.

In order to get his and director Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s 11” made last year, Clooney, 41, a producer on the film, persuaded such heavy hitters as Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt to lower their asking prices, as Clooney voluntarily did himself.

Besides allowing “Ocean’s 11” to proceed, the reduction, says The Times, enabled Clooney and Soderbergh (his producing partner) to help fund other projects for their Section Eight production company: “Welcome to Collinwood,” “Insomnia,” the current hit “Far From Heaven” and “Solaris” (which also starred Clooney, though it fizzled at the box office).

Clooney’s reasoning, says The Times, is that it is wiser to finance and market a $30 million movie featuring three stars than a $40 million movie with only one.

“If you do that,” he said, “you’re free to try and pick the best films possible. When you’re a star who greenlights a picture, you start having responsibility for what kind of pictures get made. I want to be in movies I’m proud of.”

His latest, as director — though he does play a small role, as do Roberts and Drew Barrymore — is “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” about the rise of “Gong Show” star and producer Chuck Barris, now 70, and his purported adventures as a CIA hit man.

The film opens Tuesday.