George Clooney on Teasing Obama, Taking in a Refugee and Spending a $200 Million Tequila Payday
From playing pickup basketball with the former president to supporting a Yazidi survivor of ISIS through college, George Clooney is offering a rare glimpse into his life as a father, husband, movie star and activist.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the Suburbicon director spoke about his newborns — Ella and Alexander — with his wife Amal, recalling everything from how they first met to the moment they found out they were having twins (“I kept thinking there was a mistake”).
Here are some of the other biggest revelations from the famously private superstar:
Shooting Hoops with Obama
Clooney, 56, is known for holding court with distinguished friends around the world — and sometimes that court is the blacktop.
The actor revealed that he and ex-President Barack Obama enjoyed a five-hour meal, some lively conversation and a game of pickup basketball at Clooney’s home in England in June.
But the gentle ribbing is all part of their friendship, evidenced by a text THR observed the former president sent Clooney that cryptically teased, “What a jerk!”
Asked if he’s ever gotten “racy” with the ex-leader of the free world, Clooney admitted, “Sometimes, sure. A little bit. Not Scaramucci-racy, but … you know, I have over the years with my friends said a lot of really [outrageous things]. I’ve had an email exchange with Sacha Baron Cohen that’s some of the filthiest stuff, honestly. Amal will be on the chain and she’ll be upstairs and I’ll hear her scream, ‘No!’ because it’s just foul, and you think, ‘Well, that would probably not be great if it came out.’ ”
His Battle with Chronic Pain
That Clooney can still play basketball after a long struggle with chronic pain is almost as impressive as his playing partner.
Since experiencing a bad fall on the set of 2005’s Syriana, the actor has dealt with “constant pain and debilitating headaches.” He explained, “I had a two-and-a-half-inch tear in the middle of my back and a half-inch tear in my neck.
“I thought I was going to die, [but] I’ve gone from where I can’t function, where ‘I just can’t live like this,’ to ‘I’ve got a bad headache.’ ”
Fortunately, the pain has begun to subside following a series of operations three years ago.
He added, “I still get headaches sometimes. But even the doctor, when I had surgery in 2005, said, ‘Listen, this pain is going to go away with a whimper, not a bang.’ And there’s some truth there. It took years to slowly diminish and diminish and diminish to where now anything I get is negligible. It’s like having a hangover: You know when you get it, and you can handle it. It’s been much, much better.”
Spending His $200 Million Tequila Money
Clooney, along with his two friends Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman, created Casamigos, a tequila company, in 2013. Four years later, the trio sold their company for $700 million, with the possibility of another $300 million investment moving forward.
Clooney said his share of the profits amounts to around $200 million — and he has plans for the future.
For starters, he and Amal have already announced a $1 million donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition, he said, “Amal and I are going to take $20 million and put it directly into our foundation [the Clooney Foundation for Justice]. It will go toward educating refugees, it will go toward housing, it will go to all the things that we want to work on.”
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Sponsoring a Refugee in His Hometown
The Clooneys revealed they have also taken in a Yazidi refugee from Iraq, putting him up at a home they own in Augusta, Kentucky. The young man is now a student at the University of Chicago.
“He was on this bus to Mosul, and ISIS shot the two bus drivers and said, ‘Anybody who wants to go to college, we will shoot them,’ ” Clooney said. “He survived and came to America. He got through all the checks, and once he got through those, it was like, ‘Listen, we got your back. You want to get an education? You want to move your life forward? This is something that we can do.’ ”
As an international human rights lawyer, Amal has worked for years to protect Yazidi victims of ISIS, encouraging the U.N. to set up a legal system by which to hold the terrorist organization accountable for their atrocities. One of her Yazidi clients, Nadia Murad, is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and the first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking of the United Nations (UNODC).