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Tom Wilkinson Gushes Over George Clooney

12/13/2007 at 08:30 PM EST

Tom Wilkinson Gushes Over George Clooney
Tom Wilkinson (left) George Clooney
Dave Allocca/Startraks; Armando Gallo/Retna
While Michael Clayton Golden Globe supporting actor nominee Tom Wilkinson is "absolutely thrilled" to be recognized, the British actor sounds even happier for the nod that went to the movie's leading man, George Clooney.

"He deserves it," Wilkinson, 59, tells PEOPLE from his home in London, where he was watching a rerun of Friends. "I think he's done a great job. On top of all that, he's the nicest man you'd ever want to meet. He's down to earth – he's a good, solid professional."

Acknowledging Clooney's status in the Hollywood galaxy, Wilkinson adds, "He's a big star, but first of all he's also a good, honest professional who does his work and appreciates what others do around him. Being an actor, I guess, does require a certain amount of egocentricity but, you know, with him it's not something you first notice – and you do in some actors."

Off the set while making Michael Clayton, Wilkinson said, Clooney "was very tired, because George was doing all the Oscar stuff for Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana and all that kind of stuff. He would come in to do a couple of scenes and then he'd be off on an airplane doing publicity in London or something. He was pretty tired. He just wanted to sit down and talk."

But even when a moment to rest did arise, Clooney did not seize it, recalls his costar. "We were filming one of the scenes in the streets in New York. It draws a bit of crowd," said Wilkinson. "But between set ups, George ... would go over [to fans] and chat and give autographs and all that kind of stuff. A lot of actors wouldn't do [that]. He's a special guy."

Is Wilkinson actually admitting he has a crush on George Clooney? "Probably," he says.

Wilkinson has also just finished filming Valkyrie in Germany, with Tom Cruise. "He's another sweetheart," he says. "Charming, nice guy."

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