Boy George

06/06/2001 at 12:00 PM EDT

Jerry Weintraub smelled a rat. It was 1 a.m. and the producer had just returned from a long night of stopping traffic and keeping curious fans at bay on the Las Vegas set of his latest project, Ocean's 11 -- the all-star remake of the 1960 Rat Pack casino-heist flick featuring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts -- to find a gooey coat of Vaseline on every doorknob in his suite at the Bellagio hotel. Arming himself with a baseball bat, Weintraub stormed down the hall, rapped on the door of Roberts's suite and bellowed his summons: "Where the hell is Clooney?"

As Roberts feigned sleepy innocence, Weintraub searched her room. Then, hearing a door slam, he swung around to see Clooney and Damon hightailing it down the hall. On another night, Clooney rigged a bucket of water over Roberts's door -- only to soak a hapless bellman who entered first. "The pranks here," sighs Weintraub, "are akin to Animal House."

As he approaches his 40th birthday on May 6, there's no question that George Clooney still likes to have his fun. "He's not immature, but he hasn't quite grown up yet," says Walter Bernstein, who wrote the screenplay for Fail Safe, the classic Cold War thriller Clooney reproduced as a live TV drama last year. "There's still something unformed about him." Julianna Margulies, his friend and former ER costar, has noticed too. "George," she says, "is a grown-up with a kid's heart."

And a kid's attention span, some might argue, when it comes to love. Since his three-year marriage to his first (and only) wife, actress Talia Balsam, 42, ended in 1992, Clooney has never been desperate for a date, squiring such beauties as model and former MTV host Karen Duffy, 39, and actresses Dedee Pfeiffer (Michelle's sister), 37, and Brooke Langton, 30. But his most serious romance, a three-year live-in relationship with French model CĂ©line Balitran, 26, ended when she moved out in 1999, citing his lack of commitment. ("I wanted to have a real family with children," Balitran told the French magazine Oh La! "But . . . it will never be the right time for George.") His latest girlfriend, 29-year-old English model and MTV Europe host Lisa Snowdon, spends most of her time in Europe. And even if she were more available, back-to-back movies -- including 1999's Three Kings, last year's The Perfect Storm and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and now Ocean's 11 -- have kept Clooney stateside for months at a stretch. Right now, says his close friend, actor and writer Mark Adler, 34, "the longest, probably most well-nurtured relationship in George's life is Max" -- the 150-lb. potbellied pig Clooney has parented since the mid-'80s.

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