Already at war with the paparazzi over their "bounty hunter" methods, Clooney goes ballistic in a press conference following the car accident death of Princess Diana several days earlier. "The paparazzi are not the press," he tells Parade magazine. "We're always going to be a society that slows down to see a car wreck on the side of the road. But you can't put the wreck there just to slow us down. You can't create news."
"Call it the Clooney maneuver," writes PEOPLE. "It's that little head tilt he does when his chin dips down and his eyes drop to the floor. Then, wham! Those eyes are back, full of mischief and magic, atop a sly half grin that all but announces, 'Yep, I'm trouble, but you love me anyway.'" That move, along with all of his other charms, leads the magazine to name Clooney Sexiest Man Alive.
Clooney shoots his final scene on ER after a five-season run. "We're losing a helluva guy," costar Noah Wyle says to PEOPLE. Unlike many television stars who bolt a series as soon as they smell film success, Clooney surprises many by fulfilling his five-year contract. "I'm prouder of that than I am of his performances," his father, Nick, a television journalist says to PEOPLE. "He kept his word."
Moving away from his suave Dr. Ross persona, Clooney takes on the role of a grizzled, graying, bearded fisherman in the blockbuster adaptation of Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm. He shows even greater range later that year as an escaped bank robber in the offbeat musical comedy O Brother Where Art Thou?. His portrayal of a crook-turned-singer wins him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy Film.
Often compared to Frank Sinatra, Clooney reprises Ol' Blue Eyes' role as Danny Ocean in the modern-day remake of Ocean's Eleven. The comic caper, which also stars Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts, is a blockbuster hit, making more than $183 million during its five-month run in theaters.
Clooney calls the Italian village of Laglio the most beautiful place he's ever seen and buys a 25-room, 18th-century villa for $10 million. "The food is great, the architecture is beautiful, and the people are lovely," Clooney tells PEOPLE. "And they sleep for two hours at lunch. It's perfect."
Clooney makes his directorial debut in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, a movie loosely based on '60s game show impresario turned spy Chuck Barris starring Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore. The film receives mixed reviews and makes just $16 million domestically.
Clooney's father Nick runs for a House seat in Kentucky's Fourth District. (The 69-year-old Democrat spent 50 years as a local television personality, radio host and columnist in the Cincinnati area.) Throughout the campaign, Clooney sends letters to potential donors, offering to "wash your car every week until it's paid off and armor all the tires . . . in a toga." Despite the assistance, the elder Clooney loses the election the following November.
Nearly 30-lbs. heavier for his role in Syriana, Clooney tears his dura mater (the membrane around the spine). He endures two painful surgeries within the next year. "I started to have these massive headaches, and I thought I was having an aneurysm," Clooney tells David Letterman. Spinal fluid leaked into his body and, at one point, out of his nose.
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