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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 11:42 GMT
George Clooney gets serious
George Clooney

George Clooney has been smiled on by the Academy Awards with nominations for best director and supporting actor.
But his high-profile career had much more humble beginnings.

The son of former television presenter Nick Clooney and nephew of the singer Rosemary Clooney, the 44-year-old actor became familiar with the trappings of fame from an early age.

MEET THE NOMINEES
Full profiles of the main Oscars contenders

But it was Rosemary's son, his cousin Miguel Ferrer, who secured the actor's first role and prompted the journalism student to pack up his bags and head for Tinseltown.

He lived there in a friend's closet and spent a decade at the bottom of the Hollywood food chain, taking roles in such screen highlights as Return to Horror High and Return of the Killer Tomatoes!

A recurring role in the hit US comedy Roseanne, as Booker Brooks, brought the actor to the attention of a global audience.

But it was his turn as hospital heartthrob Dr Doug Ross in the TV medical drama ER in 1994, that gave the 33-year-old Clooney his stepping stone to fame and fortune.

FILM HIGHLIGHTS
Batman & Robin (1997)
The Peacemaker (1997)
Out of Sight (1998)
Three Kings (1999)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Perfect Storm (2000)
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
Ocean's Twelve (2004)
Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
Syriana (2005)

Film roles followed, most notably the 1997 sequel Batman & Robin, which saw Clooney take over the superhero lead.

The film failed to impress the critics or the public, with Clooney later claiming he had killed off the comic book franchise.

He was rescued from big-screen obscurity by the popular Gulf war drama Three Kings and the critically acclaimed comedy, O Brother Where Art Thou which gave Clooney his first Golden Globe award.

George Clooney in Good Night, and Good Luck
You can get old and grey and they still let you do the job
Clooney, on directing

But if it was the 2000 blockbuster The Perfect Storm that established Clooney as an A-list star, it is his relationship with director Steven Soderbergh that has seen him evolve into a key player in the movie industry.

In 1999, the pair set up the production company Section Eight, balancing money-making hits like Ocean's Eleven, with more independent-style films like Solaris and Syriana.

The 2003 film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind marked Clooney's directorial debut. It met with a disappointing box office response, but the actor insisted making movies was "not about an opening weekend".

Praised for his willingness to put his money where his mouth is, and back those films which inspire him, Clooney has become a popular ally in the film business.

"I'm a hybrid. I succeed in both worlds. I hope that selling out on Ocean's Eleven is not such a bad deal. The trade-off is, I get to go make something uncommercial that will probably lose money," he said.

OSCAR FORM GUIDE
Best director nominations from:
Directors Guild of America
Golden Globes
Bafta
Independent Spirit Awards
Best actor nominations from:
Screen Actors Guild
Best screenplay nominations from:
Writers Guild of America
Best supporting actor winner from:
Golden Globes
Best supporting actor nominations from:
Bafta - for Syriana and Good Night. and Good Luck

Confessions, about 1970s game show host Chuck Barris, highlighted the star's fascination with the evolution of US television - a theme picked up again in his second directorial feature Good Night, and Good Luck.

A prominent critic of the Bush government, Clooney hopes his film about Edward R Murrow and the early days of broadcast journalism in 1950s America, will raise a debate about current civil liberties in the US.

Also this year, Clooney stars in Syriana as a disillusioned CIA agent who becomes a scapegoat when an operation in the Middle East goes awry.

George Clooney in Syriana
Clooney gained 35 pounds to play CIA agent Bob Barnes in Syriana

The film, directed and penned by Traffic screenwriter Stephen Gaghan, is another politically-charged tale, this time focusing on the murky world of US foreign policy and the oil industry.

Clooney injured his back badly in the making of the film and underwent corrective surgery to shore up his spine with plastic bolts.

But his performance has been widely praised, and with Good Night, and Good Luck firmly establishing his skills behind the camera, it seems - for Clooney - the only way is up.


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