Upon turning 50, George Clooney joked to his friends that he should be put on the cover of AARP The Magazine with the headline “Sexiest Man (Still) Alive.” But it took nearly 10 more years – and living through a decade that included his first marriage, the arrival of children, and a nearly fatal motorcycle accident – to agree to talk with AARP about his life, aging, and his pleasures and fears.
In an in-depth interview with renowned journalist Joel Stein for the February-March issue, Clooney shares his greatest life teachings and perspectives on meaningful connection with friends and family, his life post-accident, the lost art of letter writing, the pandemic’s influence on his new movie, The Midnight Sky, and more. On the verge of his 60th birthday, George Clooney – – a recipient of two Academy Awards®, a BAFTA® and three Golden Globes®, including the Cecil B. DeMille award – will receive AARP The Magazine’s Movies for Grownups® Awards Career Achievement honor. The ceremony will be broadcast by Great Performances on Sunday, March 28, 2021, at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/moviesforgrownups and the PBS Video app.
In the cover story, Clooney explains how the pandemic significantly shifted the script and direction of The Midnight Sky, which he not only starred in but also directed and co-produced. In the critically acclaimed film, he plays a 70-year-old, terminally ill scientist rummaging through a postapocalyptic Antarctica pondering, “Did I spend my life well?” In lockdown in his house, Clooney made a movie that had started as a warning about the dangers of rising nationalism and kept removing dialogue until the film became a meditation on the perils of isolation. “You couldn’t help it when you’re in the middle of editing from your home, where you can’t go out and you can’t see anybody,” he explains.
The following are excerpts from ATM’s February/March 2021 cover story featuring George Clooney available in homes starting in February and available online now at aarp.org/magazine.
On the impact of the pandemic:
Since the start of the pandemic, Clooney hasn’t seen his parents or those of his wife, Amal, in person. He considers this the hardest part of the lockdown for him. “This is an important time for them, and it’s not fair,” he points out. “My friends will talk about their kids and how they couldn’t go to prom, and I go, ‘It’s awful that they missed that. They’ll be fine. It’ll be a blip on their radar.’ People in their 80s, they’re, like, ‘You know, come on, man.'”
On receiving the 2021 Movies For Grownups Career Achievement Award:
“I always say to my dad, ‘I’m middle-aged.’ And he goes, ‘You know a lot of 120-year-olds?’
On being comfortable with his looks as he ages:
“I’ve never worn makeup in my life,” he insists. “If I have to have a black eye, I’ll put a black eye on, but I’ve never had paper around my collar. I did when I first started, ’cause I did what everybody told me I had to do. By the time I started ER, never.”
On the value of letter-writing:
“I’m a big believer in letters. I have letters from Paul Newman, Walter Cronkite, Gregory Peck. I have them framed. I put them in the house. If it were a text, it would feel different. Maybe that’s a generational thing, and maybe it won’t be that way 20 years from now, but for me, somebody sat down and wrote it.”
On being pro-savings account, but anti-stocks:
“To me, the stock market is like Vegas without the glass of tequila sitting next to you. It’s none of the fun and all of the risks.”
On the consequences of stardom:
“I’m not a cynical guy, but I will always, always remember that moment (of his motorcycle crash), because nobody was jumping to go call for help or coming to help. For them the worst moment of my life was entertainment … People are getting killed because they’re taking a shot of a car crash coming toward them. We’re living in this world where everybody is trying to make themselves fascinating or important or something. When the reality is: Put that phone down.”
On living with a little more precision and care post-accident:
“I’m not a particularly religious guy. So I have to be skeptical about an afterlife. But as you get older, you start thinking, Well, wait a minute. It’s very hard for me to say, once you’re finished with this chassis that we’re in, you’re just done. My version of it is that you’re taking that one one-hundredth of a pound of energy that disappears when you die and you’re jamming it right into the hearts of all the other people you’ve been close to.”