I have done a few of these things—celebrity profiles—before. I have interviewed famous people in hotel rooms and offices, in bars and in restaurants, even, once, on top of a bridge in Sydney, Australia. Where I have not often interviewed them is at their homes. The home is the turkey bacon of the celebrity profile. It generates, if not love, then at least a sense of gratitude akin to what a dog must feel when allowed on the couch. Leonardo DiCaprio met me in a vast hotel conference room, empty but for an end table and two chairs. George
Clooney invited me to his house.
Of course he did. What distinguishes Clooney from other famous people is that he reliably acts as you wish other famous people would act and does what you wish other famous people would do: often the right thing. His house is of a piece with its owner. It might be described as a man-cave writ large. It is slightly undomesticated. You have to climb to get there, up a switchbacked driveway sentried by security cameras and crowded with greenery that he refuses to cut. You can see why he says he does not have many intruders; you can also see why, when he does have intruders, he says, no shit, they usually do their intruding “dressed as trees.”
...He has other houses. He has one, famously, on Lake Como, in Italy, and he has built another in Cabo. In this, he is not so much of a throwback—after all, Leonardo DiCaprio has a house in Cabo. Indeed, Clooney and DiCaprio once ran into each other in Cabo and struck up a conversation based on their common interest in basketball. They each have ongoing games, and their ongoing games have attained a celebrity of their own. Clooney suggested they might play someday. DiCaprio said sure, but felt compelled to add, “You know, we’re pretty serious.”
They played at a neighborhood court. “You know, I can play,” Clooney says in his living room. “I’m not great, by any means, but I played high school basketball, and I know I can play. I also know that you don’t talk shit unless you can play. And the thing about playing Leo is you have all these guys talking shit. We get there, and there’s this guy, Danny A I think his name is. Danny A is this club kid from New York. And he comes up to me and says, ‘We played once at Chelsea Piers. I kicked your ass.’ I said, ‘I’ve only played at Chelsea Piers once in my life and ran the table. So if we played, you didn’t kick anybody’s ass.’ And so then we’re watching them warm up, and they’re doing this weave around the court, and one of the guys I play with says, ‘You know we’re going to kill these guys, right?’ Because they can’t play at all. We’re all like fifty years old, and we beat them three straight: 11–0, 11–0, 11–0. And the discrepancy between their game and how they talked about their game made me think of how important it is to have someone in your life to tell you what’s what. I’m not sure if Leo has someone like that.”
[Photo Credit: Esquire]