George Clooney discusses the Hollywood sell-by date, where he came from, where he's headed

George Clooney, 50, is self-deprecating about his stardom.

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George Clooney, 50, is self-deprecating about his stardom.

At age 50, George Clooney jokes that his leading man days are dwindling. At least that's what he told a Telluride Film Festival audience last month while accepting a career achievement award.

"I was voted People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive twice, you know," the star and director of The Ides of March said, obviously not impressed with himself. "Now I'm AARP's Sexiest Man Still Alive."

Clooney was a hit at Telluride, a remote ski town in southwest Colorado. No snow in September, but the Oscar winner was cool, charming and unguarded. His tribute was moderated with substance by film critic Scott Foundas (a former teenage movie reviewer for the Times).

Sorry if you couldn't make it there. Perhaps these excerpts will soothe any disappointment. Here's still-gorgeous George on:

His first visit to Hollywood in the 1980s: I was just a hick. I really didn't understand how much of a hick I was until the very first night (in L.A.). My cousin Miguel Ferrer, a wonderful actor, had a Porsche. I didn't really know what that was. He said, "Let's take a ride on Sunset (Boulevard)." . . . I was fascinated by the whole thing. And on every corner there were five or six hookers who would hang out.

I'd never seen a hooker before . . . and all these girls come running up to the car: "Come on, baby, you want to party?" I turned to Miguel and said: "I'm on fire in this town!" Chicks were all over me. That was my first day. I went out and bought a Porsche as soon as I could.

Why he prefers making socially important movies: I grew up with the civil rights movement, women's rights, the antiwar movement, the drug counterculture, all that explosive stuff that was going on. And films reflected that.

One thing that people get wrong: They think films are trying to lead society in some direction. It takes two years for a film to get made, so it can only reflect. Over the last decade we've had things that should be reflected on. . . . Good Night, and Good Luck I did because at that time I was being called a traitor to our country.

Nobody wants to see you go right at the problem because it always feels too whiny. It felt like you could go back to another era, talk about it and say we've done this before. What's good about this country is that we can fix those things.

Why he began directing movies: Part of it is, you know, my aunt (Rosemary Clooney) was a very successful singer — then she wasn't. It wasn't because she became less of a singer, but rock 'n' roll came in, and jazz music was gone. . . . I really had this understanding of the fact that you're not going to be allowed to be in front for very long. There's a sell-by date. So I wanted to have other things to do.

I work in a very tricky art form. There is no other art form in the world where an average piece of art costs $50 million to make. . . . Right now I'm allowed to make films that a lot of studios aren't thrilled with making because they don't spell out big box office. I'm able to force-feed some films down people's throats because I'm willing to do them.

I also know that won't last very long. I'm staying grounded because I have a pretty good idea of how things end. And they don't ever end well.

Steve Persall, Times movie critic

George Clooney discusses the Hollywood sell-by date, where he came from, where he's headed 10/05/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 5:30am]

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