George Clooney has elaborated on an anecdote that was made public by his friend Rande Gerber in 2017: the actor, film director, producer and screenwriter gave US$1 million in cash to 14 of his closest friends.
Clooney, who is married to international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, shared the story in an interview with GQ, which crowned the 59-year-old two-time Academy Award winner its Icon of the Year.
He had agreed to play Matt Kowalski in Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 science-fiction thriller Gravity, which went on to win seven Academy Awards in 2014, with Clooney’s co-star Sandra Bullock being nominated for leading actress. The film had a budget of US$100 million and the film studio did not want to pay Clooney.
“Amal and I had just met, but we weren’t dating at all,” Clooney tells GQ. “I was a single guy. All of us were ageing. I was 52 or something. And most of my friends are older than me.” Gravity was just about to come out, “and because they didn’t want to pay us, they gave us percentages of the movie, because they thought it was gonna be a flop, and that ended up being a very good deal.”
Gravity made US$723 million in cinemas, according to Box Office Mojo.
Clooney received a huge financial windfall. The actor, who is now a father to three-year-old twins Ella and Alexander, did not have any family at the time and thought he would never have a family.
“And I thought, ‘What I do have are these guys who’ve all, over a period of 35 years, helped me in one way or another.’ I’ve slept on their couches when I was broke. They loaned me money when I was broke. They helped me when I needed help over the years. And I’ve helped them over the years. We’re all good friends. And I thought, ‘You know, without them I don’t have any of this.’ And we’re all really close, and I just thought, basically, if I get hit by a bus, they’re all in the will. So why the f*** am I waiting to get hit by a bus?”
He decided he would surprise his 14 closest friends. But how would he find $14 million in cash? He carried out some research and found a business in downtown Los Angeles where “they have giant pallets of cash”. Clooney hired a beat-up van that had ‘Florist’ written on it.
Like in a heist movie, Clooney drove to the location, and he got in an elevator with the florist’s van down to the vault and loaded it up with cash. He told no one but his assistant “and a couple of security guys that were shitting themselves. And we brought it up, and I bought 14 Tumi bags, and then I packed in a million bucks cash, which isn’t as much as you think it is, weight-wise, into these Tumi bags.”
He invited the 14 friends over to his home the next day. “And I just held up a map and I just pointed to all the places I got to go in the world and all the things I’ve gotten to see because of them. And I said, ‘How do you repay people like that?’ And I said, ‘Oh, well, how about a million bucks?’ And the fun part about it was, that was the 27th, the 28th of September. A year later, on the 27th of September, just by happenstance, was the day I got married.”
The interview appears in the December/January edition of GQ.