Death. Taxes. George Clooney's bachelor status. For years, those were absolutes you could count on.
Because after an unsuccessful four-year marriage to Talia Balsam, the actor made it clear he'd sooner slip into his Batman suit, nipples and all, than walk down the aisle again. "I was marred in 1989. I wasn't very good at it," he told Esquire UK in January 2014. "I was quoted as saying I'll never get married again pretty much right after I got divorced and then I've never talked about it since."
But he doubled down in an interview with The Express that same month: "I keep saying I'll never get married again or have children but people just don't want to believe me."
Score one for the doubters—and international human rights attorney Amal Clooney (née Alamuddin). The decorated Oxford grad, 45, reversed the two-time Oscar winner's views on matrimony in just six months of dating. Now, nearly 10 years after their splashy Venice vows, they're enjoying a blissful marriage that has produced 5-year-old twins Ella and Alexander, the actor, turning 62 May 6, can't believe he ever saw it any other way.
It hasn't even been a decade since Clooney was a dedicated bachelor, battling bouts of insomnia and loneliness in the six-bedroom Studio City, Calif., home he shared with cocker spaniel Einstein. But, he told The Hollywood Reporter in September 2017, "That seems like a lifetime ago. Now my house is filled with the warm sounds of babies crying. You should see when my friends show up and see me change a diaper, the laughter that comes from them. I go, 'I know, I know.' I've given them so much s--t for so many years, I deserve every bit of it."
He'll take the trade-off. Building this life with Amal "changes you in every way that every person who's fallen madly in love changes. Suddenly, the other person's life becomes more important than your own," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "I'm sorry I was 50-something when it happened, but only because I could have spent even more time with her."
To hear his dad Nick Clooney tell it, the shift was almost instantaneous. The journalist and his wife Nina Warren were at George's palatial 18th century villa on Italy's Lake Como in July 2013 when a pal called and asked if they could bring a plus one with them to dinner.
"I was like, 'Of course,'" George recounted during a 2018 appearance on David Letterman's Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. "I got a call from my agent who called me and said, 'I met this woman who's coming to your house who you're gonna marry.'"
Nick says he reached the same conclusion. "Nina and I were actually the ones who answered the door when Amal came in," he told People in 2017. "She introduced herself to us and we talked. She was obviously very charming, gorgeous and so clearly accomplished, but by the time we had supper that night, it was clear there was a kindness to her and an inclusiveness."
As they finished dinner and stayed up talking late into the night, recalled Nick, "I started looking over at Nina and saying, 'Look ouuuut, this could be trouble for this young man!"
The Suburbicon director initially believed they'd become pals. "I thought she was beautiful, and I thought she was funny and obviously smart," George, fresh out of a relationship with onetime WWE diva Stacy Keibler, told The Hollywood Reporter. But instead of getting Amal's number, he asked for her email, so she could send over some pictures she'd snapped at his waterfront property, he explained to Letterman, "and then, we started writing and I didn't really, I didn't know if she wanted to go out with me. I just thought, you know, we were buddies."
In London that October, George decided to test the waters. He invited the Lebanon-born, England-raised lawyer to visit him at Abbey Road Studios where he was overseeing the creation of the score for his 2014 war film The Monuments Men. "That was a great first date," he told The Hollywood Reporter. Amal suggested "one of those places that was incredibly hip and chic," he said. "And then we came out, there were 50 paparazzi there. But she handled it like a champ. And pretty quickly things escalated."
After spending time together during his six weeks in London, they celebrated the holidays in Cabo San Lucas and went on a safari in Kenya. By February, he was back in L.A., showing an actor pal a photo of Amal marveling at a tower of giraffes, when everything clicked: "I said, 'I think I'm going to ask her to marry me.'"
Rather than float the idea to Amal, he quietly commissioned a seven-carat emerald-cut diamond and planned an elaborate home-cooked meal down to the crucial detail of what song he'd choose for the big moment (He selected his late Aunt Rosemary Clooney's tune, "Why Shouldn't I?" with lyrics including, "Why shouldn't I take a chance when romance passes by? / Why shouldn't I know of love?")
The move, he said, "was a full-on leap of faith." After they polished off their pasta at his California spread on Apr. 28, 2014, he brought out champagne and "told her there was a lighter to light the candle in the drawer," he detailed, "and she reached back and pulled out a ring. And I did all the stuff, got down on my knee and did all the things you're supposed to do."
Her response took 20 minutes "because she was so shocked," he said, but he wasn't worried. Well, only a little: "My only doubt was if she thought maybe it was too soon. But there was no doubt that we were the right couple and that we were the right team."
Following September vows that saw the duo and their A-list pals zipping through the canals of Venice as a cadre of photographers snapped away ("Once people get wind of it, it became an event," admitted George. "We were sitting down in the boat, and I was like, 'You know what? Why are we hiding? Why are we ducking? We shouldn't be ashamed of this.' And we got up and waved") the couple realized they were on the same page about children as well.
"We never talked about it until after we were married, which is funny," he revealed to The Hollywood Reporter. "There was an assumption that we didn't want them. And then after the wedding, Amal and I were talking and we just felt like we'd gotten very lucky, both of us, and we should share whatever good luck we've got. It would seem self-centered to just have that belong to us."
Having seen George flip his stance on marriage, friends expected babies would be next.
So when George confessed they'd be welcoming twins ahead of their third anniversary, "I wasn't surprised," said Matt. "I'm extremely happy for them but once he met her, I had a feeling that was in the cards."
It was a perception shared by much of his inner circle. Cindy Crawford, wed to George's Casamigos Tequila cofounder Rande Gerber, told E! News, "It really took Amal, I think. She's just so amazing and they're just so happy. It just seemed like a natural next step."
Though George's initial announcement was met with ribbing—"It got really quiet. And they all just started making baby crying noises, and the whole table just busted up laughing," he recalled—his pals, all experienced parents, offered to pitch in. "Those kids are going to have a lot of uncles," Matt told E! News. "George has a lot of really, really great friends. Those kids, they're lucky enough to have those two parents, but they'll have a lot of uncles and aunts."
Aunt Julia—as in Julia Roberts, mother of 18-year-old twins Hazel and Phinneaus and 15-year-old Henry—said she'd be up for some commiserating, but insisted during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that the Clooneys "don't need advice from me or anybody else."
A confident George agreed that he had things handled. "I played a pediatrician on ER, so I know how to work on extra children," he quipped to E! News. "If there are any accidents, I'm there. I'm the guy."
Indeed, since the twins' June 6, 2017 arrival at London's St. Mary's Hospital (the same place Kate Middleton gave birth to her three children with Prince William), the multimillionaire has done the dirty work. At their $7.5 million Villa Oleandra, where they decamped for the summer shortly after the babies' arrival, he handled a bulk of the changes. "I'm a very good diaper guy," he marveled to The Hollywood Reporter, "which I didn't know I would be."
And as his dad Nick predicted, George was able to maintain his charm as he dealt with some of the more unfortunate parts of parenting. "They started a little thing called solid food. Let me tell you what goes wrong with solid food," he told E! News in 2017. "It goes in a carrot. It does not come out a carrot. It comes out like something horrific—like something's exploded." Continued the star, "You look at your kid going, 'What's wrong with you? Why would you do that?"
He was less troubled with the constant spit up. "I just have to clean the barf off of my tux," he told The AP. "It used to be my barf, but now it's the twins' barf. So, it all works out."
And it appears the toddlers already boast Dad's charisma. "They're not terrible twos. They're good kids. They're happy kids. They laugh a lot. They do pranks already," the Catch-22 actor shared on the Today show in 2019. "Put peanut butter on their shoes, so that it looks like poo-poo on their shoes and stuff, and they think that's funny."
So he's already accomplished the chief goals he outlined to The Hollywood Reporter, a plan that ultimately boiled down to, quite simply, raising decent human beings.
"The first thing you think is, 'I hope I don't screw this up,'" he said. "You are really responsible for two kids. I want them to be happy. I want them to have a sense of humor. I want them to be interested in things. I want them to be compassionate about other people's plights. Because that's the thing, you know? You have to have some sort of empathy."
That they can already speak in two languages is a nice bonus. "They're just completely different personalities and they're fun and smart and I mean, they already can—you know, do all their ABCs in Italian and in English and I can't do that in English," he said on Today.
Other fears revolve around Ella and Alexander's well-being. The couple had state-of-the-art security installed at their Italian villa and mansion in Sonning, England. And when a paparazzo scaled the fence surrounding their Lake Como property to snap a photo of the kids, George responded with force, threatening to prosecute "to the full extent of the law
The twosome have taken strides to protect themselves as well. With Amal's legal work—her more bold-named clients include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy—"We've had a lot of real threats," George told The Hollywood Reporter, "and we take them very seriously."
After Amal's co-counsel was stabbed in the head in the Maldives, the new parents had a talk about taking precautions. As Amal was preparing for a trip to Azerbaijan, George, a longtime activist dedicated to stopping human rights atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan, floated an agreement: "I said, 'I'll tell you what, let's make a deal: I won't go to South Sudan and you don't go to Azerbaijan. How is that?' And she said, 'For now, fine.'"
The duo have plenty of impact even without leaving their home bases in America, England and Italy. ("As soon as the children go to school, it'll be necessary to choose where to settle," he told Paris Match of rotating between their three homes. "In the meantime, we will continue to move according to our respective schedules.")
The star, who joked to The Sunday Times he sold his tequila company "for a billion f--king dollars," has always been generous. Exactly one year before his Italian vows, he gifted 14 guys who supported him during his early acting days with $1 million each, pal Gerber revealed on MSNBC's Headliners.
Now his largesse is a bit more forward thinking. He and Amal have donated $1 million to the Southern Poverty Law Center and funneled an additional $20 million into their Clooney Foundation for Justice to help refugees. They also pledged $500,000 to the March For Our Lives movement to end gun violence in Ella and Alexander's names and, most recently, put up more than $1 million to various organizations providing relief from the coronavirus pandemic.
Paying it forward is only natural when you're as truly grateful as George and Amal. "Every single day of my life, I just feel lucky," he surmised to The Hollywood Reporter. "Lucky in my career. Lucky enough to have found the perfect partner. Sometimes in life it doesn't happen on your schedule, but you find the person that you were always supposed to be with. That's how I feel, and I know that's how Amal feels."
So, yes, he never imagined being a dad to toddlers in his late fifties, but he sure is thrilled it came to be. His takeaway, he told The AP: "Don't make plans. You always have to just enjoy the ride." This one is truly unbelievable.
(Originally published May 6, 2018 at 3 a.m. PT)