George Clooney is so full of gravitas and finely creased masculinity that when he’s involved in a beef, you usually figure it’s going to be with untreated water, or God, for letting bad things happen to good people. But it turns out, Clooney also has some more terrestrial beefs, like with Leonardo DiCaprio, and Russell Crowe. Or at least, that’s what I think Esquire is trying to imply in their new Clooney profile.
[Clooney] is the president of a club of famous people he doesn’t consider assholes, and he convenes it every time he makes a movie. He has made movies with Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Julia Roberts, and Cate Blanchett. He has never been in a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio or Russell Crowe.
Ooh, subtle. We’ll get to Crowe in a second, but first, the Leo beef, which apparently started on the rough basketball courts of Cabo. A basket beef? Beefketball!
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.”
Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t really go to high school, but he did star in The Basketball Diaries when he was 21, which unfortunately was mostly about heroin. Anyway, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about celebrity basketball games, it’s that the shit talk goes at the end of the game, and is a dish best served with pancakes.
Okay, so on to Clooney’s beef with Russell Crowe, a man who seems to be no stranger to a drunken biffo or buffet. Apparently the fight started with them exchanging words and ended with them exchanging books of poetry. Actors, man.
A few months ago, I spent time with Matt Damon while he was on the set of The Monuments Men, and he told a story about Russell Crowe and George Clooney. It involved Clooney reading a poem by Crowe on the night of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards, with uproarious results. It was a great story but not, well, a true one. I told this to Clooney, and he said, “Matt’s a storyteller.” Then he said, “The truth is that [Crowe] did send me a book of poems to apologize for insulting the shit out of me, which he did. He picked a fight with me. He started it for no reason at all. He put out this thing saying, ‘George Clooney, Harrison Ford, and Robert De Niro are sellouts.’* And I put out a statement saying, ‘He’s probably right. And I’m glad he told us, ’cause Bob and Harrison and I were also thinking about starting a band, which would also fall under the heading of bad use of celebrity.’ And that’s when he really went off on me. ‘Who the f-ck does this guy think he is? He’s a Frank Sinatra wannabe.’ He really went after me. And so I sent him a note going, ‘Dude, the only people who succeed when two famous people are fighting is People magazine. What the f-ck is wrong with you?’
“But then I had a year. Then I had Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck, and he was gonna see me at the Golden Globes ’cause he was nominated for Cinderella Man. So he sends me a disc of his music and a thing of his poetry. I think he said, ‘I was all misquoted,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah. Whatever.’ [Esquire]
Sending a dude a book of your poetry to apologize has to go down in history as the least Australian act ever to be perpetrated by an Australian. A person with less Australian experience might put Hugh Jackman’s fondness for musical theater on that same list, but the truth is, the only thing Australian dudes seem to love as much as getting drunk and punching each other is getting drunk and singing songs. Many of which are about drunkenly punching each other. Tis a magical place.
*Here’s the actual Crowe quote, from GQ‘s March 2005 issue, dug up by Entertainment Weekly: “I don’t use my ‘celebrity’ to make a living. I don’t do ads for suits in Spain like George Clooney, or cigarettes in Japan like Harrison Ford … To me it’s kind of sacrilegious — it’s a complete contradiction of the f—ing social contract you have with your audience. I mean, Robert De Niro’s advertising American Express.”
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