The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Clooney charm captivates Venice

Venice, Sept. 3 (Reuters): Hollywood celebrities George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones whipped up a frenzy in Venice today as the Coen brothers’ new screwball romantic comedy Intolerable Cruelty premiered at the film festival.

Girls screamed and paparazzi jostled for position as the stars pulled up in an elegant wooden boat to promote the new film about a Beverly Hills battle of the sexes. Zeta-Jones dazzled in a fluttery, ultra-feminine black dress, but Clooney was the main attraction.

“Georgeous Clooney!” the headline of one film magazine said, while an Italian comedienne interrupted a press conference on the Lido to ask for the 42-year-old actor’s hand in marriage.

Joel and Ethan Coen rushed their latest picture to the 60th Venice Film Festival, where it is being screened as a “work in progress”, since a couple of extra shots will be added to the film before its commercial release.

Clooney portrays Miles Massey, a highly successful Los Angeles divorce attorney who finally meets his match in professional husband hunter Marylin, played by Zeta-Jones. And yet, as the two battle it out in the divorce courts they find they cannot help being attracted to each other.

“I didn’t want Marylin to be that deliciously bitchy because I wanted people to like her,” said Zeta-Jones, who won an Oscar for her recent performance in the gangster musical Chicago.

“She’s the eye of the storm or a tornado, unaware of what chaos she can create,” said the Welsh actress, who in real life is married to actor Michael Douglas. Geoffrey Rush and Billy Bob Thornton also make hilarious appearances in the film that kept critics howling at a preview screening last night.

“You can’t really underplay the characters, there’s nothing subtle about a Joel and Ethan script,” said Clooney, who has worked with the critically acclaimed filmmakers before in Brother, Where Art Thou'

With his rugged good looks and charming smile, the Hollywood heart throb is better known for his pictures like Ocean’s Eleven and the TV series ER. Although Intolerable Cruelty has a malicious side, it marks a shift from some of the Coen brothers’ darker works like Fargo and Barton Fink, prompting critics to ask if they were going mainstream.

Intolerable Cruelty is showing out of competition at the world’s oldest film festival. Twenty pictures are facing off for the Golden Lion, which will be awarded on Saturday.

Bachelor boy

Clooney said he clearly relishes living the life of a rich and famous bachelor, but dating has had its ups and downs.

“Here’s the great thing about dating,” Clooney says in a Vanity Fair magazine interview that hits newsstands today .“You get to start over and go, ‘I’m a really nice guy.’ And by virtue of saying it, you can be.”

Plus, he rarely, if ever, strikes out with women. The downside of being one Hollywood’s most eligible hunks is venturing outdoors with any new real-life love interest and thus becoming “fresh meat” for the paparazzi.

“The minute you start dating, it’s pictures, stories and ‘Who is she'’ And it puts the pressure on immediately,” he laments. “So you have to decide, before you go out in public, if you’re willing to take those hits. Usually, it’s ‘Well, why don’t we stay in and have some drinks and get to know each other before we decide if we’re willing to face up to this.’

The paparazzi aren’t the only ones who hound Clooney for his picture. The latest twist in celebrity stalking is the cell phone camera. “I’ve literally gone out to dinner and a girl comes over to the table and says, ‘Can I have a kiss'’ She leans over, gives me a kiss, I go back to the house, and the photograph is on the TV. It’s hysterical.”

As a result, Clooney says he has spent much of the summer holed up inside the luxurious confines of his 15-bedroom villa overlooking Italy’s Lake Como.

But the 42-year-old ER heartthrob turned big-screen leading man says he considers himself “lucky” to be living the good life, and he knows better than to complain about the trappings of fame and fortune.

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