Sunday, October 23, 2005

George Clooney: film injury made me suicidal

This coming from someone as hot, rich and famous as Clooney makes you wonder how everyone can feel vulnerable sometimes:

THE SUNDAY TIMES-The scene was meant to depict two thugs beating a victim tied to a chair. But for the Hollywood actor George Clooney, it soon became all too real.

His chair was kicked backwards and his head smashed on the ground, damaging his spine. The injuries left him in such intense pain that he entertained suicidal thoughts and continues to suffer short-term memory loss.

The 44-year-old star, known for his easy charm, surprised American radio listeners last week when he described the past 12 months as “the worst year I’ve ever had”, culminating in a series of operations to ease his recurrent headaches.

He said his ordeal began months ago when filming Syriana, a political thriller based on the memoirs of Robert Baer, a former CIA agent who was tortured on assignment in the Middle East. The film opens in Britain on January 13.

“The problem was that I had put on weight in about a month to do the movie. Usually I am in pretty good shape, but you should not put on 38lb when you are 44. Maybe when you are younger, but it was probably a dumb move on my part.

“There was this scene where I was taped to a chair and getting beaten up and we did quite a few takes. The chair was kicked over and I hit my head.

“I tore my dura, which is the wrap around my spine which holds in spinal fluid. But it’s not my back, it’s my brain. I basically bruised my brain. It’s bouncing around my head because it’s not supported by the spinal fluid,” he said on National Public Radio in Los Angeles.

Clooney learnt the hard way: “Before the surgery it was the most unbearable pain I’ve ever been through, literally where you’d go, ‘well, you’ll have to kill yourself at some point, you can’t live like this.’

“I don’t take painkillers because we’ve had members of our family who have become very fond of painkillers over the years,” said the actor, who has opted instead for therapy that teaches him to ignore the pain. He says he could recover fully by taking six months off work but that is not going to happen in the near future.

The injury damaged Clooney’s short-term memory, which he is trying to repair with counting exercises: “I have to work the memory muscle by counting everything, like how many times I pedal when I am on a bike.

“It’s probably the worst year personally I have ever had. My brother-in-law died of a heart attack aged 45, my grandma fell, broke her hip and died this summer. And my dog got attacked by a rattlesnake and killed,” he said.