Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

George Clooney's letter-writing habit netted him a classic put-down from Paul Newman

Stephen Colbert, George Clooney
Stephen Colbert, George Clooney
Screenshot: The Late Show

In addition to being named person of the year in magazines like GQ and People, George Clooney seems intent on being the guy who single-handedly saves the United States Postal Service from the vote-suppressing greedheads of the Trump administration. Telling Stephen Colbert on Friday’s Late Show that it’s true he writes physical letters every day (and mails them and everything), Clooney was happy to share some examples of the benefits of keeping up a genuine correspondence with your heroes, like Gregory Peck, Paul Newman, and Walter Cronkite. He also apologized for not having been on Colbert’s show since the very first Late Show back in 2015, but, hey, maybe Colbert should have sent him an engraved invitation in the post.

Clooney, while not averse to taking advantage of our miraculous, newfangled texting (or Zoom) technology, extolled the unique virtues of getting a wise-ass missive in the mail from one of your acting heroes. As when his third directorial effort, 2008's knockabout vintage football comedy Leatherheads “really bombed,” and pen pal Newman (who was still racing cars in 2008, the year he died) sent Clooney a picture of the film’s poster superimposed on one of Newman’s many racing wrecks. “Happens to all of us, pal,” Clooney related the message to Colbert, and, if you’re going to have somebody give you the needle, it might as well be Paul Newman.

There was less cheek in iconic newsman Walter Cronkite’s missive—an expectedly sage and serious appreciation for Clooney’s attempt to bring back live TV drama in 2000's America gone-to-shit nuclear thriller Fail Safe. But, since he’s George-freaking-Clooney, he did have the anecdote at the ready about what really prompted Cronkite’s letter, when Cronkite, brought in to lend his stentorian gravitas to the drama’s live opening voice-over, flubbed his lines to kick off the massive, star-studded, intricately choreographed project. Marveling that the veteran of innumerable momentous live news broadcasts had just “shanked” the beginning of his big pet project, executive producer Clooney was greeted with that famous Cronkite voice admitting, “Sorry I fucked up, George.” Again, happens to all of us.


Clooney, there to promote his latest directorial outing, the the-world-has-actually-gone-to-shit apocalypse drama The Midnight Sky, did note that he’s ready for a little hopeful news after, you know, “watching our country go to shit” over the past four years. Stuck in England thanks to the perhaps hasty decision to fly there for a The Midnight Sky drive-in film premiere, just in time for new British COVID lockdown rules to trap his family in (an admittedly fancy) house for a few weeks, Clooney told Colbert he’s just cooling his heels while trying to keep his three-year-old twins from leaving out mince pies for “Father Christmas” instead of cookies for Santa. Not-joking to Colbert about three-year-olds being like “little Terminators,” Clooney apparently isn’t above pretending to be a checking-the-naughty-list Santa outside the rambunctious kids’ bedroom door to keep them in line as they write their wish list letters. At least dad’s got plenty of stamps.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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