Miércoles 1 de Junio de 2005, Ip nº 111

Por Clare Raymond

George Clooney has studiously avoided long-term relationships and raising a family. Instead he has spent his energies on his career, his friends and living life to the full.

Hence the mystery that has puzzled women around the world for years: how on earth do you get Clooney down the aisle? At 44, the commitment-phobe Ocean's 12 star admits that the day he marries is still far off.

"I've been too busy to give enough of my personal time to take care of a woman, raise children and be a decent father," says the actor - who has enjoyed flings with Renee Zellweger, Mariella Frostrup, Baywatch actress Krista Allen and French law student Celine Balitran.

"Maybe that's a failing. Maybe that's selfishness and egotism, but that's how I feel. For a long time I've been the type of guy who enjoys his freedom to work hard and have a good time with his friends.

"I don't believe that every man has a moral obligation to settle down and have a family. I think you should only do that if you're able to make the commitment."

So his girlfriend of two years, Essex beauty Lisa Snowdon, 30, shouldn't expect him to get down on one knee any time soon.

"Lisa and I get along well together and she's comfortable with my tendency to be a workaholic," says Clooney, whose new CIA spy thriller Syriana is out in the autumn.

"She has her own life and her own career and she's very independent that way. She makes things very easy for me.

"I'm very respectful of women and I love their company, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm predisposed to feeling comfortable in a relationship over a number of years.

"I haven't had a good track record. I'm selfish when it comes to my time and my work, and the fact that I do enjoy myself and I do feel good about the life I'm leading makes me think that maybe this is the way it's going to be for me.

"You worry about disappointing the woman in your life and you also tend to disappoint yourself because you don't start something with someone intending for it go wrong.

"You want to have a happy life, you want to have a good relationship. But you also realise that maintaining a relationship is a hard enough process to begin with. So it makes you cautious."

Nor does he have any yearnings to expand the Clooney dynasty.

I WOULD only want to be a father if I could be sure in my mind that I would make a great dad, because I know about families where children don't grow up happy," he says.

"My own family had enough problems - which is probably at the back of my mind and frightens me about how terrible I would feel if I couldn't be a good father and create a happy home life. That would kill me."

Clooney grew up in Chicago, where his father Nick is a successful radio and TV host. His aunt, Rosemary Clooney, was one of the most famous singing stars of the 50s until the emergence of rock and roll and her subsequent battles with alcohol and prescription drugs torpedoed her career.

These experiences left George suspicious of family and fame. "I had a tough time growing up in a certain way because my family was always pretending to be a happy, civilised family when the truth was that there was a lot of tension and pain in the home," he says.

"So maybe that experience has kind of soured me on what to expect from having my own children. I also think I would need to show myself that I'm able to sustain a good long-term relationship before I could even imagine what being a father would be like. So far my track record isn't that encouraging."

He's a workaholic, but, having heard first-hand from his aunt about the perils of life at the top, Clooney has always shrugged off his success.

"My Aunt Rosemary was the sweetest woman in the world," he says. "At one point in the 50s she was the most popular singer in America. Unfortunately, she believed people when they said: 'You are a goddess.'

"So when that was taken away and the same people said: 'It's your fault' she believed them then, too. It destroyed her.

"This woman who was an icon suddenly had her life ripped away from her. It took her a long while to get back on her feet.

"That made a big impression on me and that's why I've never got off on my fame, which is something that's out of your control."

When he's not making movies he likes getting together with his buddies to drink or go motorcycling in the California mountains.

"I think guys need to hang around like that and escape domesticity and things like taking out the garbage and tidying up the house and talking and worrying about 'the relationship', which is not a liberating experience," he says.

He spends a good part of the year in Italy and has taken up semi-permanent residence in a luxury villa in the village of Laglio on Lake Como, at the foot of the Alps.

Last year he spent an idyllic summer there with Lisa, his Ocean's 12 co-stars Brad Pitt and Matt Damon and their partners Jennifer Aniston and Luciana Barosso.

"The Italians who live in the village have such a wonderful spirit and sense of life," he says.

"They treat me like a local and are very protective of my privacy. Even the guy who rents out the boats refuses to let people take them if he thinks they'll use them to chase me around the lake or get a better view of the villa.

"And even though I torture the local population with my mangled Italian Ienjoy soaking up the culture and bonding with the people. I I feel very much at home here."

And far from dreading the onslaught of middle age and fading of his rugged good looks, Clooney is relishing the boost it will give his career.

He believes he is entering his most "interesting" period, which he expects will enable him to take on more ambitious roles and films.

"With age, you acquire a certain gravitas and weight that audiences want from leading actors, and whatever charisma I have works for how I look," he says.

"I wouldn't trade my life with anyone else's."

  21/05/2005. The Mirror.