Lonesome George: Why Clooney is unlucky in love
For the Hollywood A-lister unable to find his perfect leading lady the single life may be too attractive.
Not only is George Clooney one of Hollywood's most high-earning and lusted-after stars, he's also now the most eligible bachelor in town. The actor announced his split from girlfriend of two years Elisabetta Canalis this week, releasing a statement to American TV show Entertainment Tonight.
"We are not together anymore," it read. "It's very difficult and very personal and we hope everyone can respect our privacy."
This break-up is the latest in a line of failed relationships for the 50-year-old serial monogamist, who is currently promoting his film The Ides of March, which will open in Venice this summer.
Despite having the looks and charisma of a matinee idol, Clooney is known for being unlucky in love. At least, that's how the thousands of women only too ready to settle down with him see it.
"I was married," Clooney told Piers Morgan in an interview last January. "I gave it a shot. I wouldn't have the patience and dedication you need to take care of a family. I admire those qualities in other people, but it's not for me."
He married actress Talia Balsam in Las Vegas in 1989, but the couple separated after four years, and Clooney's dance card has been marked by a series of models since then. In 1995, he dated TV presenter Karen Duffy; from 1996 to 1999, he was linked to Celine Balitran, a French law student from Paris, who was 23 and working as a waitress when she met him.
Balitran subsequently moved to LA to be with him, where her looks secured her modelling contracts with lingerie label Victoria's Secret, among others. Then came UK model and TV presenter Lisa Snowdon, who was on and then off again with the actor for five years, and more recently, Vegas waitress Sarah Larson, who Clooney dated for a year in 2007.
Despite his own stellar reputation, Clooney has had relationships with fairly low-profile and ordinary (beyond their incomparable beauty, of course) women – friends say this is to do with the actor's own rather modest, and often humble, outlook on life and the nature of his fame.
"I am sincerely fond of him," said actress Tilda Swinton in 2008. She became firm friends with Clooney when they worked on Michael Clayton and Burn After Reading together.
"Would it be too peculiar to say that I feel somehow protective of him? He tends to decide the mood of the room, which must feel like a bit of a strain for him. I don't know whether he always found himself in this position, or if this is a by-product of superstardom."
Certainly, Clooney is known to see his career as a vocation, and takes his duties to his fans very seriously.
Such is his solicitousness and reputation for being a "nice guy" that Michelle Pfeiffer, his co-star in 1996's One Fine Day, once bet him $100 that he would marry again (Clooney dated Pfeiffer's sister Dedee in the early 1980s). He took the bet and let it inflate to $100,000 (£6,260).
Nicole Kidman, with whom he starred in The Peacemaker in 1997, also bet $10,000 that he would be a father by his 40th birthday. When she was proved wrong, Kidman sent Clooney a cheque, which was duly returned with a note that read: "Double or nothing for another 10 years."
"If I need to surround myself with children and feel like I have this big extended family. I can always call Brad and Angie [Pitt and Jolie] and ask them to stay with me, just to remind me why I'm so happy," Clooney said in his Piers Morgan interview.
"I'm a firm believer in marriage," his most recent ex, Canalis, told an Italian magazine this month. "In the future, I will be married, but for the time being, I'm happy as I am." She also told journalists that she expected the maternal instinct to kick in at some point "like a lightning bolt".
Clooney was clearly frightened off by the remarks. He often plays lone wolf characters in his films, such as Syriana and Michael Clayton, both of which feature isolated and unsocialised protagonists. In both films, his love interests, Greta Scacchi and Jennfier Ehle respectively, were written out with Clooney's approval. "If he's loved, then he has a buffer," he told the New Yorker of the Clayton character in 2008, "and somehow it isn't as awful."
But despite this, Clooney is known for his fun-loving and sociable side, not to mention his voracious enjoyment of the company of attractive women. "Who wants 70 virgins?" he joked in 2005 about suicide bombers. "I want eight pros."
He also owns an 18th century villa on the edge of Lake Como, to which he regularly invites friends and holds large parties; it became a regular haunt for the fabulous during Milan's twice-yearly menswear shows.
"He loves the guys and the camaraderie of the guys," actor and friend Richard Kind told the press.
Clooney has a soft spot for practical jokes, and once bought a fleet of motorbikes for him and his friends. "I have my friends – nine guys for 25 years," he has said. "They're the guys I see every Sunday."
In other words, being George Clooney's girlfriend seems an auxiliary and temporary role, calling to mind Hollywood's great golden age romancers Errol Flynn and Clark Gable. And what more might you expect from a man who once sold a kiss at a charity auction for more than £200,000?
Ladies, form an orderly queue – just don't expect a happily ever after.