George Clooney

Photo credit: Domenico Stinellis/AP/World Wide Photos

The last time George Clooney graced Oprah's stage, he was fighting crime as the caped crusader in Batman & Robin . But now, after eight long years, George is back!

Back in 1997, George was taking Hollywood by storm as the star of ER and was even voted the "sexiest man alive" by People magazine! That is, George says, until "pretty boy Brad Pitt" took away his title.

Since then, George has starred in huge Hollywood hits like Ocean's Eleven and Ocean's Twelve . Two of George's films— Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana —have garnered him three Oscar® nominations!
George Clooney

While filming a scene for another upcoming movie, George says he forgot for a moment that he was 44—not 34—and severely injured his spinal cord. The damage caused George's body to begin losing spinal fluid, which holds the brain in place.

"My brain was sinking," George jokes. "But it's working out fine now!"

George dismisses reports that said he thought of killing himself before surgery. George says that an interview he gave was taken out of context in the media.

In addition to his spinal scare, George's health was also at risk when he packed on 30 pounds in 30 days for an acting role! He says he ate nine meals a day to reach his goal weight.

"[Gaining weight is] sort of like an Olympic event," George says. "You don't look forward to eating. … It wasn't as fun as I thought it might be."

After cutting back on calories and hitting the gym, George is back to his slender, "sexiest man" physique.
George Clooney and Oprah

Although he still calls Los Angeles home, George's new romantic retreat is his beautiful Italian villa on the shores of Lake Como in Italy.

George says he literally stumbled upon this architectural gem while on vacation. He was traveling through the Italian countryside when his motorcycle broke down. The man who came to his aid just happened to own this gorgeous villa that was on the market. George says the man offered him a price he couldn't refuse…and he bought the home that very same day!
George Clooney and Matt Damon

Known for his practical jokes, George has pulled elaborate pranks on some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He says his crown jewel of jokes was played on his former roommate, actor Richard Kind.

A while ago when they were roommates in Los Angeles, George says he found a hideous painting in a dumpster. George scooped it up, signed it, framed it and then hid it away for more than a year. During this time, George tricked Richard into thinking he was taking art classes. Finally, on Richard's 40th birthday, George presented him the painting as a gift.

For two years, Richard hung his dear friend's painting over his couch…before he finally caught on that the joke was on him!

They say what goes around, comes around, and George got what was coming to him on the set of Ocean's Twelve . George's co-star, Matt Damon , says that Brad Pitt planned the perfect practical joke while they were filming the movie in Italy.

Before shooting began, Brad typed up a fake memo from George, which asked crew members to refer to him by his onscreen name at the time, Mr. Ocean, Danny or Daniel—never George.

George, who was trying to make a good impression with his new Italian countrymen, was dumbfounded by the crew's behavior, until he found out three weeks later that he was being punked!
George Clooney and Oprah

George co-writes, co-stars and directs his new film, Good Night, and Good Luck, which was inspired by famed newsman Edward R. Murrow.

Murrow's career as a CBS reporter spanned more than 25 years, and actor David Strathairn's spot-on portrayal of Murrow is already getting Oscar® buzz. George plays Murrow's trusted producer, Fred Friendly.

The film focuses on Murrow's strong stance against Senator Joe McCarthy's communist witch hunt in the 1950s. Roger Ebert says George's film is a job well done and gives it a big thumbs up. Newsweek magazine has called Good Night, and Good Luck one of the smartest and best films of the year.

George says he thought it was time to highlight some of the great moments in broadcast journalism and the true power of television.

"I'm not preaching to anybody," he says. "I'm not a journalist. … I thought it was important to talk about the idea of asking tough questions."
Nina and Nick Clooney

Making Good Night, and Good Luck has been a lifelong dream, George says, and he thinks of this film as a love letter to his father, who was a news anchor for 30 years.

George's dad, Nick, says after the first screening of his son's film, he was taken aback by the film's dead-on depiction of a real newsroom.

"I said [to George], 'That's the first time I have seen a newsroom actually depicted on film,'" Nick says. "I don't know whether he thought I was blowing smoke or not, but it's what I thought at the time and now what everybody thinks. It's the real thing…this is the [film] that depicts what really goes on and the importance and the courage it requires to do a good story well. I'm proud of my boy."

Other famous newsmen who have seen the film—like Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw—also sing its praises.
George Clooney

If George Clooney were to throw a dream dinner party (in his villa, of course), what five people would he invite? Bill Clinton is first on the guest list. "He's an interesting guy," George says, "and I'd like to hear what he has to say."

Who's next? "The smartest guy I know is [director and producer] Mike Nichols," George says. "And he's really fun. And he'd bring [his wife] Diane [Sawyer]—she's as sharp as they come."

Without hesitation, George also chooses CNN's Christiane Amanpour .

To round out the group, George wants a musician. "Put Tony Bennett there," George decides. "You want to hear some good old stories."

Who gets the last seat? An architect—Frank Gehry. "People from a bunch of different worlds," George explains.

"This is doable," Oprah says. "You should do this!"
George Clooney

Oprah wants to know—does George focus on the box office and does he hope to leave a legacy other than box-office blowouts?

"Movies like It's a Wonderful Life were big [box office] flops," George says, "so I find that you don't concern yourself necessarily with the box office. Out of Sight didn't make any money and it's a really good film, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? didn't really make much money and it's a really good film. … I think you want people that you know to be proud of you. You want to do stuff that you're proud of that lasts longer than an opening weekend."