George Clooney is a movie star with all the baggage that that implies. He has much in common with the movie stars of yesteryear - people like Cary Grant or John Wayne. Like them, he's one of those actors who always seems to be playing himself. In other words, he appears not to be acting at all. Every move is graceful and unaffected and un...planned. He just is.
Recently, I heard a discussion about him and his art on Fresh Air on NPR. The person who was being interviewed said that Clooney refused to do accents in his movies, even if the role might seem to call for it. His reasoning was, "People know what I sound like. If I did an accent, it would distract people from the role I'm playing." Cary Grant might have made the same argument.
It just so happens that in addition to being a movie star, George Clooney is also a very good actor. I was reminded of that today when I saw his latest movie, Up in the Air. In it, he plays a loner, a man who deliberately eschews connections. His job is to fly around the country and fire people for companies that are "downsizing." He loves his job and he loves his life, a life lived mostly on airplanes, in airports, and in hotels. Then something happens. His company implements a plan to ground all of its "road warriors" and do all the firings by remote control, by video. Clooney's character thus gets a taste of what things were like for all those people he had separated from the jobs that sustained them, as he is faced with the threat of losing his own way of life.
There are emotional moments in the film but Clooney conveys the emotions that his character feels seemingly effortlessly. Everything is understated, underplayed. He never invades his fellow actors' space or overshadows them. In fact, he makes everybody around him look better. That is the real Clooney effect and it is a real gift.