By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 6, 2008 at 5:31AM
Happy Birthday, George! Clooney turns 47 today, and Marc Malkin reports on the birthday party attended by girlfriend Sarah Larson, David Beckham and others --complete with two birthday cakes--Monday night.
Having survived the release of Leatherheads--an old-fashioned period screwball comedy that would never have been made if Clooney hadn't thrown himself behind it--he now looks forward to premiering the Coens' CIA satire Burn After Reading, also starring Brad Pitt, at Venice at summer's end. And he's voicing the title role in Wes Anderson's animated pic The Fantastic Mr. Fox.
It annoys me when people use Clooney as an example of the kind of star who doesn't open movies anymore. Look at his filmography: he often purposely picks movies that are obviously not commercial, like Steven Soderbergh's The Good German or Solaris. He cares more about having a worthwhile film legacy than about how much his movies open or how much he gets paid. (He did not pay himself $20-million to make Leatherheads.) More and more, actors are figuring out that diversity is the best policy.
Take Maria Bello. I interviewed her onstage at the Castro at the San Francisco International Film Fest last weekend. Bello doesn't dwell on image or boxoffice. She took over the Rachel Weisz role in Mummy 3 because she's wanted to do an action flick ever since she first saw Raiders of the Los Ark. Bello is one of the rare actresses to navigate the Hollywood system by making intelligent choices while keeping her dignity intact, taking on a range of juicy roles, large and small, studio and indie, all different. This is no blushing ingenue.
She's never afraid to take her clothes off and deal with sex and intimacy in a movie like The Cooler; she's seeking danger in such roles as Downloading Nancy, which creeped people out at Sundance this year. She looked stunned when I asked if she had any rules for what she would or wouldn't do. (The answer was no.) She likes to take a chance on a rising director like Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking). She played the real Donna McLoughlin for Oliver Stone in World Trade Center, a hooker opposite Mel Gibson in Payback, was married to the very kinky Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear) in Paul Schrader's Autofocus, cracked up on the set with Viggo Mortenson and David Cronenberg while shooting the intense A History of Violence, was romanced by a younger man in Robin Swicord's Jane Austen Book Club, debuted Alan Ball's Nothing is Private in Toronto and Yellow Handkerchief (with Bill Hurt, below) in Sundance. She is currently filming Rebecca Miller's The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]