Each suitcase was enormous and contained a cool $1 million in $20 dollar bills.
George Clooney had gathered his 14 closest friends — ‘The Boys’ — for a dinner on Friday, September 27, 2013.
The actor, who had met but not yet started dating barrister Amal Alamuddin, gave them a meal, then invited them to open their suitcases.
They wept, exclaimed and — in at least one case — said that they couldn’t accept.
It sounds like a scene from a film but, in an interview this week, Clooney finally confirmed that it was true.
He had received a huge payday — thought to be $70 million — for the 2013 film Gravity, and decided to share some of the windfall with his best pals.
George Clooney gathered his 14 closest friends — ‘The Boys’ — for a dinner on Friday, September 27, 2013 before offering them a cool $1 million in $20 dollar bills. Pictured: 1) Ben Weiss, 2) David Sagal, 3) Grant Heslov, 4) Michael Heslov, 5) Richard Kind, 6) Miguel Ferrer, 7) Matt Adler, 8) Thom Mathews, 9) Waldo Sanchez, 10) Tommy Hinkley, 11) John Lambros, 12) Steve Lukather, 13) Rande Gerber
They had stood by him for the dozen years when he was a struggling actor. All were regulars at his LA home for barbecues and poker games, as well as at his house on Lake Como, Italy.
‘We made a family,’ said George with pride.
Clooney told GQ magazine: ‘I was a single guy. I was 52. And most of my friends are older than me. With Gravity, because they didn’t want to pay us, they gave us percentages of the movie, because they thought it was gonna be a flop, and that ended up being a very good deal.
‘And I thought, what I do have are these guys who’ve all helped me. I’ve slept on their couches when I was broke. They loaned me money when I was broke. And I just thought, basically, if I get hit by a bus, they’re all in the will. So why the f*** am I waiting to get hit by a bus?’
He had gone to fetch the cash along with a couple of nervous security guards, bringing it to his home in the Hollywood Hills in a florist’s van.
Gerber said that the money was offered so that nobody had to worry about putting their children through school and college or paying their mortgage. Clooney had even paid the tax on the money, so that the million was clear.
But who were the lucky 14 — and what did they do with it? From teachers and builders to musicians and poker players, we tell the story of the boys who got a boost from generous George.
1: DIRECTOR WHO GIVES HIM ROMANTIC ADVICE
Ben Weiss, a TV director, has been close friends with George Clooney after meeting him in 1982 and confirms that he is one of the 14.
When they met, George had given up a journalism course and had moved to LA to try to make it as an actor. Ben recalled this week: ‘Driving, he’d be, ‘Look at that girl, look at that girl, look at that girl. Wow, wow.’ ‘
Weiss told the Mail how it felt to receive the gift. ‘None of us suspected anything. It’s hard to describe what happened, because it was surreal,’ he said. ‘We upended the suitcases, and we didn’t understand what we were seeing at first. A lot of us said, ‘What?’ Some were saying things like, ‘Oh my God . . .’ A couple of people cried.
The actor (pictured with wife Amal Clooney) , 59, confirmed the longstanding rumour in an interview with GQ Magazine and described how his friends had been there for him
‘George was smiling. He was happy. And he’d made sure that the taxes were paid so everybody had the full million dollars. I’ve known George for 38 years and, even when he had nothing, he always took care of his friends. Even when he became a famous celebrity and had movie star friends, he still never forgot his old friends.
‘And it wasn’t just this gesture. He’s been beyond generous over the years. He’d say: ‘I have so much and you guys have always been there for me, so I want to share it.’
‘He’s just that kind of guy. If we’re walking down the street and there’s a homeless man, he’ll stop. And he gives ridiculous tips in restaurants.
‘Nobody went mad with the money. People were very sensible. I invested it for my wife and family.’
George lent Ben his villa in Como for his 2010 wedding and Ben was one of the first people he confided in after he started to date Amal.
Ben visited New York in 1994 with Clooney soon after he started in ER, the TV series that gave him his first break as Dr Doug Ross. He said he was amazed by the women lining up to attract his friend.
‘They were literally lining up. When one steps away, another one steps in. These are smart, pretty women, thinking: ‘I’ll do something I won’t normally do’.’
After meeting Amal and taking her on safari in Kenya in 2014, Clooney showed Ben a picture of her smiling at the giraffes and said: ‘I think I’m going to ask her to marry me.’
2: JAZZ-LOVER WHO’S A LAKE COMO REGULAR
David Sagal recalled: ‘We were told we needed to be at George’s house on this particular night and what can I say? It was a beautiful night, we had a beautiful meal and then there was a beautiful surprise afterwards.
‘It was a lovely thing, and no one was expecting it. George is a terrific guy, he’s been a great friend to me and my family and he’s always been very generous.’
Sagal trained as a lawyer and practised in Los Angeles before joining the Warner Bros studio in 1993. Now 65, he is married to the actress McNally Sagal, who starred in hospital drama Chicago Hope.
They have three children. George is godfather to their daughter Nora, who sang the Cole Porter standard ‘Why Don’t I?’ for the first dance at his wedding to Amal.
David is an accomplished saxophonist and plays in various jazz bands. He is a regular in Como and has been spotted at the Clooney home in Sonning, Berkshire, too.
He was among the boys who went to the funeral of Clooney’s uncle Dante, the second husband of his aunt, singer Rosemary Clooney.
George said: ‘I went to Dante’s funeral and the guys showed up for me. And I look around and they’re in the back, sitting there and you wave and they wave. And that means something.’
3: ACTOR WHO PAID FOR FIRST HEADSHOTS
Grant Heslov was a jobbing actor alongside Clooney. They first met in 1982 and Heslov lent George $200 to pay for his first set of headshots. He now runs his film and TV production company Smokehouse Pictures. Heslov said in an interview that he could never be the leading man Clooney is. ‘I could never do it. I’ll be honest: when I’m with him I’ve pushed paparazzi guys out of the way.
‘I’ve done things I’m not proud of. But I felt provoked. And I also felt like my buddy doesn’t deserve that treatment all the time. I think all of us who are friends with George feel protective of him.’
Heslov won an Oscar for the Ben Affleck film Argo, which he co-produced. He’s produced many other films and shows starring George, including Good Night, And Good Luck, The Monuments Men and Catch-22.
4: …AND HIS POKER PLAYING BROTHER
Property developer Michael Heslov this week paid tribute to George Clooney. He said: ‘I’m not going to confirm or deny it but, what I will say is, you couldn’t ask for a better friend than George. We’re a unique group of friends who are lucky to have each other. And all of us are lucky to have George.’
Mike is Grant’s older brother and works for a large real estate firm in Santa Monica. He and Grant have taken part in national and international poker tournaments.
The Ocean’s Eleven ( seen here in a headshot for 80s sitcom The Facts of Life) said his friends had stood by him for dozen of years when he was a struggling actor
5: FRIEND WHO LET HIM SLEEP ON THE SOFA
Actor Richard Kind, best known for playing Andy in Curb Your Enthusiasm, met George in 1987 when they filmed a pilot show about two brothers who are complete opposites.
Kind would not confirm if he was one of the 14, but said: ‘George has been my dear friend for many years, and I keep my friendship with him private. What I will say is that he is a wonderful person and I’m lucky to have him in my life.’
In the early days, Kind let George sleep on the sofa at his apartment in LA and would buy him dinner when he was broke. He now lives in New York with his wife and three children. George Clooney was best man at his wedding and the pair are famous for their long-running pranks on each other.
When Kind’s father died, George paid for the whole group to fly by private jet to his funeral in New Jersey. George said: ‘When he got up and started to talk about his Dad, he saw us and started sobbing. He said: ‘I’m sorry but I just saw my best friends back there.’ ‘
In a 2000 interview in Men’s Journal, Kind said: ‘You want to know George’s secret? He started when he was 21, when he came to LA. When did he hit great fame? At 33. Well, that’s 12 years of struggling.’
6: THE COUSIN WHO STOOD UP FOR HIM
George’s cousin Miguel Ferrer was the actor son of George’s aunt Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer and died of throat cancer in 2017. He was in Robocop, Twin Peaks and NCIS Los Angeles.
His son Lukas confirmed Miguel was among the lucky 14. He said: ‘We were hanging out at Lake Como last year, talking about my dad, and it came up. I hadn’t known about it until recently.
‘George said that before he started acting, he was picking tobacco in Kentucky for $2.30 an hour. My dad, who’d had been a successful musician, was just starting his acting career and George was also just getting started and my dad said: ‘Come to LA and I’ll show you around.’
‘They did a play together and produced it and it was so popular that it was going to play on Broadway.
‘They flew on their own dime to New York but, when they got there, they saw other people were practising their lines.
‘They went in to see the producer and, rather than begging for the parts, my dad stood up to him. This was George’s first gig and he said he was so enamoured with how cool my dad was.
‘As I got older, I saw how supportive they were with each other. George’s gift was quite a help. It wasn’t expected in any way, but it came from George’s heart.
‘George said to me that night in Lake Como: ‘Wealth that isn’t shared is worthless’. That brought on a conversation about how completely unexpected his life is now with having Amal and his two children, and how happy they make him, because there was a period of time when he thought all of that had passed him by.’
Clooney’s friend Rande Gerber (pictured together), a millionaire drinks mogul who is married to supermodel Cindy Crawford, refused to take the money at first
7: PAL WHO TOLD HIM TO EASE OFF THE BOOZE
Actor Matt Adler took George Clooney aside around a decade ago and told him to ‘ease off on the booze’. George remarked that it was the kind of advice which most peers wouldn’t give and one of the reasons why he would feel lost without his friends.
Adler never hit the big time and now does additional dialogue recording for films. He is married to Sex, Lies And Videotape actress Laura San Giacomo.
8: OZZY OSBOURNE’S FAVOURITE BUILDER
Thom Mathews, 61, got to know George when they were both actors. Mathews was the more successful, having been in various soap operas and also appearing in the Friday The 13th films.
He now owns a construction company, Hammer and Trowel, which Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne used to remodel their home during the filming of their MTV reality show, The Osbournes.
9: HIS FAVOURITE HAIRDRESSER
George’s favourite hairdresser is Waldo Sanchez. They are so close that Sanchez has worked on at least two dozen Clooney films. The pair met when Clooney was just becoming famous in ER.
Sanchez was doing hair on the TV show The New Adventures Of Superman, and bumped into him in the studio car park and they became close buddies.
Sanchez told an interviewer: ‘He’s one of the good guys.’
10: PIG-SITTER WHO JOINED THE PACK
Actor Tommy Hinkley first visited George’s home in 1992 when he agreed to pet sit his pot-bellied pig, Max.
He was quickly co-opted into the brotherhood. He told an interviewer in 1997: ‘It’s kind of like a pack, a pack of wolves or something. The testosterone’s just flowing. And George is like the rock of the group in terms of keeping everybody together.’
Hinkley, 60, is married to actress Tracy Needham. He had a role in the Clooney films Ocean’s Thirteen and Leatherheads. Contacted at his home, Hinkley said Clooney was a ‘dear friend’.
George Clooney attending the 1999 ShoWest Awards Ceremony at Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada
11: THE ONE HE HELPED TO BECOME A DAD
Investment manager John Lambros is married to former MTV star Karen Duffy and the couple have often visited Lake Como.
Duffy suffers from sarcoidosis, a rare inflammatory disease that affects multiple organs. She said in an interview that George had persuaded them to get a cocker spaniel and have a child by surrogate.
She said of him: ‘My very generous pal has a gorgeous home in Italy. It has become a summer tradition to visit and I love our time together. We have long suppers under the stars, and spend the days reading and swimming and boating. It is heaven.’
12: THE ROCK STAR PRACTICAL JOKER
Toto guitarist and vocalist Steve Lukather got to know George via Miguel Ferrer, George’s cousin. He and Clooney share a taste for practical jokes and the actor even once joined him on stage during a performance of the hit Africa.
He lives in Los Angeles and has spent Christmases with George.
13. THE DRINK’S MOGUL WHO MADE HIM A SECOND FORTUNE
Rande Gerber, a millionaire drinks mogul who is married to supermodel Cindy Crawford, refused to take the money at first, but then George Clooney told everyone: ‘If Rande doesn’t take the million, nobody gets it.’ So he took it — and donated it to charity.
The pair have been friends for around 25 years. Rande said: ‘He was shooting a movie in New York. I owned a bar at the time and he was coming in and we just became friends.’
They went on to have neighbouring houses built in Mexico and now own apartments in the same block in New York. They launched their own tequila, Casamigos, which was sold to Diageo in 2017 for £534 million.
14? GOLF PAL PART OF CLUB
Property magnate Mike Meldman, who met Geoge’s ‘guys’ when they started visiting the luxury golf resorts he devised, is in the gang but it’s not clear whether he was one of the 14
Property magnate Mike Meldman is in the gang but it’s not clear whether he was one of the 14. He met George’s ‘guys’ when they started visiting the luxury golf resorts he devised.
Meldman, pictured above with his actress partner Monica Gambee, told an interviewer: ‘George has a tight-knit group of guys and, every year, they go on his birthday golf trip. I ended up hanging out with them and we became friends.’
George and Rande Gerber built their houses in Mexico on his land. Meldman was the third partner in Casamigos tequila.