George Clooney won his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Syriana (2005), but you have to wonder if he winces every time he glances at his shiny trophy. Playing a bearded CIA operative caught up in the shifting sands of Middle East geopolitics, Clooney injured his spine during a scene in which his character is taped to a chair and tortured. Several surgeries were required to fix the problem, but Clooney still complains of rattling headaches. Back in 2005, he told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that the pain became so persistent and aggravating at one point that he actually contemplated suicide. In the most recent issue of Rolling Stone, Clooney goes in to greater detail:
“I was at a point where I thought, ‘I can’t exist like this. I can’t actually live.’ I was lying in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm, unable to move, having these headaches where it feels like you’re having a stroke, and for a short three-week period, I started to think, ‘I may have to do something drastic about this.’ You start to think in terms of, you don’t want to leave a mess, so go in the garage, go in the car, start the engine. It seems like the nicest way to do it, but I never thought I’d get there. See, I was in a place where I was trying to figure out how to survive.”
Not to make light of his suffering, which clearly was awful, but my takeaway was that even when George Clooney reached the ultimate breaking point, his random thoughts of suicide were influenced by his impulse not to leave a mess behind. He said that he’d never really thought he’d reach that point, and that’s probably accurate if cleanliness remained such a concern. Still, it’s nice to know he cares.