Why George Clooney Turned Down $35 Million for a Single Day’s Work

“My wife and I had this conversation when I turned 60 this summer.”

george amal
(Image credit: Getty)

George Clooney topped the Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid actors in 2018, and is worth an estimated $500 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. But turning down $35 million for just a day’s work? That’s something that not everyone would do.

Then again, not everyone would gift his friends bags filled with $1 million each, as Clooney famously did in 2013. 

“Well, yeah. I was offered $35m for one day’s work for an airline commercial,” Clooney told The Guardian while promoting his new movie The Tender Bar, “but I talked to Amal about it and we decided it’s not worth it. It was [for] a country that, although it’s an ally, is questionable at times, and so I thought: ‘Well, if it takes a minute’s sleep away from me, it’s not worth it.’”

Amal Clooney, the human rights lawyer he married in 2014, is a superstar in her own field, representing Nobel Peace Prize winners and fighting for international justice. She’s got her own fortune, too—an estimated $50 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

The actor explained that he wants to be as involved as possible with twins Alexander and Ella, 4, and that the time away wasn’t worth the payday.

Clooney’s enlightened approach to money clearly comes from the fact that he’s got plenty of it to spare—but he also credits the wisdom of age and a grateful mindset for his way of thinking. That’s why he gave away so much cash to his friends. 

About to be married after more than 20 years of bachelorhood, Clooney said, he didn’t have a lot of responsibilities at the time. “What I do have,” he told GQ, “are these guys who’ve all, over a period of 35 years, helped me in one way or another. I’ve slept on their couches when I was broke. They loaned me money when I was broke. They helped me when I needed help over the years. And I’ve helped them over the years.”

Some of the 14 recipients were already wealthy on their own, like Clooney’s longtime business partner (and husband to Cindy Crawford) Rande Gerber. Some were not. Gerber and Clooney, along with realtor Mike Meldman, each invested $600,000 into Casamigos Tequila, which they later sold for $1 billion. 

The investment has clearly paid off. 

So yeah, $35 million? From where Clooney is sitting, it’s not actually that much money at all. That goes a long way in explaining why he’d turn down the opportunity to earn it for a relatively easy day’s work, or why the actor is more selective in the jobs he chooses to take these days. 

“In general, there just aren’t that many great parts—and, look, I don’t have to act,” Clooney told The Guardian. “My wife and I had this conversation when I turned 60 this summer. I said: ‘I can still bounce around pretty good, and we both love what we do. But we gotta make sure we don’t book ourselves silly.’ So, part of it is just us making sure we live our lives.”

Julie Tremaine
Julie Tremaine

Julie Tremaine is an award-winning food and travel writer who’s road tripping — and tasting — her way across the country. Her work appears in outlets like Vulture, Travel + Leisure, CNN Travel and Glamour, and she’s the Disneyland editor for SFGate. Read her work at Travel-Sip-Repeat.com.