Fans filmed George Clooney’s motorbike crash instead of helping him, and that’s not ok
Both George Clooney and Bradley Cooper have recounted times when their celebrity status was more a hindrance than a help.
George Clooney is one of the most famous men on earth. Revered for his good looks and on-screen talents, he’s been in countless movies and has quite the repertoire of Hollywood hits under his belt. Married to British-Lebanese human rights lawyer Amal and father to twins Alexander and Ella, you might say that Mr Clooney has it all. His beautiful Italian summer house at Lake Como certainly wouldn’t convince you otherwise.
While there’s no denying that his life is cushy, he’ll be the first to tell you that fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be though– something he really learned to be true back in 2018 after he was in a near-fatal motorcycle crash. Recounting the accident that could have killed him in an interview with The Sunday Times, George admitted that he “was waiting for [his] switch to turn off”. In other words, he thought that it was his time to go.
Thankfully it wasn’t, but that moment taught him a whole lot. On location in Sardinia to film scenes for the Hulu series Catch-22, Clooney was on his way to set when a car cut into his path at an intersection and the two vehicles collided at over 70 miles per hour. “I launched. I go head over heels. But I landed on my hands and knees. If you did it 100 times, maybe once you land on your hands and knees, and any other version you land, you’re toast. It knocked me out of my shoes,” the actor told GQ Magazine for their November 2020 cover story on him.
He also crushed the other car’s windshield with his helmet. “When I hit the ground, my mouth –I thought all my teeth were broken out. But it was glass from the windshield,” he continued. Groggy and only half with it, Clooney was convinced that he’d broken his neck and was paralysed, so he continued laying on the ground waiting for the lights to cut out. That’s when he noticed that a crowd had formed nearby… but instead of rushing to help him, those gathered stayed where they were and filmed the scene with their phones.
“I was on the ground. I was really screaming. Like, really screaming,” he remembered. “And Grant [Heslov, his producing partner who was riding alongside him at the time] came back, and he was screaming at everybody to get an ambulance, and I remember everybody got out of their cars, they stopped in the middle of the street, and all these people came and stood over me and just pulled out their phones and started taking videos.” At first, Heslov thought Clooney was dead. “While we’re waiting for the ambulance, I’m literally holding his head in my lap, saying, ‘It’s okay, it’s going to be fine,’” Heslov told GQ. “Meanwhile there are people taking pictures.”
As we all know, George made a full recovery, but the realisation that he was nothing more than a source of entertainment to passersby has stayed with him. “If you’re in the public eye, what you realise when you’re on the ground thinking it’s the last minute of your life is that, for some people, it’s just going to be entertainment for their Facebook page,” he admitted to The Sunday Times. “I’m a pretty positive guy, but that told me – clearly – that you really are here just for their entertainment.” That’s a pretty grim realisation to have as you drift in and out of consciousness at death’s door, but it speaks to a wider problem; one whereby people think that those in the limelight should be at their constant beck and call.
For some people, celebrities are nothing more than show dogs. In choosing the spotlight, they decided to forgo all privacy and other such luxuries and so they should always be easily accessible to the public that supports them. Even in moments of pain and duress.
This, of course, is an unrealistic expectation to have of anyone. There are caveats to everything and even those who decide to live life under the microscope have limitations to what they’re willing to put up with.
Coincidentally, Bradley Cooper also spoke out about quite a traumatic experience he went through too, and similarly to George, he came away from it with a greater awareness of his standing in the world. A guest on Dax Shephard’s Armchair Expert podcast, the Hangover actor recounted how he was once held at knifepoint in an NYC subway station.
On his way to pick up his daughter from school, Cooper said that he realised he had gotten “way, way too comfortable in the city”, later admitting that his “guard was down”. “It was pretty insane,” he told Dax. “I was all the way at the end of the subway. Innately, I would just go all the way down to the end,” he said. Perhaps going there because he was trying to avoid public attention, Cooper said that he felt somebody approaching and immediately thought that it must be a fan looking for a selfie. “I felt somebody coming up. I thought, ‘Oh they want to take a photo or something’. As I turned, I’m up against the post like it’s The French Connection or some sh*t, and I turned. I looked down and I see a knife.”
“I have my headphones on the whole time,” he continued. “I can’t hear anything. I’m just listening to music. So it’s scored, the whole thing was scored,” he laughed. “ I look up, I see the person’s eyes, and I’m taken by how young they are.” Obviously, it’s hard to know how you would react in such a situation but Cooper had the good sense to run as fast as he could in the other direction.
“I just started booking, just started running. I jumped over the turnstile, hid around the white, tiled entrance to the subway, took my phone out. He jumped over, running away. I took a photo of him. Then I chased him up the stairs. He started running up 7th Avenue. I took two more photographs of him.” Managing to then flag two passing police officers down to show them the photo, they were initially worried that Cooper had actually been stabbed but hadn’t realised yet. “What happens is people get stabbed and they’re in shock,” he explained.
Cooper was one of the lucky few to escape unscathed, but again the fact that his first thought was that he was being approached because of who he was, shows that celebrities have become immune to the constant pull of the public. People going up to him for photos was such a commonplace occurrence that he was no longer wary of nearing strangers… but that was almost to his detriment.
While a certain sense of approachability is important for likeability’s sake, expecting, or in some cases, demanding, it from famous people doesn’t seem fair either. They are just humans too underneath it all and their chosen career path doesn’t automatically make them disposable playthings for our sole entertainment.