Baby bumped?

So, when are you having kids?" is the question most newlyweds expect at some point.

Actor George Clooney and his wife, human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, are not your typical newlyweds, however, and the Hollywood megastar is a pro when it comes to deflecting questions about his private life, long the subject of intense media scrutiny.

A press event for his new film, the science- fiction fantasy Tomorrowland, offers little respite from this, even though Life! and other reporters gathered at a hotel in Beverly Hills know they will have their knuckles rapped by irate publicists should they attempt the procreation question.

As is often the case, at least one delusional soul gives it a go, convinced that if he phrases the query just right, he will somehow unearth that tiny nugget of tabloid gold.

Clooney has heard it all before and can spot even the most circuitously worded questions a mile off.

After taking a few questions about the movie - in which he plays a former boy genius who teams up with a gifted teenager (Britt Robertson) to unlock the secrets to a futuristic parallel universe - the media-savvy actor is asked about something at best tenuously related to the movie: Mother's Day.

With the occasion coming up in a few days and Tomorrowland exploring ideas about the future, does the star see himself as a father in the future, a reporter asks.

There is a collective intake of breath as the room waits to see how the 54-year-old star will react. "I knew you were going to get to it somehow," he says, grinning and shaking his head. "But I didn't think you would go the Mother's Day route."

He continues to smile good-naturedly as he proceeds to rip the original question to shreds.

Impishly, he suggests the journalist could have pointed out that there is a younger version of his character in the film and said: "There is a little kid who is you as a young boy and does it make you feel you should have a young boy who looks like you?"

As the rest of the room guffaws, he then gently but firmly shuts down this line of questioning, telling the reporter he can "go back and tell everyone you asked the question".

"But thank you for asking."

Nevertheless, the actor - who once bet actresses Nicole Kidman and Michelle Pfeiffer US$10,000 (S$13,357) each that he would still be childless and unmarried when he turned 40 - puts on a touching display of paternal instinct with one of his young co-stars: Raffey Cassidy, 13, the English actress cast as Athena, the mysterious girl who first shows the secret universe to his character in Tomorrowland.

Throughout the press conference, he can be seen pulling faces to make her smile. He also leans over to adjust her microphone and simplifies a reporter's question so she can understand it.

Tomorrowland, a kid-friendly action adventure, is perhaps not the most obvious choice of project for a star who has appeared in big commercial films such as Gravity (2013) and the Ocean's Eleven franchise (2001-2007) and also favoured smaller projects such as the geopolitical thriller Syriana, which won him the 2006 Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Tomorrowland opens in Singapore tomorrow.

But he explains the hopeful message of the film - which asks whether mankind should try and change the future or accept that it is doomed - is a wonderful antidote to all the gloom in the news.

"When you turn on your television... it's rough out there and it can really wear on you after a period of time," says Clooney, an activist and humanitarian who has supported causes such as the plight of Darfur's refugees.

So it appealed to him that the movie "speaks to the idea that your future is not pre-ordained and pre-destined. And that if you're involved, a single voice can make a difference".

"And I believe in that. So I love the idea there's still so much we can all do to make things better."

The film's writer Damon Lindelof, creator of the hit TV show Lost, also wanted to come up with an alternative view of the future than that suggested by the current trend of dystopian movies, such as The Hunger Games (2012-2014) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

"I've always been interested in the future and I kind of feel like all of the movies I've been exposed to over the course of the last 20 to 30 years have shown me a future

I don't really want to be living in," Lindelof says.

"It's cool to watch - teenagers trying to kill other teenagers, robots eradicating mankind or, you know, just apocalyptic wastelands being populated by Charlize Theron are all great, but what about that other future? And then I was really interested in the history of Disney - the imagineers and the theme parks, particularly, as it related to World's Fairs."

Clooney reveals that he, for one, has always been an optimist, albeit "a realist about it".

"I grew up during the Cold War period and I always found that, although we always thought the world would end in some sort of nuclear holocaust at some point, everybody was pretty hopeful. There was an awful lot of things going on you felt you could change.

"I grew up in an era where the voice, the power of the one, did feel as if it mattered. We had the civil rights movement, Vietnam, the women's rights movement and all those things you felt you could have some part of changing.

"And if you look at those things that changed in the 1960s and early 1970s, individual voices did make a difference.

"So I didn't ever have that great disappointment in mankind. I always felt it's going to work out in the end and I still feel that way."

And whether or not he intends to become a parent, Clooney says he cares about whether today's youth feel that way too.

The optimism of the movie's younger characters reminds all "that young people aren't born or start out their lives cynical or angry or bigoted - you have to be taught all those things".

"I watch the world now and think, well, I see really good signs from young people out there. And I feel as if the world really will get better."

Clooney had US$10,000 (S$13,357) bets about staying single

George Clooney's history as a Hollywood heart-throb began with his role on the hit medical drama ER (1994-1999), when he played the roguishly handsome Dr Doug Ross.

It was when he began making the successful transition to movies, however, that he would morph into a Hollywood mega-stud.

The mass-scale swooning began with the hit romantic comedy One Fine Day (1996), opposite Michelle Pfeiffer, and the sexy crime caper Out Of Sight (1998), with Jennifer Lopez, earning him the title of People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive not once but twice, in 1997 and 2006.

Before all this, Clooney was married to actress Talia Balsam from 1989 to 1993, but after the divorce, he publicly said, on several occasions, that he had no interest in ever marrying again.

And for a long time, he played the part of the eternal bachelor to perfection, dating a seemingly never-ending succession of attractive women, including law student and model Celine Balitran (1996 to 1999), British model Lisa Snowdon (on and off from 2001 to 2006), cocktail waitress Sarah Larson (2007 to 2008), Italian television host Elisabetta Canalis (2009 to 2011) and pro-wrestler Stacey Keibler (2011 to 2013).

He has also been linked to actresses such as Kelly Preston and Lucy Liu.

He was so sure he would never walk down the aisle again that he made a wager with Pfeiffer and another actress, Nicole Kidman, betting them US$10,000 each that he would still be unmarried and childless by the time he turned 40 in 2001.

Kidman paid up when he hit the landmark birthday, but the actor reportedly returned her cheque and offered her a "double or nothing" bet that he would stay single till the age of 50.

Everything changed, however, when he met Ms Amal Alamuddin, a British-Lebanese human- rights barrister based in London, and began dating her in 2013. In September last year, the actor, then 53, and his bride, 36, were married in a glamorous wedding in Venice.

Since then, he has repeatedly declared his love for his wife, saying marriage is "fun" and that it has "changed everything in terms of what I thought my personal future was going to be".

Perhaps that future will include a mini Clooney or two.

This article was first published on May 20, 2015.
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