Four days before he was due to start work on his new movie, George Clooney was rushed to hospital with excruciating stomach pains.
Diagnosed with pancreatitis, which can be life-threatening, the actor had to spend days in hospital.
The 59-year-old had lost nearly 2st for his upcoming role as a survivor of a global catastrophe and believes his diet may have contributed to his illness.
He says: “I think I was trying too hard to lose the weight quickly and probably wasn’t taking care of myself.”
George had been due to fly to the Arctic to direct and star in The Midnight Sky, alongside Brit actors Felicity Jones and David Oyelowo.
In it, he plays a cancer-riddled astronomer who battles the elements at his remote snow-swept station to contact the crew of a returning spaceship.
The star, who has directed six other films, said this was his biggest project yet – and he needed to be in peak condition to see it through.
He says: “It took a few weeks to get better and as a director it’s not so easy because you need energy.
“We were out on this glacier in Finland, which made it a lot harder work. But it certainly helped with the character. This is bigger than anything I’ve done before and it was like herding cats to get it done. But, you know, it was fun.”
As well as losing weight for the role, he had to stop shaving – which was not very popular with wife Amal, 42.
He says: “I grew a big ugly beard and my son loved it because he’d hide things in it which I wouldn’t know about until I got to work and I’d be like, ‘Oh, there’s a popsicle stuck in my beard’.
“But my wife and daughter were really happy when it came off because it was very hard to find a face underneath all that mess.”
George was talking via Zoom from his home in the Hollywood Hills where he, Amal and their three-year-old twins Alexander and Ella have spent the past 10 months since the pandemic struck, rather than at their homes in England or Italy.
“We really haven’t moved since February,” he says.
“It’s easier in Los Angeles because it’s not raining and snowing, so it’s a lot easier to walk out in the street. These drug companies have done an amazing job and we’re almost there so it would be really stupid to blow it now. So we’re staying here and we’ll do Christmas here.
“There’s nothing more fun than sitting there in the morning with my kids singing in Italian and us making breakfast for them. I picked right when I picked Amal. It’s just the two of us having dinner together every night and we never run out of conversation. We couldn’t be happier with our lives and we couldn’t feel luckier.”
While at home he has re-discovered the domestic and handyman skills he had before he became famous.
“I was a broke bachelor for a long time and I did all the things I’m doing now,” he says.
“I did my own laundry and washed dishes and mopped, and I painted the entire interior and exterior of my house. And now it’s just the four of us here and so I’m back to doing all of that.