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Beginnings: The Breakthrough Moment

George Clooney, Actor

“I was the comedy relief, believe it or not.”


Original program for Vicious at 2nd Stage Theatre in Santa Monica; Clooney had just started doing guest spots on The Facts of Life.  

It’s always bad to say you did a play in Los Angeles, because people just look at you and laugh. But I did it — a play called Vicious, about Sid Vicious. It was an incredibly brutal play about the last night of Nancy’s life, and it inspired the movie Sid and Nancy. I played a male prostitute drug dealer and I was the comedy relief, believe it or not. It’s not often you get reviewed — it was really nice just to be reviewed. You do all these little plays and then you get reviewed! It was the first play where I was singled out in reviews. Both Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.

I’d been doing the circuit of all the equity-waiver plays on Melrose Avenue for a couple of years, mostly building our own sets, so this was a real departure — we moved all the way up to Santa Monica Boulevard! In those days, most small theater was as much a showcase as anything else. No one would have tape of themselves unless they’d gotten work on a show or a film. So agents and casting directors would come to the plays regularly to look for actors — that’s how it worked. I got an agent from it. I got guest shots on TV shows from it. I got my sag card from it. I always look back at that play as the turning point for me. Later we took it to the Steppenwolf Theatre. It was really a terrific play! That was the first time I really felt like, Okay, I’m in the right business, and I shouldn’t be embarrassed about everything I do.


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