McCreadys lunch with actor Clooney
Jefferson County Daily Union
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ACTOR AND ARTIST: Whitewater artist Ben McCready last week enjoyed lunch with George Clooney while the actor was filming a movie in Michigan. At right are the two after lunch. 

WHITEWATER - George Clooney invited Ben, Anne and Bo McCready to have lunch with him on his movie set the other day. The Hollywood superstar had been looking forward to meeting Ben for the last few months, ever since Clooney had asked the famous Whitewater artist for permission to use several of Ben's portraits in a movie he was going to be filming.

However, Clooney was even more excited to meet Ben because he had seen a photo of the portrait Ben recently had painted of him, a commission arranged by Clooney's staff and the University of Michigan to be presented to Clooney while filming in Ann Arbor on the University of Michigan campus.

Clooney's movie, "Ides of March," already is generating huge "Oscar-buzz," which should be no surprise given the cast. The film, scheduled for release this December, is directed by Clooney, who also stars in it, along with Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei and Paul Giamatti. 

Who else is in the movie? None other than Bo McCready, Ben and Anne's son. Bo was a paid "featured extra" and was selected by Clooney's casting director to spend an entire day of filming - seven hours - within a few feet of Clooney. Also on set that day were Gosling, Hoffman and Wood.

"The casting director said that they choose the best-looking, most photogenic people to be right up front, next to the stars in every scene," said Ben.

Whitewater residents might remember Bo for his starring roles in plays and musicals all four years of high school. Bo is quick to give credit to Anne and Lane Kuske, who directed him and hundreds of others through the years.

On Wednesday, March 16, the actor and the artist got together for lunch. Security, always heavy when Clooney is filming, had more than doubled on that particular day. There had been a couple of security breaches on set earlier that morning and extra security had been called in. By the time Ben, Anne and Bo arrived on set, everything was running behind schedule and their lunch and scheduled meeting with Clooney had been moved to a large, nearby building that had been cleared out and "locked-down" with extra security everywhere.

Everything eventually worked out even better than planned.

"We got our food along with Clooney, cast, and crew, and then we were taken to another room where, after we ate, Clooney could visit privately with us, away from everyone," Ben said. 

"He is an incredibly genuine, sincere, charming and friendly person," Ben said of Clooney. "He recognized Bo immediately and was happy to see him again. Bo and George had a great time talking and kidding around."

"And he was thrilled to finally meet Ben. He loves Ben's portraits." Anne added.

Clooney particularly enjoyed talking with Anne McCready about the fact that Clooney's family and Ben's family both trace their roots to the small town where Clooney grew up - Maysville, Ky. Anne, who has enjoyed a successful career as an editor and published writer, also has done a considerable amount of genealogical research into her family, as well as Ben's. After Clooney's portrait was finished in early February, Anne just happened to discover that Ben's family had lived in Maysville from 1820 until around 1910 (some relatives still live there), and that the Clooney's arrived in Maysville in 1850 and never left the area. 

"I guess we both did OK for a couple of Maysville kids," Clooney said.

So how did Clooney like his portrait? He loved it. 

"You made me look pretty good. A bit younger too, which never hurts. You do great work," Clooney said. 

He asked his publicist to ship the portrait right away to his home in Los Angeles, where it will be hung. 

"I just wanted to tell you again how much I've been looking forward to meeting you and what a pleasure it has been to finally meet you and your family," Clooney told Ben, Anne and Bo. 

He shook Bo's hand again, told him how great it was to see him again, apologized to Bo for their long filming day together, gave Anne a long hug and thanked her again for letting him know about the "Maysville Connection," and was off, flanked by heavy security.

An incredible four days, being on location with George Clooney. How would Ben, Anne and Bo sum things up?

"Surreal might be an understatement," said Ben. 

"Surreal" also might be a good way to describe Ben's career. The only artist ever to be asked by four United States presidents to paint their portraits, he also has painted more portraits of chairpersons of major corporations than any other artist, shadow-boxed with Muhammad Ali, talked hockey with Wayne Gretzky, had a few beers with Paul Newman, kidded around with Robert Redford, hung out with Brad Pitt, talked parenting with Courteney Cox and played tennis with Andy Roddick. 

And now, George Clooney is a fan of his work and is thrilled to meet him.

"All of it just doesn't affect Ben," said Anne. "His personality is a lot like George's. Ben works hard, doesn't take himself too seriously, pokes more fun at himself than anyone else ever could, laughs a lot and is just a lot of fun to be around."

As Clooney said, he and Ben are doing "OK for a couple of Maysville kids."
-Jefferson County Daily Union