I have always loved George Clooney: from the doe-eyed Doug Ross in E.R to the smooth Danny Ocean in Ocean’s Eleven to the suave Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air. But, while he is visually appealing and a talented actor, it isn’t his looks or acting that make him stand out to me.
It has always been Clooney’s “effortless cool.”
He seems to be best dressed man whilst seemingly making no effort at all. He has won the Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination but he never seems to be trying too hard. His interviews and appearances sport an easy smile and feel spontaneous, fresh and inviting.
I never understood how George does it. I used to think it was a natural talent, until I discovered a beautiful Italian word – Sprezzatura – a word originating from Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book Courtier.
“Practice in everything a certain nonchalance that shall conceal design and show that what is done and said is done without effort and almost without thought.” – Baldassarre Castiglione
Sprezzatura is a deliberate nonchalance, the illusion that even the most difficult things are easy. A casual delivery, an absence of strain, the ability not to be self-conscious. The presentation is so direct that it seems to be improvised, and so natural that it seems it could not go any other way. We see a relaxed whimsy: the performer speaks confidently and comfortably, responding to the audience’s presence and rewarding their attention.
I wanted to decode sprezzatura and found it has two broad components.
First is preparation and relentless practice. Clooney has said, “I’m as prepared as anybody you’ll meet… Doesn’t mean I’m as good, I’m just prepared. I can show you storyboards this thick, with every single shot and every single scene. Every frame. Literally every shot.” He knows every shot inside and out. Not only what he has to say, but also the camera angles, lighting, roles of others in the script, etc.
Second is a studied injection of spontaneity and humor. Clooney has always valued a sense of humor and casualness in his style.
Sprezzatura is part of the soul of “Thinking Deeply. Speaking Simply”. Channel your inner George Clooney and find your own effortless cool.