George Clooney claims an airline offered to pay him a whopping $35 million for a single day’s work to shoot and star in a new commercial but the Hollywood A-Lister says he turned down the offer at the request of his wife, the leading human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.
In a newly published interview with The Guardian, the Ocean’s Eleven actor confessed: “Well, yeah. I was offered $35m for one day’s work for an airline commercial, but I talked to Amal about it and we decided it’s not worth it.”
Clooney refused to name the airline that he rebuffed but he did give us one clue: “It was [associated with] a country that, although it’s an ally, is questionable at times, and so I thought: ‘Well, if it takes a minute’s sleep away from me, it’s not worth it.’”
By his own admission, Clooney isn’t usually phased by padding out his multi-million-dollar annual earnings with various commercials and advertising work. He recently appeared in an ad for a British bread manufacturer but Clooney is most well known for being the global brand ambassador for coffee pod company Nespresso.
By 2013, Clooney had reportedly earned more than $40 million by appearing in Nespresso commercials – most of that money was spent, Clooney says, on maintaining a spy satellite over the border of North and South Sudan to keep an eye on the Sudanese regime.
So what airline could Clooney have rebuffed for its questionable human rights associations? The most likely contenders are based in a small geographic area in the Middle East and include Qatar Airways, Emirates and Saudia Saudi Arabian Airlines.
Other possibilities include Turkish Airlines although Turkey’s economic woes and the state of the country’s currency probably discount that airline as a serious contender.
For its part, Qatar Airways has, in the past, shied away from celebrity endorsements but the fact that the State of Qatar is due to host the FIFA World Cup next year could mean the airline is looking for a high-profile and globally recognised star to represent the airline.
Qatar’s human rights record has been put under the spotlight as the country gears up to welcome the world in 2022.
As the richest country in the world on a per-person basis, the government-funded Qatar Airways certainly has the resources to attract an A-Lister like Clooney but it would mark a major departure in its marketing strategy.
It’s Emirates then that is the most likely airline that could have tried and failed to headhunt George Clooney to star in a new commercial. Emirates certainly has a history of using Hollywood stars, including Jennifer Aniston who reportedly earned more than $5 million to appear in two Emirates commercials.
The airline is also a national carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which has been involved in a Saudi-led offensive in Yemen. Human rights groups have criticised the UAE’s involvement in the defacto war and non-governmental organisations have called on the United States to stop selling arms to the UAE.
In a recent report, Human Rights Watch claimed the UAE was spending millions of dollars to promote a public image of openness and tolerance to “prevent scrutiny of its rampant systemic human rights violations”.
“Since 2011 UAE authorities have carried out a sustained assault on freedom of expression and association, arresting and prosecuting scores of independent lawyers, judges, teachers, students, and activists, and shutting down key civil society associations and the offices of foreign organizations, effectively crushing any space for dissent,” the group claims.
The UAE also introduced new laws and amended already repressive ones to further suppress freedom of expression to more easily stamp out dissent.”
For now, however, Clooney is remaining tight-lipped and hasn’t yet named the airline involved. Interestingly, the UAE-based government-owned newspaper The National reported the story of Clooney turning down an airline’s offer but strangely omitted the reason why he rejected the work.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.