When George Clooney arrived at an Italian courtroom on Friday, the chaotic scenes could have been cut straight from his latest movie. Crowds pushed and shoved to get a glimpse of the tanned and silver-haired actor, looked every inch the heartthrob in an impeccable navy suit, crisp white shirt, and jaunty and red-spotted blue tie.
But the small, packed courtroom was the scene, not of a new blockbuster thriller, but of a real life fraud case. Clooney was there to testify against three defendants accused of fraudulently using his name for a fashion brand without his consent.
The actor is no stranger to Italy. He has owned a villa at Lake Como for the past decade, but in court he apologised for his limited Italian.
A die-hard Armani fan, he denied under questioning from the defence lawyer that he had signed an agreement with clothing company GC Exclusive to produce a George Clooney collection.
The courtroom was stifling in 91 degree heat, and there were plenty of moments of Hollywood style drama.
“I came here because I believe in the judicial system and because there were people using my name to take advantage of people” Clooney told rapt courtroom.
Okay, it’s not quite “you can’t handle the truth!” but pretty rousing all the same, and the crowds were lapping it up – on numerous occasions the judge had to ask for quiet and several women were ejected from the courtroom for taking photos of Clooney.
The actor denied knowing any of the defendants, one of whom, Vanja Goffi, had previously claimed to be in a relationship with him, and has also been accused of selling counterfeit Rolex watches using Clooney’s name (not ideal considering he currently appears in advertisements for Omega watches).
The actor also testified that photos supposedly showing him with Vincenzo Cannalire, the managing director GC Exclusive had been Photoshopped.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him,” said Clooney to Cannalire in court, adding sarcastically, “so I’d like to say, ‘Hello, nice to meet you.’”
Examining another photo, the actor said, “Here, for instance, I don’t smoke and I don’t wear that watch. I also don’t wear long jean shorts.”
Another forged document seemed to amuse Clooney, particularly the attached photograph “It’s funny because this photo of mine was taken by a very famous photographer: Annie Leibovitz.”
He also testified that his signature had been forged on various documents noting “[my] signature is very easy to get, as you can imagine, off the Internet…..”
After giving over ninety minutes of testimony, the movie star left the courtroom surrounded by Italian Carabinieri policemen, through even larger crowds of screaming fans and throngs of the world’s press.
“It’s lasted the time of a movie,” Judge Pietro Caccialanza gabbled excitedly. Clooney’s lawyer, the brilliantly named Grazia Maria Mantelli, also sounded rather smitten; “he is supernice” she said, of the elegant film star.
Which just leaves us to wonder – why DOESN’T Mr Clooney have his own fashion label ?
[WWD, subscription required]