The Clooney Family Tree Explained

Academy Award-winning actor George Clooney is one of the most successful entertainers of all time, starring in major hits such as the medical drama "ER," classics such as "Three Kings," and the "Ocean's Eleven" movies. He is also known for his personal life, including a long-documented playboy lifestyle before he settled down with human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin and fathered twins, per The Guardian.

But while many know a lot about George Clooney and his body of work, less known is that the Clooney family had long been in show business before George arrived on the scene. 

Moreover, while George may insist that he's just a guy from Kentucky, a closer look into his family history suggests that the "Syriana" star was always destined for stardom, thanks to his entertainer genes and some vital connections that jumpstarted his career. 

From a mother who was a beauty queen to an aunt who helped him hobnob with some of Hollywood's most elite members, here is a closer look into the Clooney family tree.

George Clooney's mother helped provide movie star looks

George Clooney's mother, Nina Bruce Clooney, was born in August 1939, per Geni. Her good looks helped her embark on a sojourn as a beauty queen, and she almost won the title of Miss Kentucky — earning the runner-up spot instead. It was during these competitions that she caught the eye of Nick Clooney, who later became her husband.

Nina's beauty queen genes were certainly a boon to George, who has won the title of People's "Sexiest Man Alive" award twice — an honor that Business Insider notes has only been given to three other men.

After finishing the pageant circuit, Nina became a city councilwoman. However, Nina Clooney's time in front of the cameras is far from over, and she has often joined her son and his dates on the red carpet at movie premiere events.

For example, she joined George and his then-girlfriend, Lisa Snowdon, in the 2004 premiere of "Ocean's Twelve" (via Boston). Similarly, Nina was George's second date when he brought her and Elisabetta Canalis to the 2009 premiere of "Up in the Air."

At the time, he poked fun at his 31-year-old Italian girlfriend while on the carpet by suggesting that she was the third wheel, rather than his mother.

"This is my mother," George reportedly told fans at the screening. "And then this random woman just came up," he added, per The Express.

George Clooney's father was a familiar face on television

Nick Clooney, George's father, was also in the media industry. He started his career as a disc jockey in the American Forces Network in Germany while serving as a corporal in the army. Two of the shows he helped produce were "Music in the Air" and "Melody-Go-Round," per The Famous People.

Nick had hoped to break into Hollywood upon his return to the United States but was unsuccessful. Instead, he returned to Kentucky and worked at WKYT-TV in Lexington. He moved up the ranks after a few years, hosting a morning talk show called the "The Nick Clooney Show." 

However, Nick's big break came when he was selected as a host for the ABC show "The Money Maze," which gave him a national audience. Nick continued to work in various news and hosting jobs, even moving to Los Angeles for a brief period for his duties.

It was also Nick who gave George his first taste of the camera. According to Biography, George would often appear in sketches that were part of his father's talk show, starting when he was just 5 years old.

Nick's career was enough of an inspiration to George that the "Gravity" star originally hoped to pursue a career in journalism as well. George attended Northern Kentucky University with the intent to major in broadcast journalism. However, George quickly realized that he was on the wrong path and dropped out.

But it was George Clooney's aunt who broke into Hollywood

However, the first person who broke into Hollywood from the Clooney clan was George's aunt, Rosemary. Her most famous role was as Bing Crosby's love interest in the classic holiday film "White Christmas."

Like the rest of the Clooneys, Rosemary was born in Kentucky. According to Britannica, she and her younger sister found fame as relative youngsters when their singing duo, the Clooney Sisters, won a singing slot on a local radio station. A well-known bandleader named Tony Pastor heard their act and was so impressed that he offered the two a spot with his band on a cross-country tour.

This jumpstarted Rosemary's singing career and earned her a recording contract with Columbia Records in New York. She topped the charts with the 1951 hit "Come On-a My House." She had a number of other hits, including "This Ole House" and "Mambo Italiano." 

Within a year, she had earned a front-page spread in Time magazine. Her ascension to the Hollywood elite led her to meet famed actor José Ferrer, and the two got married in 1953.

Though George has said in interviews that he didn't see much of his aunt as a child, the connection certainly helped him when he moved to Tinseltown. George not only stayed at his aunt's house — which boasted neighbors like Lee Gershwin, Eddie Cantor, and Hedy Lamarr — but also worked as a gofer and driver for her, per Vanity Fair.

The Clooney-Ferrer Connection

Rosemary Clooney and José Ferrer had five children together — three of whom, Miguel, Gabriel, and Rafael, became actors themselves.

Rafael Ferrer mainly works in voiceovers, including for "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic," per his IMDb. Meanwhile, Gabriel Ferrer is known for his appearances on "Donahue" and "The Chuck Woolery Show." He is also married to singer Debby Boone (via IMDb).

However, Miguel had the biggest career, starring in the original "Twin Peaks" series as well as a number of hits such as "Robocop" and as the voice of villain Shan-Yu in Disney's "Mulan."

Miguel's most recent role was in the television show "NCIS: Los Angeles." He was on the series for five years before he died from throat cancer in 2017 (via Variety).

In addition to an illustrious career, Miguel Ferrer also convinced his cousin George to pursue acting. George was still doing odd jobs after dropping out of college when Miguel and José offered him an opportunity. They were filming a movie about horse racing in Kentucky, and George was given a minor role. Even though the film was never released, the experience, coupled with Miguel's encouragement, spurred George to move to Los Angeles and become an actor, per Biography.

The cousins were also close enough that George spoke at Miguel's funeral.

"He came in like a comet, he rocketed through life and he got out. It's not so bad," he said of the "Twin Peaks" star, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Lastly, there's a surprising Presidential connection

Though the Clooney clan appears to be mostly centered around entertainment, there is one interesting link far back in the family tree that not only links them to politics but to one of the most notable presidents of American history: Abraham Lincoln.

According to Geneastar, George Clooney's great-great-great-great-grandmother on his mother's side was a woman named Mary Ann Sparrow. Mary Ann Sparrow's half-sister was Nancy Hanks, who later married a man named Thomas Lincoln. Their son was Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States.

That means that Mary Ann was Abraham Lincoln's aunt and George Clooney is Lincoln's half-first cousin five times removed, as calculated by Reuters.

Though George hasn't really discussed his distant relative, he has been vocal about his political opinions in the past. In addition, he has often fundraised for Democratic candidates and donated money to political causes. At one point, it was even rumored that he was eyeing a run for office, but he recently shot down rumors of those ambitions, joking that he'd prefer to have a "nice life," per Bloomberg.