George Clooney and Julianna Margulies starred opposite each other for the first five seasons of NBC’s medical-drama hit “ER,” but if it wasn’t for Clooney, Margulies’ Nurse Carol Hathaway might have died in the pilot.
“I feel so grateful that you were the one who actually stopped me from taking [another] job, because you were the only one who actually cared enough to call and say, ‘By the way, don’t take the job. I think you tested well and we tested well together. If you just could hold off for a couple weeks, I think you’re going to get a series regular offer … forever in my life, I am indebted to you, my friend,” Margulies said during the Museum of Modern Arts 13th annual Film Benefit.
The story goes, if she had taken that other job after her “ER” audition, the show’s writers couldn’t have rewritten her part to become such an integral part of the series.
Margulies was joined by a cadre of Clooney’s former collaborators who gathered virtually to honor the Oscar winner as part of MoMA’s annual benefit, which raised money for the museum’s Department of Film collection, which has a catalogue of over 30,000 international films and 4 million stills.
It also raised money for Artist Relief, a program created by a coalition grantmakers to support creatives during the pandemic. Past benefit honorees include Pedro Almodóvar, Alfonso Cuarón, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Martin Scorsese, Tilda Swinton, and Laura Dern.
Swinton, who has worked with Clooney in films including “Burn After Reading,” “Hail, Caesar!” and “Michael Clayton,” recorded a message honoring the actor.
“Cloones, it’s Tilda and MoMA is honoring you, and congratulations to them for that wisdom,” Swinton said. “We know how great you are. We know that you’re one of the best, the greatest ever. We know what a sublime actor you are. We know what inspired director you are. We know what a great, great citizen of the planet you are. I’m here to say this, you’re just a good one. You’re a good man. You have a great heart You’re super kind man. And I really love you.”
After his “ER” breakthrough in the 90s, Clooney has gone on to have a distinguished career in front of and behind the camera, winning an Oscar in 2006 for his role in “Syriana” and in 2013 for producing Best Picture winner “Argo.” He has directed seven films, his most recent is “The Midnight Sky,” which will be released on Netflix on December 23.
He’s also known for his humanitarian work, having served as a United Nations messenger of peace and donated to causes around the globe.
“Thank you to all my friends to say such kind of things about me. It’s a privilege to have worked with you, and most importantly, to call you my friends. I am a very lucky guy,” Clooney said during the benefit.
Clooney, who grew up in Kentucky, recalled his first experience going to MoMa when he was 12 on a family trip.
“It opened my eyes to a whole world, a world where anything is possible. That’s what the Museum of Modern Art means to me. Your support for young filmmakers and film preservations, they’re deeply personal. Your commitment to artists through your partnership with Artists Relief is inspiring in the most difficult year,” he said.