- Associated Press - Thursday, February 24, 2011

CINCINNATI (AP) - Nothing like a chance to see hometown hero George Clooney up close to warm a freezing morning.

Dozens of fans stood for hours in upper-20s temperatures, cameras and cell phones at the ready, to watch him filming Wednesday on Cincinnati’s downtown Fountain Square. Such crowd scenes have been common over the last two months since Clooney began scouting locations and then filming the first movie he has made in the region, where he grew up.

Clooney acts in and directs “The Ides of March,” about a presidential campaign, and the filming around town has become a dominant topic, with folks sharing Tweets and photos of Clooney sightings and hanging around outside the sets. A casting call for 1,500 extras drew 23,000 responses.

Film buff Lauren Wendling said she enjoyed the chance to see the behind-the-scenes work on Clooney’s new movie.

“He’s a hometown star, and it’s great to see someone from here who is so successful,” said Wendling, who works in finance. “It’s a great experience for people who don’t live in LA to just see how a movie is made.”

Crew members asked fans to be still whenever filming began, and their requests were consistently met with a hush Wednesday.

“It’s been fine,” movie publicist Tracey Schaefer said of the crowds. “People have been very respectful of the boundaries.”

She said the local clamor had been expected because of Clooney’s connections to the area and excitement over a major movie being made here.

And, by the way, he’s GEORGE CLOONEY.

The Oscar-winning actor, twice named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, is featured on this week’s Newsweek magazine cover for his role as a celebrity global activist for freedom and humanitarian efforts. Born in Lexington, Ky., he grew up in Cincinnati area communities where his father, Nick Clooney, was a popular local journalist and TV personality. His late aunt Rosemary Clooney was a famed singer.

Veteran Cincinnati Enquirer media writer John Kiesewetter said local people have bonded with Clooney, the star of such movies as “Batman & Robin,” “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Syriana.”

“He’s not just a huge star to people here; they have grown up with him,” said Kiesewetter, who first interviewed Clooney when he was on the TV sitcom “The Facts of Life” in 1985. “They feel like they know him. They feel like he’s one of us.”

WCPO-TV sports anchor Dennis Janson says Clooney has made time to see old friends _ he hadn’t seen Janson in two decades but greeted him with a bear hug and quickly started talking about the University of Cincinnati Bearcats basketball team and the Cincinnati Reds baseball team.

George Clooney still the same good guy,” Janson titled his blog about the visit.

And Clooney’s not the only attraction on the set for the predominantly female crowds. Fan Jennifer Maley has twice spent mornings watching filming, and she showed off a prized memento: a cell phone picture of her with Clooney co-star Ryan Gosling.

“I’m a big Ryan Gosling fan,” she said, turning her gaze back to the square as the crew, and she, got ready to shoot Gosling talking on a telephone.

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