George Clooney Gets a Big-Time Hollywood Divorce

George Clooney | Affleck and Astor

George Clooney's Breakup

Two nice guys have broken up in the last couple of days, and no, I am not talking about Lance Bass.

George Clooney is one half of this couple, and director Steven Soderbergh is the other half. They’ve announced that their Section Eight film company, parked at Warner Bros., is no more.

Or, to be more exact, Clooney has left Soderbergh and Section Eight to start a new production company at Warner’s with a partner who’s proven more successful.

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Clooney and Grant Heslov, who made "Good Night, and Good Luck" together, are shacking up with a new shingle (that’s show biz speak) called Smoke House. Soderbergh will soldier on by himself at Section Eight, without Clooney by his side.

The timing for the announcement is a little odd and difficult, since principal photography is just moments away on "Ocean’s Thirteen," the third part of a trilogy that Clooney and Soderbergh have been much associated with press-wise.

They also have another film in the can which stars Clooney but which he did not co-produce called "The Good German," and "Michael Clayton," which teams the two of them for the last time.

Call it burnout from doing so much together or simply mathematics. Section Eight has been an iffy proposition. While "Ocean’s Eleven" was a hit, "Ocean’s Twelve" is generally unpopular.

There are some real turkeys in the Section Eight catalog, too, that cost plenty and brought in from nothing to very little

They include "Rumor Has It," with Jennifer Aniston; the current "A Scanner Darkly"; "The Jacket," which cost at least $30 million but grossed around $6 million; "Criminal," which took in less than a million bucks and had a feature budget of several million; and of course, "Syriana," which made about what it cost — $50 million — but ultimately lost money.

Of all the Section Eight films, "Syriana" was the most contentious. Sources have told me stories on numerous occasions of how director Stephen Gaghan — whom Soderbergh championed because he adapted the script for "Traffic" — had to be taken off the picture so Soderbergh could make massive fixes before it was released.

Soderbergh and Clooney also share the ignominious distinction of having made the dismal "Solaris" together. And they co-produced Julia Roberts and Harvey Weinstein’s single biggest flop, "Full Frontal," a movie you will hopefully never see.

The "Syriana" episode no doubt left a bad taste for everyone, while Heslov’s picture with Clooney — the much-praised and awarded "Good Night, and Good Luck" — was just the opposite.

That movie garnered Oscar nominations for Clooney as an actor and also as a director — and that last fact may have been the incentive for Clooney to cut his losses with Soderbergh and move on with Heslov.

I thought the trade's stories about how Heslov knew Clooney were funny, though. They claimed that they met at Section Eight or something.

But Heslov has been friends with Clooney for years and years. Two decades ago, in 1986, they appeared together in an episode of "The Facts of Life." If that wasn’t a bonding experience, then what is?

Affleck Attack; Astor Disaster

Ben Affleck’s performance in "Hollywoodland" is said to be so good it will revive his ailing career.

Affleck plays George Reeves, TV’s Superman, who committed suicide at the height of his popularity.

But for Affleck it’s cleverly a supporting role, with Adrien Brody in the lead.

Strangely, "Hollywoodland" is getting an all-star premiere this weekend in the Hamptons, even though its actual opening is more than a month away. But good for Ben, he deserves a break. …

Janet Jackson is already on her promotional tour around Europe for her new album. It doesn’t hit America until late September, right before the Grammy deadline. But manager Johnny Wright — who also has Justin Timberlake’s new album at the same time — is determined to resurrect Janet. Just don’t expect the two pop stars to appear anywhere together. Their wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl is still resonating. …

And what a shame about 104-year-old society matron Brooke Astor! The New York Daily News broke the story yesterday about the terrible care she’s receiving at the hands of her — believe it or not — 82-year-old son.

Astor has a fancy name and was always in the papers pictured at swanky gatherings. But her charitable foundation has been a boon to New York in many ways; she was never, as Tom Wolfe likes to call them, a “social X-ray.”

In New York, this story is going to have “legs” for days, as Astor is a beloved social institution in her own right. …

Will Smith is going to be honored by the American Museum of the Moving Image on Dec. 3 at its annual Waldorf-Astoria roast. This should be one star-studded night, with Smith’s pals like Tommy Lee Jones and Martin Lawrence sure to be in attendance.

One person I’d like to see: the original "fresh prince of Beverly Hills" himself, talent manager Benny Medina, upon whose experiences Smith’s hit TV series was based. …