The Evolution Of George Clooney: Follow The 'Up In The Air' Actor's Soaring Career In Photos

Generally referred to as one of Hollywood's last great actors, George Clooney has proven he is much more than just a pretty face in his 25-year long career. His new film "Up In The Air" — hitting theaters today — has been getting plenty of critical acclaim and is sure to earn him a Best Actor Oscar nod (in addition to being a top contender for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress). This would be the 48-year-old actor's third nomination for acting in the past five years. But he hasn't always been such a staple in Tinseltown.

Click the photo below to take a look back to how George became the acting-great he is today.

Born on May 6, 1961 in Lexington, Ky., George was the son of former pageant queen Nina Bruce and TV journalist and host Nick Clooney. In high school he was a bit of a jock, playing both basketball and baseball (keep an eye out in "Up In The Air" for some shots of his high school sports photos), but didn't make it through either Northern Kentucky University or the University of Cincinnati with a college degree.

George got his first role as an extra in the 1978 TV-miniseries "Centennial." He earned his first major television role on the short-lived 1984 sitcom "E/R" (not that "ER"), which led him brief roles in other sitcoms like "The Golden Girls," "The Facts of Life" and "Roseanne." George landed more and more recurring roles in sitcoms like 1992's "Bodies of Evidence" and 1993's "Sisters" before finally getting his big break in 1994's "ER" as Dr. Doug Ross. He would remain a regular on the show for five years, returning to make two guest appearances after.

With the recognition he got from "ER," George was able to break into the acting scene. He got a role in Robert Rodriquez's "From Dusk Till Dawn" (we're assuming this is the only reason he took roles in Rodriguez's "Spy Kids" movies) and in "One Fine Day" opposite Michelle Pfieffer in 1996, and then took the cape from Val Kilmer to star as Batman in 1997's "Batman & Robin." The movie sucked, but didn't put a huge dent in his career.

He continued starring in movies every year, having big successes with 1999's "Three Kings" and 2000's "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" In 1998, he teamed up with director Steven Sodenbergh the first time in "Out of Sight," and the duo returned to work together in 2001's "Ocean Eleven." It is George's most successful movie to date, and went on to spawn two sequels ("Ocean's Twelve" in 2004 and "Ocean's Thirteen" in 2007). They started a film production company together in 2001 after the success of "Ocean's Eleven" called Section Eight, and also made "The Good German" together in 2006.

In 2002, George made his directoral debut with "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind." The film didn't do great in theaters, but he earned respect for his directoral style. In 2005, he debuted his sophomore attempt, "Good Night and Good Luck." This was George's most critically acclaimed work to date, and earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. He did not win either, but he did receive the Best Supporting Actor award for his role that same year in "Syrania." It is his only Academy Award to date. George's 2007 film "Michael Clayton" earned him his first Best Actor nomination, but he lost to Daniel Day Lewis in "There Will Be Blood."

George's third attempt at directing was for the 2008 film "Leatherheads." The light-hearted football comedy was a mild-success, but after its release George returned to solely acting. He starred in the Coen brothers' "Burn After Reading" in 2008, and opposite Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey in 2009's "The Men Who Stare At Goats." He is also the leading voice actor in Wes Anderson's "The Fantastic Mr. Fox." Both films are currently in theaters, and are now joined by "Up In The Air."

Beyond his acting and directing endeavors, George is a strong political advocate as well. He supported Barack Obama for the 2008 election and became a main member of the Save Darfur organization. Time named him one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World for "using star power to illuminate the crisis in Darfur." In 2007, he and "Oceans" costar Don Cheadle were presented the Summit Peace Award by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in Rome for their work in Darfur.