George Clooney’s co-stars, friends and collaborators gathered virtually to share anecdotes and praise his contributions as actor, director, humanitarian and colleague — not to mention Sexiest Man Alive twice over.

Among those paying tribute to Clooney at the Museum of Modern Art’s annual film benefit last night was David Letterman, who recalled something Clooney had once said to him that he carries with him today. Clooney had told him his humanitarian efforts in Darfur hadn’t turned out quite as he’d hoped, but added that it didn’t matter.

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“What matters is you just keep trying,” Letterman quoted Clooney as saying. “If it doesn’t work the first time, try something else.”

Letterman says it was such a simple, eloquent way to express the importance of helping others. The tributes mixed praise with humour. Actor David Oyelowo, who appears in Clooney’s new Netflix film “The Midnight Sky,” quipped how Clooney is humble — but sometimes falsely so, “because he will get the fact that he was (People’s) Sexiest Man Alive TWICE into almost every conversation.”

Julianna Margulies, who co-starred with Clooney in the TV drama “ER” early in his career, told the story of how she’d told him she loved to drive, and he’d asked her, “Have you ever driven a Porsche?” And then he handed her his keys and said “Let’s go take
a spin.”

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Clooney joins a group of previous MoMA honorees that includes Martin Scorsese, Tom Hanks, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodovar and others. MoMA’s annual film benefit raises funds to bring great works of film to the museum’s collection.

This year, amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the event — presented since 2011 by Chanel — also benefits Artist Relief, an emergency initiative supporting artists.