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George Clooney Recalls Ken Howard’s Help During Early Days in Hollywood

Oscar winner shares anecdote about late SAG-AFTRA president

If it wasn’t for late SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard‘s kindness, George Clooney may never have cracked Hollywood.

Or so the Oscar winner said in a fond remembrance issued Wednesday, hours after the Hollywood union announced Howard had died at 71. A cause of death was not immediately known.

Read Clooney’s anecdote:

“There’s a story about how a young actor met Ken on the Fox lot in 1983 and told him what a fan he was of The White Shadow. Ken asked that actor what he did and the young man said, ‘well someday I hope to be lucky enough to work with you.’ Then he told Ken he had an audition all the way across town at Paramount but he wasn’t going to make it because all he had was a bike. So Ken put his bike in the trunk of his car and dropped him off at Paramount. Then Ken just waved goodbye and said good luck, ‘I hope we do get that chance to work together.’  I didn’t get that audition, But I did get the chance to work with him years later. It was an honor. Today his obituary read that he was six foot six, but he was so much taller than that.”

As the last president of the legendary Screen Actors Guild and the first elected president of post-merger SAG-AFTRA, Howard made history by leading the merged performers from a period of conflict to a stable, unified path toward the future.

An actor for nearly 50 years, Howard came to union leadership late in his career led by friends who asked him in 2008 to help them stabilize the then-troubled Screen Actors Guild. In a 2014 SAG-AFTRA Magazine message, Howard wrote to members that serving them as president of the union was “the most important thing I have ever done.”