Ocean's 420

A closer look at the stars of Ocean's Twelve and their many cannabis connections.

Ocean's Twelve, the much-hyped sequel to the star-studded extravaganza that was Ocean's Eleven, has been filming around Europe over the past year. The stylish heist movie from filmmaker Steven Soderbergh stars Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Matt Damon. Also along for the sequel ride are Andy Garcia, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, and Elliot Gould.
Marijuana movie magic

The script and locations for Ocean's Twelve had been carefully kept secret, but a key scene was recorded in the coffeeshop "De Dampkring." The owner, Paul Wilhelm, told media the lead characters are no strangers there. "We have Brad Pitt in our store a few times a year," he said, "all incognito with a beanie and glasses. Just sitting there smoking some. We've had George Clooney in, too. They are just nice people."

Partying on the set in Amsterdam apparently got pretty stoney due to stars' easy access to legal pot. According to insiders, Warner Bros got word that the toking was causing production delays, translating into increased costs to get the film made.

A memo from the company, sent out on May 8, 2004, addressed their apprehension about drug use among its stars and its crew. The memo read: "Though the laws regarding the use of alcohol and recreational drugs vary from country to country, we remind you that the policies of Ocean's Twelve, Warner Bros Productions, and Warner Bros Entertainment Italia strictly prohibit the use of these substances during work hours."

The next shooting locale after Amsterdam was Italy, and the executives at Warner Bros were said to be thrilled that the production moved on to Rome.

The dope director

Steven Soderbergh has made a name for himself with many celebrity-stacked, off-beat productions like his break-out film, Sex, Lies,
and Videotape.

Perhaps Soderbergh's crowning achievement thus far was his acclaimed drug war film, Traffic, which was based on the award-winning British TV series, Traffik. The film won him the Best Director Oscar, and won star Benicio Del Toro (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) the Best Supporting Actor award for his portrayal of tortured Mexican cop Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez.

In an interview during promotions for the film, Soderbergh was asked what drugs he had done, and if the crew was high while making the drama.

Soderbergh replied, "I've never done coke, never done heroin, but I've tried everything else. As for the crew, I don't know."

Pitt laughs it up at a cafe in Amsterdam with Steve SoderberghPitt laughs it up at a cafe in Amsterdam with Steve SoderberghPothead Pitt

Brad Pitt ? who plays Rusty Ryan in the film and who is well-known to have a love for the weed ? is said to have previously lived in Amsterdam for a few months in 1991 (CC#37, Celebrity stoners). In fact, the architecture and remodeling junkie is rumored to own a place in Amsterdam's Jordaan area in his multinational real estate portfolio. Other celebrities like Madonna ? whose hubby, Guy Ritchie, directed Pitt as a marble-mouthed gypsy in the quirky heist movie, Snatch ? and reformed glam-rocking coke-sniffer David Bowie, have residences in Mokum City.

It has been previously and widely reported that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are "hooked" on marijuana. As reported by the tabloids, the Pitts' idea of a perfect night is getting high together at home. They allegedly smoke every day, and are open about their marijuana use and are happy to smoke in public or at parties. Rumor has it that the pair were stoned when they met with then-President Bill Clinton.

Aniston is said to be pushing the pair to cut back or quit toking, as she hopes to become pregnant soon and sees the pot as interfering with her efforts. Let's hope the pressure on their relationship doesn't cause Aniston to end up like Juliette Lewis.

Lewis began dating Pitt when she was 16, smoking pot with him and becoming very attached. When they broke up after five years, Lewis checked herself into a Scientology-based drug rehab clinic in California. Now blissed out on the bizarre teachings of sci-fi writer and religious guru L Ron Hubbard, Lewis has a different view on drugs.

In an interview with Shout in September 2000, Lewis commented that, "the best way to suppress a society is to give them the freedom to do more drugs. Look at Amsterdam ? if you want to create more docile, politically unmotivated people, I say legalize pot."

While Lewis' film career has taken a turn toward smaller character parts, her underground musical aspirations have taken off. She now fronts the punk band Juliette and the Licks, of which she says, "I live for the sweat I drip on stage. My goal is to give everything, all the energy I possess, and inject the audience with it."

George Clooney on set in AmsterdamGeorge Clooney on set in AmsterdamChronic Clooney and the pretty women

George Clooney, who plays Danny Ocean, has starred in many Soderbergh films (Out of Sight, Ocean's Eleven, Solaris) and will earn an estimated $54 million for Ocean's Twelve.

The leader of the new Ratpack entertained the biggest stars in the cast at his private villa on Italy's Lake Como. The celebs partied it up so hard and caused so much unwanted attention, that locals began to protest their presence. In order to protect his famous friends' privacy, and to keep prying paparazzi from scoring incriminating photos, Clooney won a no-fly zone order for the airspace over his villa. The celebratory celebs played on boats, drank wine, and ordered pizza for all those munchie cravings.

In attendance at these wild exclusive parties, despite being pregnant with twins, was Julia Roberts, another of Soderbergh's favorites (she won an Oscar for her role in Erin Brokovich and plays Tess Ocean in Ocean's Twelve), whom Clooney helped interview in Esquire magazine back in December 2001, during the press junket for Ocean's Eleven.

Clooney and his leading lady had some fun with a tape recorder when Roberts asked a waiter if they would be allowed to smoke marijuana in the restaurant. Clooney joked that she could "shoot up, if it'll help the interview."

Roberts replied, "I figured that I'd just start with marijuana," before leaning into the microphone to declare, "I don't really smoke dope."?

Matt Damon.Matt Damon.When Clooney asked her if she smoked pot as a kid, Roberts replied by saying, "I smoked dope twice. It made me too sleepy."

Clooney joked, "I used to shoot marijuana. It was really different. It was hard to get it in the syringe."?

Shortly after the interview, Julia Roberts enjoyed a pot lunch with her now-husband Danny Moder. Tabloid pictures taken of the couple showed them during a break on the set of her next Steven Soderbergh-directed film, Full Frontal. Roberts looked strange with her trademark curls smothered under a hairnet while she enjoyed an artichoke salad before getting out the weed. Roberts pulled out a package containing herb and rolled it into a joint. After inhaling a few puffs, she passed it over to Moder.

An onlooker told The Daily Mail, "From the way she put that cigarette together, and judging by the size of it, it was not an ordinary tobacco roll-up as they would probably not have been sharing it if it was."

The other leading lady in Ocean's Twelve, who plays Isabel Lahiri, is Mrs Michael Douglas herself. The Welsh-born Catherine Zeta-Jones also appeared in Traffic alongside her hubby. She played the innocent wife of a busted drug lord who turns into a hit-ordering conspirator when her high-class lifestyle is threatened.

Michael Douglas played the newly-appointed US Drug Czar whose own daughter develops a heroin habit ? a subject that hits close to home considering Douglas' son Cameron struggled with drug abuse. Additionally, in his film Wonder Boys, the actor excelled in his memorable role as Grady Tripp, a middle-aged college professor and author having to make serious decisions about his married girlfriend, his marijuana habit, and his long-overdue second novel.

Steven Soderbergh savors a stogie.Steven Soderbergh savors a stogie.The bad guy

Andy Garcia, who plays ripped-off bad guy Terry Benedict, evidently does not like to discuss his personal cannabis use. In a 1999 interview with Howard Stern cohort Gary Garver, Garcia got flustered and stormed off in a childish huff when he was asked if he had ever smoked marijuana ? causing Garcia to seem more than a little pot-phobic.

Suitably, the pot-hating actor, along with the plastic-surgery disaster once known as Meg Ryan, even received a special PRISM award from the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), for his portrayal of a husband dealing with his wife's alcoholism in When a Man Loves a Woman. Garcia doesn't score any so-called brownie points with Cannabis Culture readers for his friendly association with the gang at NIDA, who are hard at work trying to ensure that marijuana remains unavailable for medical research.

The supporting players

Matt Damon, who plays Linus Caldwell, says that his parents let him smoke pot with them when he was a teenager, in order to help him form a sensible attitude toward drug use. Damon grew up in a community house with his child psychologist mother and his stepfather, and happily admits he smoked weed. Damon said on BBC's Johnny Vaughan Tonight, "The first time I smoked was at home with my mother and stepfather. They were like, 'If you are going to do this, we'd rather you did this with us.'"

Damon has recently been in Prague filming The Brothers Grimm with co-star Heath Ledger. In an interview in The Daily Mail, Ledger said that he enjoyed Prague's high-quality pot, which he called "some of the most psychedelic marijuana on earth." Ledger and his ex-girlfriend, Australian actress Naomi Watts, were once involved in a cannabis snafu in Vancouver when their dog, Bob, ate their stash and had to be rushed to a vet (CC#45, Celebrity stoners).

Don Cheadle, who plays Basher Tarr, is another one of Soderbergh's favorite actors, and was seen in Traffic playing a zealous undercover narcotics officer. Cheadle has portrayed a number of drug-related characters in his career, such as an unscrupulous drug lord in Bulworth, and a basketball player whose life is ruined by bad drugs in Rebound: The Legend of Earl "The Goat" Manigault.

Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-JonesBrad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-JonesThe funny man

Bernie Mac, who plays Frank Catton, got turned against marijuana at young age. In his book, I Ain't Scared of You, Mac explains that he tried to pretend to be a pot smoker in high school, but that eventually his bluff was called and he had to toke up with his friend.
He writes, "Man, they had me doing everything: shotgunning me, had me firing up shit. They gave me the joint with instructions. Joe: 'Okay, puff. Now, hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Keep holdin' it. Hooooold it. Let it go. Nowtakeanotherone!'

"Whooo! I was so blowed! And my chest, I could hear my heart racing. My heart was pumpin' so hard it was hurting. It felt like something was pulling my esophagus down. My eyes closed."

Mac claims that he started running uncontrollably, sweating profusely, and that eventually his grandfather took him to the hospital. Doctors further scared Mac by suggesting that there had probably been "angel dust" in the joint.

Mac's anti-pot sentiment came out in a 1998 "special episode" of Moesha, where a joint is found in the house, and Moesha is blamed. Eventually the true toker is revealed, and the next episode sees the whole family in therapy to deal with the "drug problem." The episode also received a PRISM award from NIDA.

Bernie Mac's current prime-time show's premise is based on the real-life fact that Mac took in his sister's three children because of her ongoing drug problems.

Elliott Gould.Elliott Gould.The character

Elliot Gould, who plays Reuben Tishkoff, has had many interesting marijuana connections over his long, successful acting career.

Gould's best-known recent work was his role as Ross and Monica Geller's father on the TV series Friends. Although he has been a toker for decades, as the Geller patriarch, Gould had to feign disapproval when Monica revealed that it had been Ross who was smoking pot back in his college days, and not Chandler ? who had until then been blamed for the funky smell discovered in Ross' bedroom years before.

Gould is also familiar with the beneficial effects of more powerful psychedelics. In a 1970 Playboy interview at the height of his popularity, Gould described an experience with mescaline:

"Last year, I took mescaline and then went to Disneyland, of all places. I sat there for hours and watched the Indian dancers who go on every 20 minutes. They came out of a tepee led by a guide who carried a microphone. I was able to better understand just how crassly commercial their routine was and why it sickened me. It was very illuminating."

In regards to pot, Gould seemed to have it figured out a long time ago: "If one understands himself, there can be no harmful effects in using it. Marijuana doesn't make me do anything that I wouldn't be capable of doing otherwise. I find it far more pleasant than drinking, less messy and more private. I never had the patience to sit in a bar and drink. Having a joint is far more economical and more immediate. I'm able to switch into certain inner places with marijuana. I've also taken a couple of trips that have been incredible."

Elliot Gould was married to superstar Barbra Streisand from 1963 to 1971. In the months leading up to their divorce, Barbra created a controversy by doing a comedy routine on stage, where she talked about smoking marijuana to relax.

In a 1972 Rolling Stone interview, Streisand explained how she progressed from talking about pot to smoking joints on stage.

"I'd take out a joint and light it. First, just faking it. Then I started lighting live joints, passing them around to the band, you know. I was great, it relieved all my tensions. And I ended up with the greatest supply of grass ever. Other acts up and down the Strip heard about what I was doing ? Little Anthony and the Imperials, people like that ? and started sending me the best dope in the world. I never ran out.

"Hmmm..." added Streisand, "I wonder if I should tell that story."

One final funny cannabis connection exists for Gould: his present wife is named Jennifer Bogart.Elliott Gould.

? Ocean's Twelve hits theatres worldwide on December 10, 2004.

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