GEORGE CLOONEY FLIPS FOR WAITRESS

Published on: February 28, 2002

George Clooney is wild over a hot new dish -- a sexy waitress. And the smitten actor has even given her a tasty role in his new movie.

The 40-year-old heartthrob has been spotted out on the town on several occasions with spicy Maria Bertrand -- and observers are crediting the 27-year-old beauty with keeping party-hearty George from prowling the strip clubs.

The couple have grown so tight that Clooney has given her a part in the first film he's ever directed, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," about TV game show king Chuck Barris.

In a segment about Barris' "Dating Game" show, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt play the bachelor contestants. The screenplay called for a blonde to be the bachelorette, so everyone was surprised when brunette Bertrand walked onto the set and sat in the bachelorette seat.

In her big moment, she asked Bachelor No. 1, played by Pitt: "If we were to go on a date, how would you know I'd do it?"

Clooney's discovery "wasn't bad," confided a source on the set, who says Maria seems to have natural acting ability. The actor first spotted Maria -- who also works as a model and bartender -- on the job at Montreal's Globe restaurant in early December while scouting location sites for the movie.

Friends say he took an immediate liking to the statuesque beauty -- whose chiseled body has been honed by years of amateur soccer.

"George came back to the Globe and made a beeline for Maria," said the production source, who eyewitnessed the encounter. "She was thrilled when he asked her out."

After just two dates, a starry-eyed George brought her to the Montreal movie set.

The two have also enjoyed romantic dinners at Restaurant BIS, where on one occasion Maria was spotted lovingly stroking his arm and face. They've also passed time at the Hotel Vogue bar.

"Maria is ticlked pink she's attracted someone like George Clooney," confided a friend.

Added the production source, "The producers are happy George is going steady with her. She seems to be keeping him out of trouble."