- Title: GERMANY: "Monuments Men" stars needed tough love, says director Clooney
- Date: 8th February 2014
- Summary: BERLIN, GERMANY (FEBRUARY 8, 2014) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) ACTOR, GEORGE CLOONEY, SAYING: "So this was story that I didn't know. I knew something about it, I'd seen the movie "The Train" and I knew a little bit of the idea that there was an art heist. What I didn't understand was that it was done to take away these peoples' culture, to just say they didn't exist anymore. And I found that to be a fascinating thing, something that you'll see happen in Iraq when we mishandled that. Once you start to understand that, you understand that that's actually an important pillar in destroying a society, is to take away their art. And so I found that to be a really interesting story."
- Embargoed: 23rd February 2014 12:00
- Location: Germany
- Country: Germany
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA4PX8KUXYG9FQHH2BLFJLKEZ3
- Story Text: For a film centred on teachers and historians fighting in World War Two, George Clooney on Saturday (February 8) said it was the tough love he used during the shooting of his new film "The Monuments Men" that worked the best.
Clooney's fifth outing as director tells the story of art experts tasked with retrieving artistic treasure stolen by the Germans during World War Two, starring Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and Bill Murray among others.
Speaking ahead of the movie's premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, Clooney, who directed, co-wrote and stars in the film, said the involvement of some of the biggest names in Hollywood in the film didn't stop him from trying to get the best out of them - even if that involved a firm shove in the right direction.
"That's how you have to treat them," he told Reuters Television.
"What you learn over a period of time is you can't treat actors nice. You have to be tough with them. And I found if you don't pay them then they'll work really hard just for food," he joked, also laughing at reports of low pay for his stellar cast.
"That's what I said to them, that didn't play as well as just the 'do you want to eat? There is food over here but you got to pick up those boxes and carry them over there,'" he said.
"The Monuments Men" is Clooney's most ambitious project to date, amid a career already dotted with directing smaller hits including "The Ides of March" and "Good Night, and Good Luck."
This latest outing cost $70 million to make, shouldered jointly by Sony Corp and 21st Century Fox, and is forecast to bring in $24 million in its first weekend in Canada and the United States.
Clooney and producing-writing partner Grant Heslov based the movie on the book of the same name by Robert Edsel, and were inspired by the men that formed that group, but changed names and took liberties to develop characters.
Clooney, 52, plays Frank Stokes, the group's leader and an art historian, based on George Stout from Harvard's Fogg Museum.
He leads the group joined by a sculptor played by John Goodman, Bob Balaban as a theater director, Jean Dujardin as a French-Jewish art dealer, and Hugh Bonneville as an alcoholic British art expert looking for a second chance.
Cate Blanchett meanwhile plays a Parisian curator who leads Damon to find art stowed away in mines by the retreating Nazis.
Bill Murray plays a Chicago architect recruited late in the war for a middle-aged Allied unit on a mission sanctioned by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, while co-star Matt Damon plays a New York museum director.
Jokes aside, Clooney said the serious nature of the story was something that leant itself well to a more light-hearted narrative.
"I'd seen the movie "The Train" and I knew a little bit of the idea that there was an art heist," he said.
"What I didn't understand was that it was done to take away these peoples' culture, to just say they didn't exist anymore. And I found that to be a fascinating thing, something that you'll see happen in Iraq when we mishandled that," he told Reuters TV.
"Once you start to understand that, you understand that that's actually an important pillar in destroying a society, is to take away their art. And so I found that to be a really interesting story," Clooney said.
One man not listed in the credits or in possession of a Hollywood zipcode may play a big role in the film's box office success.
Cornelius Gurlitt, an elderly German recluse, was found in 2012 to have hoarded more than 1,400 artworks stolen by the Nazis, which were valued at around 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion).
German authorities only recently disclosed the findings of Gurlitt's cache of priceless paintings and drawings, which include works by modernist masters Chagall and Matisse.
Coincidentally, the real life Monuments Men actually dealt with Gurlitt's father, art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who worked for the Nazis selling art branded "degenerate" that was taken from museums or stolen or extorted from Jews fleeing the Holocaust.
After the war, he convinced the Monuments Men to return works to him that had been confiscated by Allied troops.
Clooney said the story had shocked everyone involved with the film.
"We read about it while we were finishing shooting, we thought it was pretty odd. It's not surprising in the sense that we're going to find a lot of these sort of situations," he told Reuters TV.
"It's not just going to be in Germany, it's going to be in Russia, and in the United States. There is an awful lot of art that hasn't been returned and will at some point. But it was pretty topical and interesting that it happened while we were shooting," he added.
Clooney hopes the film will create more awareness so that people holding artworks like Gurlitt will feel some pressure to return them to their owners.
Gurlitt, meanwhile, has demanded his art back and lawyers working on reclaiming property for heirs to Jewish collectors say he may get to keep at least some of it.
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