x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

George Clooney on his new film The Monuments Men, and actors working for cheap

George Clooney talks about his latest film The Monuments Men and reveals he asked A-listers like Cate Blanchett and Matt Damon to work for cheap.

John Goodman, left, the actor and director George Clooney and Jean Dujardin, right, on the set of The Monuments Men. Courtesy Claudette Barius / AP Photo/ Columbia Pictures
John Goodman, left, the actor and director George Clooney and Jean Dujardin, right, on the set of The Monuments Men. Courtesy Claudette Barius / AP Photo/ Columbia Pictures

AFP

George Clooney features both behind and in front of the camera in his latest film, The Monuments Men, about a little-known group of heroes who risked all to rescue stolen art from the Nazis in the Second World War. And he managed to persuade some of his fellow A-listers to take big pay cuts to appear in the film.

As well as Clooney, its cast includes Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray and Jean Dujardin. Based on a book, the movie follows a group of experts, gallery owners and artists sent to Europe to salvage hundreds of thousands of works of art stolen by the Nazis and to protect thousands of others threatened by Allied bombs.

“We were not all that familiar with the actual story, which is rare for a Second World War film. Usually you think you know all the stories,” says Clooney.

The Monuments Men – about 100 across Europe – were tasked with finding works stolen by the Nazis from Jewish families and major European museums, for Hitler’s megalomaniacal project of a gigantic art museum in Linz.

Clooney revealed that he asked Damon, Blanchett, Murray and Dujardin to take a pay cut. “If you pay everybody a full boatload, it’s a US$150 million [Dh551m] film,” he told Variety, saying he managed to stay within a $70m budget. “You just can’t do it. Everybody worked for super cheap, like crazy cheap.”

One of the toughest tasks, he says, was striking the right tone in a film that is part the Second World War buddy story, part art heist, part history lesson. “You don’t want it to be a civics lesson,” Clooney says. “You want it to be entertaining, you want people to enjoy themselves, laugh at some of the stuff. But it is also a very serious subject matter.”

Of his latest turn as a director, the 52-year-old admits: “I really enjoy it, it’s fun. I like it more than acting now. I don’t know whether it’s improving or not, but it’s certainly evolving in different directions.” He’s honest about where he learnt the craft: “You know, all you’re trying to do is learn from people that you’ve worked with.

“I’ve worked with the Coen brothers and Steven Soderbergh and Alexander Payne. I’ve worked with really great directors over the years. So you try to see what they’re doing, and then just steal it.”

The Monuments Men is out now in UAE cinemas

artslife@thenational.ae