George Clooney: “At the origin of Monuments Men, there is the desire to rediscover the spirit of those films that we loved when we were kids”

Monuments Men
Premiere / Twentieth Century Fox

The war film with the 5-star cast returns tonight on TFX.

On the occasion of the rebroadcast of Monuments Men on television, we re-share an interview with actor-director George Clooney and his comedians Matt Damon and Jean Dujardin. First had met the team in 2014, just before the release of this interestingly pitched war film: In the middle of World War II, seven men who are anything but soldiers – museum directors and curators, artists, architects, and art historians – throw themselves into the heart of the conflict to save works of art stolen by the Nazis and return them to their rightful owners.

George, when Jean Dujardin spoke of Monuments Men To First, for the first time about a year ago, he described it as “The meeting between Ocean’s Eleven and The Seven Mercenaries”. Does that suit you?
George Clooney: Rather yes. When we were writing the movie, Grant heslov and I had quite a few references in mind anyway. Mostly war film classics like The Guns of Navarone, A bridge too far… And with the actors, we spent the whole shooting humming the theme of The great Escape ! (To laugh.) At the beginning of Monuments Men, there is clearly the desire to rediscover the spirit of those films that we loved when we were kids.

What was in those classics that today’s movies don’t have anymore?
Matt Damon: In the United States, after the Vietnam War, the genre became cynical. George and Grant were very clear that they wanted to make a contemporary film, yes, but one that could just as easily have been shot in the 1950s. For a comedian, it’s important to work with a director as precise as that in his intentions and with whom we can share a certain number of references. At least we know where we’re going.

George, when you read the book The Monuments Men, did you first react as a screenwriter, director or actor? In other words, what is the primary motivation? Tell this story, stage it or embody it?
George: It’s hard to say … I think I always reason instinctively as a director, simply because that’s the most creative and stimulating part of the job. I immediately saw the incredible potential this book offered in terms of cinema – paying homage to the classics we were just talking about, filling the film with stars … It was very attractive. Afterwards, when we get to the heart of the matter, the first questions we ask ourselves are of a scriptwriting nature. I took some liberties with the historical facts, changed the names of the protagonists … I wrote with the actors in mind, which changes a lot of things. There was no French Monument Man in the book, for example, but I invented one because I absolutely wanted to work with Jean. Finally, to work … I especially wanted to make him die in excruciating pain because he won an Oscar! (To laugh.)

And once the script was written, you went to your friends to convince them to go on a mission with you. Like your character in the movie …
Matt: You still need to know that all the players are not in the same boat. Cate Blanchett, she was entitled to preferential treatment. George made an express trip to Australia to give him the script … I just received an email. A line : “What are you doing next spring? “
George: Still, you said yes. The same evening! With Jean, on the other hand, it was much more complicated, as you can imagine …
Jean Dujardin : I was on vacation, I told her to drop …
George: (Imitating Dujardin.) “George, I am very busy. I am an Academy Award winner, you know … »

Jean Dujardin: “The shooting of Monuments Men is a gigantic playroom, with days worth a million dollars”

From film to film, you all perpetuate the idea that it is easier to make cinema surrounded by your friends.
Matt: But it’s true ! On a set, you can waste a lot of time doing diplomacy. All those endless conversations that we have to spare each other and that never solve any problem … With your friends, you can say: “That sucks ” Where : ” Go faster “ without any susceptibility involved. Less time is wasted and the result is better.
George: You also have to take into account the fact that we spend roughly four months on a shoot. And at my age, four months is precious! (To laugh.) I’ve known Matt for fifteen years and we share the same credo: life is too short. Too short to waste time with people who don’t take pleasure in doing their job.
Matt: ” Life is too short. “ It’s certain Ocean’s Eleven that George and Soderbergh converted me to this golden rule. Since then, I choose all my films based on that. If a director has the reputation of being a tyrant, if the shoot is going to be nightmarish, no thanks. It will be without me.
George: Other than that, Jean, how do you like Matt’s French? Is he that bad?
Jeans : (Quoting a line Damon says in French in the film.) “The land is noble to work. “

Exactly … Where does this recurring joke in the film about Matt’s rotten accent in French come from?
Matt: No idea, it was in the script! But I must pay homage to Alexandre Desplat (the composer of the soundtrack shares some scenes with Damon). He was the one who taught me to say my lines with the worst accent imaginable.

Jean, for real, who speaks the worst French in the gang?
George: He will answer that it is me.
Jeans : No, it’s not true, you know how to say ” pig “
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