We’re with The Monuments Men… and one woman! Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett all star in the film teased in The Monuments Men trailer. The George Clooney directed, co-written (with Grant Heslov) and starring true story of the World War II troupe who went behind enemy lies to steal back priceless pieces of art and culture from the Nazis before they had a chance to destroy it lands in theaters February 7.
For Blanchett (fresh off her Oscar nomination for Blue Jasmine), being the only female in the cast was truly important for her because the real woman she plays, Claire Simone (who is based on Rose Valland), was integral to The Monuments Men being able to even find the stolen art.
“I think what I found really inspiring about her and I think about all the characters is that they were such unlikely heroes and heroines. Rose Valland, on whom Claire Simone is based, was utterly alone and would write all this stuff down on the back of her cigarette papers and put them into this book which any day could have gotten her killed,” Blanchett said.
“I found that the fear that she had to serve under on a daily basis was very inspiring. I think the crisis in World War II was one of the most monumental crises that we faced as a species. It really reveals who you are, and that’s what I find really ennobling about the Monuments Men and Rose Valland.”
Goodman found a special affinity with the character he plays as Walter Garfield is from his hometown and the actor was aware of him prior to making The Monuments Men. “Oddly enough, the man that my character was based on was from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. He did a sculpture in downtown St. Louis that I would drive by on the city bus every time I went downtown with my mother,” Goodman said.
“To me, that was something very remarkable and it touched something in me and grounded me in that way. I used what I knew of the gentleman from the book and from other things that I read about him, and the script tied everything together for me.”
Murray had wanted to work with Clooney for years, and even heard about The Monuments Men as it was getting going. “George told me the story that he was going to do about a year before, and I thought, ‘Gosh, that really sounds like fun,’” Murray recalled.
“And then, suddenly about a year later, he said, ‘Would you like to be in this film?’ I’d thought about it for a whole year, so I said yes [laughs]. George and Grant take great care of everyone on the job. I’ve never been so well taken care of on a job. I never felt so protected and covered. All of us as actors, everyone had great scenes to do. Everyone had a chance to do a turn and to do a wonderful piece of work.”
The legendary actor was eager for the world to hear this story that must be told. “The story is so fascinating, and as they say, untold. Most people don’t know this story,” Murray said.
“And to do it with this group of people was not just ennobled because they’re all so good, and everyone is such a good actor, but they’re so much fun.”
Damon’s character was a composite of several people that were part of the real Monuments Men. But, everything he needed to make it real was on the pages of Grant Heslov and Clooney’s screenplay. “The script was beautifully written yet again by these guys. All of us came up reading plays. A lot of the answers that you need are right there in the text. And so, the dynamics were really clear.”
But, we wondered, how was Clooney the director for Damon, who has worked with him before, but never as a helmer?
“Working with George was very similar to working with (Steven) Soderbergh, which makes sense because they’ve worked so much together over the years and had a company together for a long time. George is obscenely talented as a director. It can be a little annoying being his pal because it’s kind of like God said, ‘Maybe this time I’ll give one of them everything. How about this kid? Let’s make him handsome. I’ll tell you what, as he gets older, he’ll even look better,’” Damon said and laughed.
“Honest to God, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had. And I’ve had better experiences than I could have ever asked for. I’ve worked with the very best directors around and he belongs in their company, or even ahead of it.”
In the mood for another all-star cast in a World War II movie? Why not watch Inglourious Basterds online!