The filmmaker behind “The Ides of March” and the star of “The Descendants” announced at the Palm Springs International Film Festival on Saturday that his next movie will be the World War II story “The Monuments Men,” a look at the art historians who landed at Normandy to rescue art looted by Adolf Hitler.
Clooney said he and producing partner Grant Heslov will adapt the 2009 book by Robert Edsel, with Clooney directing and co-starring in the film for Sony Pictures. “It’s an amazing story, and Grant and I are already thinking about how great the casting can be,” Clooney said while in town to pick up the festival’s chairman award. “And there’s also a great love story.”
Clooney said the book recounts a story not only largely unknown but also filled with fish-out-of-water intrigue. The group of 11 civilian art experts included Lincoln Kirstein, the founder of the New York City Ballet; George Stout, who worked at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum; and James J. Rorimer, from the Metropolitan Museum.
The team had never trained for combat, and yet they faced live fire—two of them even died on the mission. Even though the experts were mere privates, they occasionally had to shout out battlefield instructions—“Don’t aim your tank over there, that’s the Leaning Tower of Pisa!” Clooney suggested—to preserve the works of art they were charged to find.
“Hitler was an art fanatic, and he stashed masterpieces everywhere,” Clooney said. “He hid 27 Rembrants in a coffin.” The love story hinges on Rose Valland, a member of the French resistance who diligently tracked the location of (and sometimes hid on her own) stolen art.
Clooney had been linked to producing a movie about the Smothers Brothers, but he said “Monuments Men” was for now his No. 1 priority.
Photo of George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times