George Clooney to Direct, Star in 'Monuments Men' About Stolen Nazi Art (Exclusive)

Sun Jan 8, 2012 4:18pm EST

EXCLUSIVE

George Clooney has started to work on his next project, writing, directing and starring in a big-budget movie about the men who chased down the stolen art of Europe during World War II, he told TheWrap on Saturday.

“The Monuments Men,” which Clooney is co-writing with his producing partner Grant Heslov, will tell the story of a hand-picked group of art experts chosen by the U.S. government to retrieve artwork stolen by the Nazis.

“I’m excited about it,” Clooney told TheWrap at the Palm Springs Film Festival on Saturday. “It’s a fun movie because it could be big entertainment. It’s a big budget, you can’t do it small -- it’s landing in Normandy.”

The movie will be based on the book “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History,” by Robert M. Edsel.

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Clooney said he will co-write, direct and star in the movie, which has been set up at Sony. It will have several meaty roles for actors, though Clooney said it was too early to think about who might fill those roles.

“Grant and I have been trying to find a project,” Clooney said.

“I’m not opposed to doing a commercial film, I’m just opposed to doing a commercial film that doesn’t feel organic to me. So if we’re going to do a commercial film we thought, 'Let’s do something that seems fun and actually have something to say.'”

"Monuments” is an intrigue-filled tale of art theft and espionage in Europe during World War Two. (Photo of U.S. soldiers retrieving artwork in Austria in 1945, Getty Images.) Hitler systematically emptied the museums and private collections of Europe during World War II.

The book tells the tale of a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians – called the Monuments Men – who risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of this culture.

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The book specifically follows the 11-month period between D-Day and V-E Day. The group worked behind enemy lines and were often unarmed.

Clooney and Heslov often make movies about political or socially-oriented subjects. Last year they made “Ides of March” together, about a corrupt political campaign, and they also co-produced “Good Night and Good Luck,” an examination of the limits of freedom of the press, as well as the Middle East war caper, “The Men Who Stare at Goats.”

Clooney was in Palm Springs to be honored at a festival gala.

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