For 'Monuments Men,' George Clooney gets surprise German gift

Tue Feb 4, 2014 5:59pm EST
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By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For the most ambitious of his five films as director, George Clooney assembled a top-shelf cast of fellow actors to play art experts tasked with retrieving artistic treasure stolen by the Germans during World War Two.

There is one person, though, who is not a Hollywood A-lister, not listed in the credits and who may play a big role in the box-office success of "The Monuments Men": an elderly German recluse who hoarded more than 1,400 artworks stolen by the Nazis and valued at 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion).

When actor Bill Murray heard the news in November of the vast trove art discovered in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, he was glad the release of "The Monuments Men" had been delayed by a few months to February.

"This story has had time to resonate and travel around the world, so more people will be aware of the situation," said Murray, who plays a Chicago architect recruited late in the war for a middle-aged Allied unit on a mission sanctioned by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The film opens in North America on Friday and will make its international premiere Saturday at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Co-star Matt Damon calls the real-life, contemporary illustration of the 70-year-old problem of Nazi-looted art "fortuitous for the film," but hardly surprising.

"I wasn't surprised at all given what I learned making the movie about all the artwork that is out there that has not been recovered," said Damon, who plays a New York museum director.

Clooney, who also co-wrote and stars in "The Monuments Men," says "it's great that it came out."   Continued...

Cast members (L-R) Bob Balaban, George Clooney, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Grant Heslov are pictured during a photo call for the film "The Monuments Men" held in Beverly Hills January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Phil McCarten