Texas oilman turned art detective drills deep for 'Monuments Men'

Thu Feb 6, 2014 6:41pm EST
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By Marice Richter

DALLAS (Reuters) - Former tennis pro turned Texas oilman Robert Edsel took a risk when he walked away from a lucrative business to launch the third act of his life as a detective specializing in art plundered by Nazi Germany.

Now, with a best-selling novel and after rubbing shoulders with Hollywood headliners such as George Clooney, the gamble seems to have paid off.

Edsel is the man behind "The Monuments Men," whose book about the allied forces team tasked with returning looted art to rightful owners after World War Two has been given the full Hollywood treatment.

Clooney assembled a top-shelf cast to play art experts and took on directing the film version, which opens nationwide on Friday.

"There is really nothing like a Hollywood film to raise awareness about the important work that has been done and still needs doing," he said.

Edsel, 57, acknowledges that some liberties were taken to compress his book into a two-hour movie, but that doesn't bother him.

"The overarching principles of their achievement and heroism are well represented," he told Reuters.

As the spotlight is trained on the search for millions of artifacts stolen by the Nazis, it also brings attention to Edsel's Dallas-based Monuments Men Foundation, where efforts to return the stolen artwork continue nearly 70 years later.   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/Files