Actor George Clooney says his new film, The Monuments Men, shows how warring nations should learn from the past, by preserving important historical artifacts. He not only appears in the film, he directed and co-wrote it with Grant Heslov. Based on Robert Edsel’s book of the same name, it tells the story of the vast looting of art that went on under the Nazis and the Allied men whose job it was to retrieve it.
Currently in the UK promoting the film, he told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, that if nations think they have no alternative other than to go to war, they should at least protect historical objects that educate people in order to learn about the past. “When we prosecuted the war in Iraq, which was a fool’s journey anyway, we went in there and we didn’t protect the national museums and some of the most important artefacts in our history and the human race were lost,” the actor said. “Well that’s just terrible. The same happened with the Taliban in Afghanistan. We are not learning our lesson.”
George Clooney has been perceived by some as preaching with this film and its commentary on historical artifacts and their importance to nations embroiled in war and the need to protect methods of learning from the past. He recently caused controversy when he told a Greek reporter that Great Britain should return the Elgin Marbles to The Parthenon in Greece. He was backed by co-stars Bill Murray and Matt Damon. However, Clooney subsequently diffused the situation and joked that he did not really know much about the long-standing issue and so did not want to become embroiled in a debate on such a sensitive issue.
The Marbles were imported by Lord Elgin in the 1800s and placed in the British Museum where they still sit to this day. Greece has been appealing for the return of the marbles for years, but the pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Clooney added that he is trying to leverage his name and influence to make films that would otherwise find it hard to ever make it to the big screen. “For the last 15 years or so I’ve focused on trying to get films made that are not easily made otherwise,” he said. “Michael Clayton was very hard to get made, Goodnight and Good Luck was hard to get made, The Descendants and Up in the Air – all those were hard to get made.”
Clooney also explained how he manages to get films made. “If you think about what salaries are for actors, which are ridiculous, but they’re real. If you’re saying to a studio I’ll do this movie for scale and take some money on the back-end, you’re a several million dollar investor in the film. If the film is a $15 million film then you’re as much of an investor as the studio is, so your working with them.”
Right now Clooney is busy traveling the world plugging his latest film, The Monuments Men, which he says shows how warring nations should learn from the past, by preserving important historical artefacts for future generations.
By Robert Shepherd