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The Monuments Men

Wednesday 23rd April 2014

Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men is an action drama focusing on seven over-the-hill, out-of-shape museum directors, artists, architects, curators and art historians who went to the front lines of WWII to rescue the world's artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their rightful owners.
George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban, Dimitri Leonidas, Justus von Dohnányi, Holger Handtke, Michael Hofland
George Clooney
George Clooney, Christoph Fisser, Barbara A. Hall, Grant Heslov, Henning Molfenter
Unknown
1 hour 58 minutes
2014

Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men is an action drama focusing on seven over-the-hill, out-of-shape museum directors, artists, architects, curators and art historians who went to the front lines of WWII to rescue the world's artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their rightful owners. With the art hidden behind enemy lines, how could these guys hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind's greatest achievements.

Fox 2000 Pictures and Columbia Pictures present a Smokehouse production, The Monuments Men. The film stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett. Directed by George Clooney. Produced by Grant Heslov and George Clooney. Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov, based on the book by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter. Executive Producer is Barbara A. Hall. Director of Photography is Phedon Papamichael, ASC. Production Designer is Jim Bissell. Edited by Stephen Mirrione, A.C.E. Costume Designer is Louise Frogley. Music by Alexandre Desplat.

"The story of the Monuments Men is one that really very few people know", says George Clooney, who returns to the director's chair for the story of a small group of artists, art historians, architects and museum curators who would lead the rescue of 1000 years of civilization during World War II in his new film, The Monuments Men. "Artists, art dealers, architects - these were men that were far beyond the age that they were going to be drafted into a war or volunteer. But they took on this adventure, because they had this belief that culture can be destroyed. If they'd failed, it could have meant the loss of six million pieces of art. They weren't going to let that happen - and the truth of the matter is, they pulled it off".

The chance to make a World War II movie was extremely attractive to Clooney and his writing and producing partner, Grant Heslov. "There's a certain romance around these movies - The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen, The Guns of Navarone, The Bridge on the River Kwai", says Clooney. "In those movies, you fell in love with the characters and the actors as much as the story. And we thought The Monuments Men was a great chance to cast interesting contemporary actors together for our version of that kind of movie - it's a fun and entertaining way to do it".

Part of the drama of the film is that all of the The Monuments Men are so unsuited to serving as soldiers in wartime. "Wars are fought by 18-year-olds", says Clooney. "Once you get to the John Goodmans and the Bob Balabans and the George Clooneys, you know - these guys are not getting drafted". Heslov adds: "They did it because it was clear that they were the only people who could do it".

"Actually, we never really fully thought of this as a war film - it was a heist film", says Clooney. "And then, the first day, we got to the set and everybody put on their uniforms and helmets".

Clooney was inspired to tackle The Monuments Men as a feature film not only because of its exciting and dramatic subject matter, but because it marked a sharp, decisive break from his most recent film, The Ides of March. "We were very proud of that film, but it was contemporary and very small - and also cynical", says Heslov.

"We've made some cynical films, but in general, we really aren't cynical people", Clooney continues. "We wanted to do a movie that wasn't cynical, a movie that was straightforward, old-fashioned and had a positive forward movement to it".

In their search for material, Heslov mentioned that he had recently read the book The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter and brought the subject matter to Clooney. Here was a chance to tell an optimistic story on an epic scale - a true story with huge stakes.

"I was living in Florence, walking across the Pontevecchio Bridge - the only bridge that wasn't destroyed by the Nazis as they fled in 1944 - and I wondered, this was the greatest conflict in history... how were all of these cultural treasures saved and who saved them?" Edsel asks. "I wanted to find out the answer".

The answer was the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives group, which would go to the front lines and, for the first time, try to save the treasures that could be saved. "Culture was at risk", says Clooney. "You see it time and time again. You saw it in Iraq - the museums weren't protected and you saw how much of their culture was lost because of that".

"Even today, people are still trying to get back the art that was looted from their families by the Nazis", Heslov says, noting that just recently, a treasure trove of looted art was discovered in a Munich apartment - 1,500 works worth $1.5 billion, paintings by Matisse, Picasso, Dix and other artists that had been thought to be lost.

"I think what that goes to show is that this is not a story that ended in 1945 - the search for missing art goes on today", Heslov continues. "There are still thousands of works that are still lost. There are paintings that are hanging in people's homes or hidden in plain sight on the walls of museums. Can you imagine if all of that had just been destroyed? It would have been a catastrophe".

"This story opens up the Second World War in a way that gives you a different perspective on it", says Cate Blanchett, who plays a key role as Claire Simone, a woman who holds the key to the secret location of thousands of priceless pieces of stolen art. "These men were spurred on by a higher ideal. So many of the works that we take for granted in the great museums of the world were returned by this band of men - it was a near impossible task. Absurd, in a way: non military men going to the front lines and asking generals to stop bombing a certain church or area to save a window, or a sculpture or mural - you wonder how they were able to save anything at all. It's an extraordinary, selfless thing that they did, done to preserve history".

Though the Monuments Men had the support of FDR and General Eisenhower, they did face a challenge in embedding themselves in the field. "Eisenhower was very keen on the idea - he wanted to make sure that there was something left when the war was over - and the war was going to be over very soon", says Clooney. "It was something he came to, after Allied bombing destroyed an ancient abbey that really didn't need to be destroyed. So it was important not just to protect the art from the Nazis, but from the Allies' own exploits as they pushed toward the end of the war. The Allies were blowing everything up, so they had this realisation that culture can be destroyed - not just by the Germans, but by us".

Edsel says that many museum directors in the US had concerns about the art and cultural treasures that could be lost in the war, but that they were working at cross purposes - each director with his own plan - rather than in concert. "George Stout - who would later become the unofficial leader of the Monuments Men - made some efforts, but he gave up on it - he figured no one was going to approve the idea of a bunch of middle aged art historians, architects and artists running around with combat soldiers". But then Roosevelt approved the idea - and not a moment too soon. "In August 1943, the Allies nearly destroyed The Last Supper inadvertently", Edsel continues. "I think that set off the alarm bells and accelerated getting the monuments officers into the field".

Edsel says that one might expect that soldiers fighting a war would not be receptive to being told what they could and could not blow up - but it's just the opposite. "Much to their surprise - and we found this in their letters home, over and over again - there was only mild resistance at the beginning and that quickly gave way to soldiers asking, 'How are we doing? Have we saved any churches? Have we found any paintings?' The military started getting pretty engaged".

The Monuments Men were also working against a ticking clock. As the Allies closed in on Berlin, Hitler was unwilling to accept unconditional surrender - and if he couldn't have Germany, no one else would either. "It became known as the 'Nero Decree,' Clooney explains. "Hitler said, 'If I die, destroy everything' - bridges, railroad tracks, communications equipment - and that was taken to mean the art, too. Everything".

Clooney and Heslov note that while the film is based on the true story of the Monuments Men, they did take some liberties with the characters for dramatic purposes. Though many of the characters are inspired by real Monuments Men, Clooney and Heslov have invented characters for the film. "For the film, we wanted some of the characters to be flawed - we felt it would help the audience empathize with them as we tell the story", Clooney explains. "But it's not really fair to take a great man's real name and then give him a flaw he didn't have in real life". Heslov adds: "I think our characters end up looking pretty heroic in the film and if our movie inspires people do their own reading and find out that the real men were even more heroic, I'm okay with that".

More importantly, even if the characters are invented, their story is real. "We invented a few mundane scenes, just to help the story along, but the things in the movie that you'd think are so ridiculous and strange, 'well, there's no way that those actually happened' - those are the things that actually happened", says Clooney.

For the film, Clooney and Heslov were able to attract a top tier of actors, including Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett.

One might think it would be difficult to balance so many different huge stars in a single film - but Clooney says that it's just the opposite. "All of these guys are usually in movies where they have to carry the whole movie, but they're all so comfortable with their own personas that they don't need to own all the scenes they're in", he says. "There was a huge generosity of spirit in all the actors - they were willing to come and play, because they were all enjoying each other's company".

"This ensemble is just off the charts", says Matt Damon. "Every day, I came to work with different, fun people who I really admire and whose work I follow carefully. I said to George early on, 'I'm just going to smell the roses, because this is as good as it gets.' When you're doing something with a director that you have complete faith in, with a great script and a top-notch cast, it just doesn't feel like working".

George Clooney heads the cast in the role of Frank Stokes, a leading art historian. "He's working at The Fogg Museum - Harvard's oldest art museum - working in art restoration when the story begins", Clooney explains. "He's already been to war - World War I - and has seen what can happen, especially as wars end. He's a natural leader".

What's it like for Clooney to direct himself in a lead role? "It's one of the things you learn in acting class - director-proof is what we call it. I don't pay attention to a single note I give myself", Clooney jokes.

The inspiration for Clooney's character was art historian George Stout. "In real life, he was a very scrappy guy. He could do anything - like fix cars and radios". The head of the conservation department at the Fogg and later the director of the Worcester Art Museum and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Stout was on the front lines during the war, helping to rescue cultural treasures in Caen, Maastricht and Aachen, as well as Nazi art repositories in Siegen, Heilbronn, Cologne, Merkers and Altaussee.

Matt Damon (James Granger) marks his sixth collaboration with George Clooney, but his first major role with Clooney in the director's seat (Damon had a small part in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind).

"I literally knew nothing about this story, which is why I was so surprised to find out it was real", Damon says. "It's a terrific story. Ultimately, this is a movie about people who are willing to sacrifice everything to save what is the very best of us, of humanity. To go after that art and try to rescue it, to save it, to protect it and preserve it... Art is the soul of society, it represents the very best things that we have achieved. To destroy that is to obliterate something irreplaceable. I think for Hitler, it wasn't just about taking art - he was taking the soul of European society, their culture".

The James Granger character is inspired by James Rorimer, who later became director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Granger's relationship with Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett) was inspired by Rorimer's interaction with Rose Valland, an employee of the Jeu de Paume gallery in Paris.

In the film, the character of Claire Simone holds the key to the location of many thousands of pieces of looted art - and that location is a piece of information she guards closely. "She's thinking, 'Why should I tell you where the art is? You'll just take it,'" says Damon. "To her, it's all about protecting the art. Granger has to earn her trust - he has to convince her that by keeping it a secret, she's not protecting the art, she's actually endangering it. By the end of it, she realizes that they are kindred spirits".

Damon was also gratified by the chance to work more closely with Clooney as a director. "George cuts in the camera, which very few directors do", Damon explains. "You're not shooting and shooting and shooting to cover scenes - he's already made the decision on how he's going to edit the scene, so he only shoots the necessary pieces. That helps keep everyone focused - any time the camera is rolling, there's a high probability that the shot is going to be in the final movie".

Bill Murray was excited to join The Monuments Men from the minute George Clooney first told him about the project. "It was about two years before we started shooting - and I went, 'Oh God, that sounds so good. I'd really love to be in that movie,'" Murray says. "I really liked the story, chasing down stolen art in World War II. It has everything. It's an action movie, but it's also about good guys on the hunt in the name of something beautiful and wonderful. I just thought it'd be great".

Just getting Murray onto the project was an adventure in itself. "We knew Bill could knock this out of the park, but he can be a very hard man to track down", says Heslov. "George had the special number that you have to call - you leave a message and wait... but Bill called right back and just said, 'Where and when do you need me?'"

In officially offering Murray the part, Clooney told Murray that he'd be teamed up for most of the film with Bob Balaban. "George put us together and said to me, 'Do you think you can give Balaban a hard time?' I thought for just a second and said, 'Yeah, I think I can do that,'" Murray remembers. "Bob is a great stooge, a great straight man - it was great working with him. We were like Mutt and Jeff - it was just fun to be with him".

Murray and Balaban had worked together a number of films - in Cradle Will Rock, Moonrise Kingdom and the upcoming Grand Budapest Hotel - but never so closely as in The Monuments Men. "We wanted two people who were opposites, who would just irritate each other - without overdoing it", says Clooney. "Bill's so good at playing that guy who finds a scab and keeps picking at it - he's so good opposite Bob".

"Obviously, Bill brings humour, but even stronger is the emotional component", Heslov says. "Also, he's bigger than a lot of the other guys - especially Bob Balaban - so he's physically intimidating. When he smiles, he's the dangerous guy in the room".

Murray's role, Richard Campbell, is an architect. "He's recruited for the Monuments Men because a lot of what they're going to do - saving and reconstructing - involves figuring out how to preserve buildings and monuments", Murray explains. "Sometimes they'll have to prevent the destruction and sometimes they'll have to figure out how to save something that's been damaged. They need a broad group of artistic types, including fellas who are able to work in a third dimension in real, practical, physical reality".

Murray notes that it's easy to go to the Louvre or the Met and take it for granted that their most prized masterpieces are still part of the collection. The film captures a period when that was in doubt. "This movie shows us how a world of art wouldn't be here today if not for these men", he says. "You wouldn't be able to see it in churches or museums - it would be gone. Lives ended too soon, but the art lives on. The people fought for it in the same way they fought for freedom. The people who fought to save this art have allowed the art to live on, not just in museums, but in the minds and spirits of people who appreciate it".

Murray's character is inspired by several real Monuments Men, including architect Robert Posey. While embedded with Patton's Third Army during the war, Posey discovered the salt mine at Altaussee, where the Nazis had stashed the Ghent Altarpiece, the Bruges Madonna, Vermeer's The Astronomer and thousands of other works of art. For his contributions, Posey was awarded the Legion of Honour from France and the Order of Leopold from Belgium.

John Goodman says that his character, Walter Garfield, represents the people, men and women, who were stuck on the home front but eager to help the war effort in any way they could. "My character is way over the hill as far as combat goes, but he's doing what he can", says Goodman. "He leaps at the chance to get over there and help. It's something that he does for passion and for love, to try to protect what he could".

For Goodman himself, the chance to join the film was a dream come true. "I always wanted to do a World War II movie and a buddy movie and a mystery - and for my role, this has all of those elements rolled into one", he says. "I get to put on a World War II uniform and helmet and carry a gun? Neat-o! This movie is everything I wanted to do since I was five".

For the buddy movie aspect, The Monuments Men re-teams Goodman with his co-star from The Artist, Jean Dujardin. "Jean is an incredible talent", Goodman says. "He's extremely funny, he's a great-looking guy, he's very agile - he's sharp and easy to work with. And since I worked with him in The Artist, he's learned to speak English, which is great because I'm still too lazy to learn French. Now we can communicate".

The film is also a re-teaming of Goodman with Clooney and Heslov. "John and I worked together on the first season of 'Roseanne,' and then on O Brother and Argo - we've been in the same circles for years", says Clooney. "The only question I had was whether he was up for such a big, physical movie - he has a bad knee. He said he'd be fine and he was more than fine. He did what he always does - he makes every movie he's in better".

"I think what we're doing is honouring the incredible struggles that my father's generation endured, first through the Depression and then a war", says Goodman. "They did the right thing and they did it for the right reason; they did it constantly and they did it well. In this film, in a small way, I'm trying to honor the previous generation".

Goodman's character is inspired by the real-life Monuments Man Walker Hancock, a renowned sculptor. Hancock was a native of St. Louis, as is Goodman. "Oddly enough, when my mother and I would take the bus to downtown St. Louis to go shopping, we'd pass one of his sculptures, the Soldiers' Memorial", Goodman says. "It just put me in touch with the character. It's a small connection, but a happy coincidence".

"These men and women lived their life for art", Goodman concludes. "They were artists and art caretakers who were willing to risk all for the art they loved. I would like to think a lot of us would be willing to risk our lives to protect history and protect a culture - in this case Western culture but all cultures. It is the best of us. It defines us on a certain level".

Goodman's character, Walter Garfield, is paired with Jean Claude Clermont, portrayed by Oscar®-winning actor Jean Dujardin, a re-teaming of Goodman and Dujardin from The Artist.

"They don't talk much to each other, Garfield and Clermont", Dujardin says. "They don't need to talk to each other. They have a mission to accomplish. But, we have some very funny scenes together and thanks to George Clooney's talent as director, he manages to put some irony in scenes and very intense scenes as well".

"Jean Claude Clermont is a French Jew who is an art dealer in Marseilles", Dujardin explains. "He escapes and takes refuge in London with his family. He is recruited by the American army for his artistic knowledge. He's not a soldier, but it's really important for him to take part in the war. He's really proud to be a member of the Monuments Men".

"Jean won the Academy Award® in the same year that I was up for The Descendants", Clooney notes. "I just wanted to get him in this movie and kill him. Actually, I suggested killing him in the very first scene, but Grant thought we should wait a while, so I waited.... Actually, Jean is one of my favourite people that I've ever worked with. I wish we spoke each other's language better, because it would be even more fun to be around him - he is deeply funny and so talented. Even with the language barrier, he loses nothing in personality. He's charming, sort of a rogue".

"He's the French George Clooney", says Heslov.

"George really trusts his actors", says Dujardin. "He's not a director who tells you what to do; he just gives you some ideas. He's very flexible and everybody really wants to give him their best. He'll come slowly towards you and say, 'I may be wrong, but maybe you could try one like this,' or 'Why don't we try to say it in a French way?'"

Still, Dujardin says that it was the chance to do things in the American way that was especially attracted him to the project. "I got to do a different kind of acting - the French way of acting is often a bit more private, while the American way is very exciting, very playful. I was always criticized in France for being too expressive, so it's very freeing, very liberating for me".

"Downton Abbey's" Hugh Bonneville plays Donald Jeffries, a flawed man seeking a second chance. "When the characters are introduced, you see them in their natural habitats, so to speak", Bonneville explains. "Donald's happens to be a pub. We come to learn that he has made mistakes in life, has been unreliable and George's character gives him a second chance to re-embrace his first love, which is art".

"Jeffries is a flawed man", Bonneville continues. "As the story progresses, he comes to terms with the errors he's made, moved by the art he loves. When he finally finds the Bruges Madonna he takes a moment to write a letter home, to his father, reflecting on his own life and its shortcomings. It's the stunning work of Michelangelo right there in front of him that inspires him to seek absolution from his father for the mistakes he's made - especially the mistake of looking for answers at the bottom of a bottle".

"From the minute that we started thinking that Hugh would be good for the role, we immediately started writing the part for him - it really focused us, especially as we were writing the scene with the letter", says Clooney. "The funny thing is, we were on a set - the set where we first introduce the character - and there was a quiet room upstairs. We found him a microphone and he read the letter - we knew it would be in voice-over. He just nailed it, first take. And that's the piece we used in the final film - we didn't re-do it, we didn't loop it again. It's just so good - he's extraordinarily talented".

Bonneville is an award-winning actor, an alumnus of the Royal National Theatre and has appeared on stage and in films with big stars several times; however, he admits to being slightly star-struck by the cast in The Monuments Men.

"I didn't sleep the night before my first day of shooting", Bonneville says. "The call sheet read, 'George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bob Balaban, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, Dimitri (Leonidas) and me.' I was awestruck on that first day. But like all actors - and these are particularly fine actors - they speak a similar acting language; you soon share a working shorthand. They're wonderful characters, both on and of screen. It was a privilege. I kept pinching myself".

Bob Balaban takes on the role of Preston Savitz. "Savitz is an intellectual, an art historian and a theatrical impresario", Balaban says.

Heslov does not mince words: "He's a dandy", he says. "This is not a guy who you would expect to find in a war. All of the guys are fish out of water, but Bob's character is a whale out of water. It's that juxtaposition against Bill's character that I think is so funny".

"George is very focused. Very prepared. And very calm. He knows what he wants and he's a great communicator", says Balaban. "He maintains his sense of humour under pressure. He pays attention to detail. He has great taste and he makes it a pleasure to come to work in the morning. What more could you want in a director?

Clooney and Heslov had both known Balaban socially and were just beginning to consider actors for The Monuments Men when their paths crossed. "We had just finished the screenplay for The Monuments Men and we were at an event to support Argo and Bob was there", says Heslov. "That night, we were talking about it and we thought he'd be great for Savitz. We called him up and he was in".

Preston Savitz is inspired by Monuments Man Lincoln Kirstein, an American impresario, art connoisseur, author and a major cultural figure in New York who co-founded the New York City Ballet.

The screenplay drew Balaban into the history. He gained a greater perspective from Robert Edsel's book and he drew inspiration and insight from another book given to him by Edsel - a book of poetry written by Kirstein. "It was written while Kirstein was overseas". Balaban says. "He was clearly overwhelmed and unprepared for his war experience. His book reminded me that while the Monuments Men were often too old and in many ways unqualified for the enormous task ahead of them, each of the guys was deeply honoured to be there and utterly committed to their mission".

Teamed in the film with Bill Murray's Richard Campbell, their relationship mirrors the one between Kirstein and Captain Robert Posey, who were assigned to Patton's Third Army during their search for the Ghent Altarpiece.

"This is the third time I've worked with Bill", says Bob, "And this time our characters were practically joined at the hip. Bill taught me everything I know about Thai cooking. And my putting improved dramatically just being around him. Preston Savitz and Richard Campbell didn't exactly get along. But we did. If I had to be tied to anybody for five months, I'm glad it was him".

The final Monuments Man in the film is Sam Epstein, played by Dimitri Leonidas. Not yet 19, Epstein is the only real soldier in the group, recruited for his ability to drive and to speak German.

"My character grew up in Germany - but Germany rejected him, because he's Jewish", Leonidas says. "When we meet Sam, he is a private in the Army and is basically lost in the system. They don't know what to do with him. They know he could be useful in some way, because of his German background, but he falls through the cracks. Frank Stokes is the one who sees his true value - as a driver and with his ability to understand German, he's handy to have around".

The inspiration for Leonidas's character is Harry Ettlinger. "I was born in Germany under the Jewish faith", says Ettlinger. "Hitler was on his way to get rid of all Jews in all the world. My father lost his business and my parents realized that economic life for a Jew was no longer possible in Germany".

So, in September 1938, Ettlinger's Bar Mitzvah was moved up from January - and the next day, the family left for America. "Actually, the rabbi suggested that we leave that same afternoon - even though you're not supposed to travel on the Sabbath", Ettlinger remembers. "But my father said, 'The war isn't going to start this afternoon' - and we left the next day".

After coming to America, Ettlinger enlisted at 18 - as all young men did at that time. On his 19th birthday, he was pulled out of a transport on its way to the front lines to fight the Battle of the Bulge and three months later, joined the Monuments Men.

Working in the mines, Ettlinger came into contact with numerous pieces of priceless art. "Jim Rorimer found a painting by Grunewald, the Stuppach Madonna - that was the item most precious to everybody - but on a personal basis, I saw a Rembrandt self-portrait that belonged to the museum in Karlsruhe, my home town. That painting was the museum's pride and joy - and actually, my grandfather had a print of that painting. It is hanging in my living room"..

In fact, Ettlinger's family had an extensive collection of ex libris prints that they had lost when coming to America. "During my stay in Germany, I took a Sunday drive to Baden Baden, the resort town, in a Jeep driven by a Holocaust survivor named Ike. I hadn't told my sergeant, so technically, I was AWOL. That's where I found the warehouse with my grandfather's collection", says Ettlinger. "We had a bit of a celebration - and that night, we ended up in the top suite in the best hotel in town. Here we were, a Holocaust survivor and an AWOL buck private, sleeping in a bed meant for the Kaiser of Germany. I'm very proud of that".

Cate Blanchett rounds out the cast as Claire Simone, a Frenchwoman in a unique position in Occupied France. "Claire Simone is a curator at the Jeu de Paume - once an art museum but became a kind of depot for art looted by the Nazis", Blanchett explains. "But her real work goes on at night, when she records the provenance of the works and where they were being taken in an obsessively detailed way. She's the catalyst for the third act of the movie - the Monuments Men know the works are disappearing but they don't know where they are going and they need her information".

Blanchett says that there was truly something different about the ways the Nazis went about looting art. "In every war, there's looting. What was shocking to me was the mathematical, calculated and systematic way the Nazis went about their looting and the fact that their acquisition of works began as early as 1938".

The other element that made the Nazi looting different was the so-called Nero Decree. "When Hitler realized he was going to lose the war, he ordered that everything the Nazis had amassed was going to be destroyed. He was going to leave nothing in the hands of the victors", Blanchett explains. "In relation to the art, what the Nero Decree meant was that everything that they had stolen was to be destroyed".

"Matt's character, Granger, must win her trust", Blanchett continues. "There was an understandable fear on the part of the French that, if the works were recovered by the Allies from the Nazis, they'd simply go to collections or collectors in Russia and the United States. From that standpoint, did it really matter whether it was stolen by the Germans, the Russians or the Americans?"

Ultimately, Granger and Simone forge an unusual bond, Blanchett says. "I think the love story that exists between them is a mutual love of art, of culture". Blanchett says. "They are both gripped - passionately gripped - by the importance of saving this work for all time. They believe that no single person can ever truly own a masterpiece. It's for everyone. So, I think they're united in the nobility of the cause".

Blanchett's character is inspired by Rose Valland, a French woman who bravely and secretly kept track of the Nazis' systematic tracking, risking her life in the process. "Rose Valland was, at first, a volunteer and then overseer at the Jeu de Paume, which adjoins the Louvre. During the war, it was a depot for looted Jewish art collections and other objects. Hermann Göring basically used the Jeu de Paume as a shopping mall - the Nazis set it up like an exhibition space for the pilfered art", Blanchett explains. "Her work single-handedly saved crate-loads, castle-loads full of works of art that otherwise could have easily been destroyed. The fact that she was working alone was an act of extraordinary bravery. I think she was able to achieve what she did because she didn't stand out - she was the woman least likely".

The Monuments Men was primarily shot on location in Germany, with a few weeks in England.

Behind the scenes, Clooney and Heslov reassembled a team of department heads who have collaborated on several of their films, including director of photography Phedon Papamichael, ASC (who filmed The Descendants and The Ides of March), production designer Jim Bissell (who marks his fourth film with Clooney as director), editor Stephen Mirrione, A.C.E. (who has eleven collaborations with Clooney, including all five of Clooney's feature films as a director) and costume designer Louise Frogley (who has collaborated with Clooney on eight films in total, including his most recent four films as a director).

"The whole crew - the editor, the production designer, the first A.D., the cinematographer, the sound guy, the wardrobe - they're all the same people picture after picture, because we trust them and love working with them. It makes it fun to go to work. It feels like family", Clooney says.

Bissell admits that he was surprised by the new project's scope and ambition when he first read the script for The Monuments Men, even though he was expecting a break from the small-scale approach of The Ides of March. "I thought, 'That's a lot of sets' - I broke it down and it was 146 sets. It shattered George's own personal record of 110 sets on Confessions of a Dangerous Mind".

"I don't think most people realize the extent to which a production designer contributes to the making of a film", says Heslov. "They're the first ones in, they find the locations and they're the ones that make the locations look right for the scene..."

"...and then, invariably, you have to improvise - say, you get bad weather. You can't waste the day, so you think, 'Well, I could shoot this other scene...' Jim says, 'OK, give me an hour' - and he makes it work", says Clooney. "I wouldn't make a movie without Jim Bissell".

Over the course of many pictures, Bissell has developed an economical and easy way of working with Clooney. "I talk to George about a shot - what elements are important compositional factors in a scene. Once I've talked with him, I can usually go out and either design the set or find the location that is good for what we need. Then, I'll go back and consult with him and he'll make a commitment at that point - before the shooting company is there. He really likes to be prepared and he doesn't like to waste", Bissell explains.

An Oscar® nominee for his design work on Good Night and Good Luck, Bissell knows that seamless production design allows the audience to focus more fully on the essence of story and character. "The most important thing always was to create an atmosphere, an impression of what it was like for the Monuments Men and what the dramatic settings were like where the story actually takes place. If I did my job right, nobody knows or notices what I did", he says.

For The Monuments Men, three core locations were selected for filming: southern and south-eastern England in the United Kingdom; the city of Berlin and the area in and around Babelsberg, Germany - including the 100-year-old Babelsberg Studios and the adjacent countryside in Potsdam - and the Harz Mountains, the highest mountain range in northern Germany.

However, there were dozens of sub-locations within those countries which had to double for a variety of spots on the globe - including Washington D.C., New York City, Chicago, Paris, Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Italy - while representing a plethora of specific settings: churches, cathedrals, museums, castles, salt mines, hospitals, airfields, a military training base and field headquarters, country roads, offices and living quarters.

Shooting on location helped the actors, says Dujardin. "Imagine being in a place with 300 extras, Jeeps, tanks and an intense story. We acted in Germany, in England. We shot in every kind of weather: snow, rain, wind, sun. Of course, it inspires you a lot", he says. "I remember one scene with John Goodman. We're in the jeep and I'm wounded, lying in John's arms. Behind us, it's drizzling and incredibly foggy. I believe it does add to the picture and all the emotion".

"It was really challenging to make Germany work for France and Belgium and to a certain extent, to make the U.K. work for Germany", Bissell says. "Fortunately, Gothic cathedrals have a scale and style that sort of transcends national identities. So, we were able to be a bit more generic in the way we approached them".

For example, Bissell redesigned the interior of the Cathedral of St. Stephen and Sixtus in Halberstadt, the capital of the Harz district. Under Bissell's supervision, The Halberstadt Cathedral was made to double as the St. Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, the rightful home for the Van Eycks' Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (aka The Ghent Altarpiece).

Geological processes have produced numerous caves in the Harz Mountains, many of which were mined for their mineral deposits. Bissell and crew transformed these into the mines for the film, principally those in Merkers, Germany and Altaussee, Austria, two monumental hiding places for Nazi plunder.

"The Harz Mountain area has the exteriors of all of our mines in the film", Bissell says. "We found some great old period mines. Some of them were derelicts; others were abandoned but picturesque enough that we could fix them up and make them work for us".

One of the biggest challenges for Bissell was in conveying the enormity of the caches of stolen art and artifacts. "Reading about the scale of the Nazis' thievery, the sheer volume is mind-boggling", Bissell says. "It's very important that our audience understands what our Monuments Men found - even they were surprised at the extent, the scale of the theft. We needed that dramatic impact. You have to look at this - when they first start discovering these mines where the stolen art has been stored - and feel what they felt. It's awe, disbelief - before you begin to feel the elation from finding these treasures".

Though some filming was done in real mines, most of the tunnels were built on sound stages at Babelsberg Studios. "That's a lot of stuff to shift around - paintings, crates, sculptures - and in order to get the scale you have to have large rooms that are accessible by one or two tunnels, fifteen hundred feet underground", Bissell says. "That's not where you want to send a shooting company. So, we made the decision very early on to make a large mine set that was modular in a way where we could shoot it from different angles and it could be different art caches. We built those sets at Babelsberg Studios. They were large, but they had to be large".

In addition to these sets, effective masterpiece doubles were also key to the production. Over a thousand art works had to be authentically replicated, even if only a corner of the great painting, sculpture or tapestry would show on screen.

The production had a number of means of sourcing art. There are many rental houses - primarily in England - that have collections of oil paintings for rent. "They're not masterpieces, but they're quite nice, mostly portraits", says Helen Jarvis, the film's Supervising Art Director, who sourced many of the necessary artworks. Many sculptures could be acquired the same way, by renting reproductions that had been made over the years.

Another means was obtaining high-resolution digital files and printing the paintings. "Many of these paintings are quite complex and printing has become so sophisticated; it was clearly the way to go", says Jarvis.

Two of these pieces, however, were artistic co-stars in the film: the Bruges Madonna and the Ghent Altarpiece. They would be getting quite a bit of screen time and required special attention.

For the Bruges Madonna, the filmmakers took several tacks. "We knew we were going to need two reproductions - one for our 'hero shots,' as beautiful as we could get and another that would be moved around, wrapped in blankets - used more as a prop", Jarvis remembers.

In Italy, the film's set decorator, Bernhard Henrich, found a yard full of statuary that had once belonged to Cinecittà, the famous Italian film studio. "Amazingly enough, they had a Bruges Madonna, made of fiberglass", says Jarvis. "We knew we were going to be renting several works from them, so we had that one sent ahead so we could see how good it was - and it was very, very good".

The filmmakers also hired a sculptor out of Berlin to carve a new reproduction out of high density foam. "We went to Bruges and took some high-resolution images - and we purchased even better images in the gift shop! Also, in the Town Hall in Bruges, there happens to be a 100-year-old plaster cast of the Madonna sitting in a hallway. From that reproduction, we were able to get some very good side photos of the Madonna. Then, our very accomplished sculptor carved for two or three weeks".

The filmmakers then compared three life-sized photos side-by-side: the real Madonna, the fiberglass Italian reproduction and the foam sculpture. "The Italian fiberglass one won", says Jarvis. "It was closer to the original. The foam Madonna became our backup".

The other key piece was the Ghent Altarpiece. "For the Ghent Altarpiece, we obtained the rights to a very high resolution digital file printed", Bissell says.

"We went through test after test", says Jarvis. "We printed the panel of the Madonna in the green velvet dress on several different kinds of material before we found that a more modern technique - a vinyl-coated printing technique - was what worked best. Then we handed it off to our scenic painter, who put a paint finish over the top of it - an acrylic that had wax in it - that gave it a great look of having been painted. And then, our carpenter created all of the wooden framing and we built an elaborate stone altarpiece for it to sit on".

The filmmakers also recreated The Burghers of Calais, the large Rodin sculpture. "We found a company in New York that made two-foot-high replicas of the statue", says Jarvis. "You might not think those would be useful, but they were great because we could rotate them can see every nuance of the drapery. Again, we carved those out of dense foam, but the bronze texture was much more forgiving than the marble".

Louise Frogley, the costume designer, says that her challenge was similar to Bissell's - one of logistics and scope. "There were so many big scenes involving uniformed and civilian people in different stages of deterioration", Frogley remembers. "There were large quantities of people involved and large amounts of costume and we had to do pre-fits while filming was still going on. Plus, we would be shipping stuff ahead while we were filming. Plus, we had to clothe people in one location while we were pre-fitting people in another. We had to find watches for every main actor, multiples for them. We had to do glasses, coated and uncoated. And sunglasses, coated and uncoated. For people with reading glasses, we had to do coated and uncoated, plus blank, coated and uncoated. It went on and on and on. We were driven mad with all of these details, but we did it".

Despite the number of past World War II films, military uniforms were not so easy to come by. "Many of the original uniforms have been sold, destroyed or are in bad condition", Frogley says. "This stuff doesn't last long if it's not looked after. There's original stuff still in existence, but the sizes are almost always too small. We had some wonderful, original Nazi jackets, but in sizes like 36-chest - and no trousers".

Frogley, along with costume supervisor John C. Casey and military costume supervisor Joe Hobbs, had the added task of outfitting actors who represented several different armies: American, German, British, French and Belgian. "And, of course, mid-way through the war, the uniforms changed", Frogley adds.

To pull it off, Frogley explains, it turned into a true international effort. "The uniforms came from all over the place", Frogley explains. "We had stuff made in Poland. We had the fabric made in Pakistan. We bought stuff from dealers in Holland. We had boots from Mexico".

But although the Monuments Men spend most of the movie in uniform, it was important to design costumes in the early scenes that reflected their civilian lives. "We were very much trying to reflect who they were first as civilians because they weren't the normal military types", Frogley says. "That way we would show what difference being in the military must have made. Stokes (George Clooney) is an intellectual, so he's smartly dressed, appropriately but not outstanding. Granger (Matt Damon) is slightly more arty; we first see him in nice period overalls over more casual clothes before he dresses up a bit to meet with Stokes. Campbell (Bill Murray) is an architect, so we see him in a suit, on site of a building project. Garfield (John Goodman) is a sculptor, so we meet in him a sculpting smock and cap; in uniform, he's still a bit of a mess, because that fits the character. Savitz (Bob Balaban) works in the world of dance; we dressed him a little more flamboyantly".

Once they've joined the military, each man becomes part of a unit, working toward the same goal. "Of course, the actors still bring individuality to their characters and they can use the way they wear their uniforms to reflect that - a shirt tucked into a waist just so, a collar askew, little things that show different traits. These guys are all pretty smart actors. They're going to use every last thing they can, anything to enhance the character".

"Louise Frogley is a brilliant designer", says Cate Blanchett. "I always find her wardrobe fittings really informative and creative. Together, you kick images and ideas around. Louise always approaches recognizable periods in unexpected yet true ways.

For centuries, conquering armies have treated the art of their vanquished as spoils of war. But the world was not prepared for the pillage of the Nazis, who stole millions of art treasures as they marched through Europe.

Adolf Hitler was a great art lover. A frustrated artist who had twice been rejected by the prestigious Vienna School of Fine Arts, Hitler dreamed of transforming his adopted home town of Linz, Austria, into a super city. The centerpiece of this dream metropolis was to be the Fuhrermuseum, which would house and display practically all of the world's finest art: paintings, sculptures, tapestries... anything that Hitler deemed worthy of his collection. Hitler's second in command, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, was Hitler's main procurer in the acquisition of Europe's art, while also stealing a significant number of great works for himself.

The sheer volume of stolen pieces is staggering: more than five million of Europe's greatest cultural treasures were looted by the Nazis. The stolen items included tens of thousands of works by the Masters, a veritable Who's Who of classic art: Michelangelo, DaVinci, Rembrandt, Van Eyck, Vermeer and many more. Just one repository for the artwork - the salt mine at Altausee, Austria - included 6,577 paintings, 230 drawings or watercolours, 137 sculptures, 122 tapestries and 1200-1700 cases of rare books.

As word spread to the United States about the Nazi art thievery and the destruction of churches, museums and monuments by both sides in the War, leaders in the American art community organized to save the western world's cultural history. They took their case to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and, with FDR's backing, formed the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Europe. From that commission sprang the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) group, which would form the brigade that would protect the remaining historical monuments, recover the looted art and restore those treasures to their country of origin.

At the time of Germany's surrender, there were only about a dozen Monuments Men in the field in northern Europe, including:

  • Lieutenant George Stout, a leader in the field of art restoration who first conceived the idea of the Monuments Men. Stout was the acknowledged leader of the group (military rank did not necessarily reflect the practical hierarchy within the MFFA)
  • Second Lieutenant James J. Rorimer, a future director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the man most responsible for the Met's famous Cloisters
  • Captain Walker Hancock, one of America's most renowned sculptors
  • Captain Robert Posey, a well-known architect who served as MFAA advisor to Patton's Third Army
  • Private Lincoln Kirstein, future founder of the New York City Ballet
  • Private Harry Ettlinger, a German-born Jew and at age 18, by far youngest of the group. Ettlinger came to America with his parents shortly after the Nazi takeover of his homeland. Although Ettlinger did not move in the same artistic circles as the others, he proved invaluable as driver and translator.

The Monuments Men also found a valuable ally in Paris, in the person of Rose Valland, an art historian, member of the French Resistance and, at the time of the Nazi occupation, the overseer at the Jeu de Paume Museum. The Germans used the museum as their central storage and sorting depot for up to 20,000 works of art. Valland surreptitiously kept records of each piece that came through the museum. For four years, she managed to keep secret the fact that she spoke German while tracking the destinations of the artworks and, at great personal risk, informing the French Underground which railroad shipments contained priceless works of art.

Valland is one of most decorated women in French history.

In March 1945, with the Allied troops fast approaching, Hitler issued his infamous "Demolitions on Reich Territory Decree" (nicknamed the "Nero Decree"), which ordered the destruction of German infrastructure to prevent their use by Allied forces - and was widely interpreted to extend to the massive collection of stolen art.

While the Monuments Men were responsible for the rescue and preservation of millions of European art treasures, two pieces in particular took on special significance: the Bruges Madonna and the Ghent Altarpiece.

The Bruges Madonna - Michelangelo's fourth treatment of the Madonna and Child theme represents a major departure from his earlier work. The Madonna does not cradle the Christ Child in her arms or on her lap. Instead, the Child has slid down between her knees, as if to take his first independent step. The worried gaze of his mother seems to indicate an awareness of his fate.

Around 1506, the Mouscron brothers, wealthy Flemish cloth merchants, brought the fifty-inch, free-standing marble statue to Belgium, where it was placed on the altar of their family chapel in the church of Notre-Dame in Bruges. Since then, the Bruges Madonna has been Belgium's most famous resident. The sculpture was removed from Bruges by retreating Nazis in September 1944 and was found and returned by the Monuments Men.

The Ghent Altarpiece - The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb or Lamb of God, an early Flemish polyptych panel painting, is one of the world's most spectacular and revered artworks. It is commonly called The Ghent Altarpiece due to its home in St. Bavo's Cathedral in the Belgian city of Ghent. It is believed the work had been started by Hubert Van Eyck around 1415 and taken over by his younger and more prolific brother, Jan, upon Hubert's death in 1426. Jan completed the work in 1432. Art historians generally agree that Jan did the lion's share of the painting. The magnificent 12-panel altarpiece is a complicated production, comprised of eight hinged shutters, painted on both sides, which presents two distinct views, depending on whether they are opened or closed.

The Ghent Altarpiece is also reputed to be one of the most frequently stolen pieces of artwork:

  • 1566: The altarpiece is dismantled and hidden to protect its burning as a Catholic icon by Calvinists
  • 1784 to 1860: Two panels, depicting the nude figures of Adam and Eve, mysteriously disappear
  • I794: The four panels depicting The Adoration are taken to Paris by the French Army
  • 1816/17: Six shutters are purchased by William of Prussia
  • 1914-1918: The altarpiece is divided among three cities, Brussels, Berlin and Ghent
  • In 1914: Germans steal the Adam and Eve panels
  • 1919: A clause in the Treaty of Versailles - at the insistence of world art critics - demands the return of all panels to their original site in Ghent. The clause was not enforced until 1923
  • 1935: The Righteous Judges and Saint John the Baptist panels are stolen, followed by a ransom demand. The Saint John panel is returned as a "show of good faith" but no ransom is paid. The Judges panel is never recovered. (Belgian restorer Jan van der Veken repainted the missing panel after World War II.)

George Clooney (Frank Stokes / Director / Producer / Co-writer) has been recognized with Oscar® nominations and numerous other honours for his work as an actor, writer, director ,and producer and is equally recognized for his global humanitarian efforts.

Clooney will next star alongside Hugh Laurie and Britt Robertson in Disney's sci-fi adventure Tomorrowland, directed by Brad Bird. The film, written by Bird, Jeff Jensen and Damon Lindelof, will be released later this year.

He most recently starred opposite Sandra Bullock in the worldwide hit film Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuarón. In addition, with his producing partner at Smokehouse, Grant Heslov, he produced the highly anticipated feature film August: Osage County. With Heslov and director/producer Ben Affleck, Clooney won the Oscar® for Best Picture for the thriller Argo. The film also won Best Picture awards from BAFTA, the Golden Globes and the Producers Guild of America (PGA).

In 2012, he received an Oscar® nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on the political drama The Ides of March, which he also directed, produced and starred in. He also received Golden Globe nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay, as well as nominations from both the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award.

Previously, Clooney's highly acclaimed film Good Night and Good Luck, which he also co-wrote with Grant Heslov, garnered a series of accolades. He earned Academy Award®, Golden Globe, BAFTA Award and Critics' Choice Award nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay; nominations from both the Directors Guild of America Award (DGA) and a Writers Guild of America (WGA); an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Director; and a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award® nomination for Best Ensemble, shared with the cast. He also received the Freedom Award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association for the film.

His directorial debut, the 2002 film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind won the Special Achievement in Film Award from the National Board of Review.

George Clooney and Grant Heslov inaugurated Smokehouse Pictures with the 2008 release of Leatherheads, which Clooney directed and starred in. Under their Smokehouse banner, Clooney also starred in and produced 2009's The Men Who Stare at Goats, marking Heslov's film directorial debut.

Clooney was previously partnered with Steven Soderbergh in the production company Section Eight, which produced the Ocean's trilogy, directed by Soderbergh and starring Clooney as part of an all-star ensemble cast. Other Section Eight films include Michael Clayton, Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck, The Informant!, The Good German, Insomnia, Far From Heaven, The Jacket, Full Frontal and Welcome to Collinwood. For Section Eight's television division, Clooney executive produced and directed five episodes of Unscripted, a reality-based show that debuted on HBO in 2005. He was also an executive producer on HBO's K Street.

Clooney has been equally honoured for his acting performances. He won an Oscar® for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Syriana; in addition, he won a Golden Globe Award and earned BAFTA Award, SAG Award® and Critics' Choice Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor. Clooney has also been honoured with three additional Oscar® nominations for Best Actor, for his roles in Michael Clayton, Up in the Air and The Descendants. His performance in The Descendants also earned him a Golden Globe and several critics groups' awards, as well as BAFTA Award and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award® nominations for Best Actor.

His other film acting credits include the Coen brothers' films Burn After Reading, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, for which Clooney won his first Golden Globe Award and Intolerable Cruelty; Soderbergh's Solaris and Out of Sight; The Perfect Storm, The Peacemaker, Batman & Robin, One Fine Day and From Dusk Till Dawn. He also lent his voice to the title character in Wes Anderson's Oscar®-nominated animated feature Fantastic Mr. Fox.

On the small screen, Clooney has starred in several television projects but is best known for his five years on ER. His portrayal of Dr. Doug Ross on the hit NBC drama series earned him Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award® nominations. Additionally, in 2000, he was an executive producer and star of the Golden Globe-winning live television broadcast of Fail Safe, based on the 1962 novel of the same name. He is also an executive producer on the Smokehouse series Memphis Beat.

More recently, Clooney was nominated for an Emmy for his producing work on the 2010 telethon "Hope for Haiti Now", which raised more than $66 million, setting a new record for donations made by the public through a disaster-relief telethon.

The son of an anchorman, Clooney is a strong First Amendment advocate with a deep commitment to humanitarian causes. In 2006, Clooney and his father, Nick, went to drought-stricken Darfur, Africa to film the documentary Journey to Darfur. Clooney's work on behalf of Darfur relief led to his addressing the United Nations Security Council. He also narrated the Darfur documentary Sand and Sorrow.

In 2007, Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Jerry Weintraub co-founded Not On Our Watch, an organization whose mission is to focus global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities in Darfur.

Among the many honours received as a result of his humanitarian efforts in Darfur was the 2007 Peace Summit Award, given at the eighth World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates at their annual meeting in Rome. Also taking part in the ceremony were Rome's Mayor, Walter Veltroni, Lech Walesa, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Dalai Lama. In 2008, Clooney was designated a U.N. Messenger of Peace, one of eight individuals chosen to advocate on behalf of the U.N. and its peacekeeping efforts.

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded Clooney the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 2010 Primetime Emmys. He was the fourth recipient of this prestigious award. Later that year, Clooney received the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award for his dedication to humanitarian efforts in Sudan and Haiti.

In December of 2010, Clooney, along with the United Nations, Harvard University and Google, launched "The Satellite Sentinel Project", an effort to monitor violence and human-rights violations between Southern and Northern Sudan. Not on Our Watch funded new monitoring technology, which allows private satellites to take photographs of any potential threats to civilians, detect bombs, observe the movement of troops and note any other evidence of possible mass violence.

Matt Damon (James Granger) most recently starred in the sci-fi hit Elysium, directed by Neill Blomkamp and in his seventh film for Steven Soderbergh, Behind the Candelabra, produced by HBO and released theatrically worldwide following its network television premiere. For his performance in Behind the Candelabra, Damon was honoured with Emmy, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nominations. Damon previously worked with Soderbergh on The Informant!, Contagion, Che, Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen.

Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas as Liberace, was nominated for the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival and won 11 Emmys in its U.S. television release. Damon's other television accolades include three Primetime Emmy Award nominations for executive producing the three seasons of the documentary series "Project Greenlight".

Damon received Academy Award®, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award nominations for his role in Clint Eastwood's 2009 historical drama, Invictus. Previously, for his work on the film Good Will Hunting, he was honoured with Academy Award® and Golden Globe award nominations for his performance and an Oscar® for co-writing the original screenplay. He also received Golden Globe nominations for his starring roles in Soderbergh's The Informant! and Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Damon starred as Jason Bourne in the thrillers The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. He also starred opposite an all-star cast in Stephen Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen.

Damon's credits also include Promised Land, which he co-wrote and produced in 2012; We Bought a Zoo; Margaret; The Adjustment Bureau; True Grit; Hereafter; Green Zone; The Good Shepherd; The Departed; Syriana; The Brothers Grimm; Stuck on You; Gerry; All the Pretty Horses; The Legend of Bagger Vance; Dogma; Rounders; Saving Private Ryan; The Rainmaker, Chasing Amy; Courage Under Fire; Geronimo: An American Legend and School Ties.

Bill Murray (Richard Campbell) most recently starred as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson, for which he earned a Golden Globe nomination as Best Actor. Last year, he also reunited with director Wes Anderson on Moonrise Kingdom. He has acted in all of Anderson's previous features, including The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited and Fantastic Mr. Fox (in voiceover). His starring role in Anderson's 1998 comedy, Rushmore, brought him the New York Film Critics Circle, National Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics Association and Independent Spirit Awards for Best Supporting Actor. He will also be starring in Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel alongside Ralph Fiennes in March of this year.

Born in Chicago, he began his acting career there with the improvisational troupe "Second City". He joined the cast of NBC's Saturday Night Live in the show's second season and shortly thereafter won an Emmy Award as one of the show's writers. He later authored the book Cinderella Story: My Life in Golf.

After making his screen debut in Ivan Reitman's Meatballs, Murray re-teamed with the director on Stripes and the Ghostbusters movies. His film credits also include Harold Ramis' Caddyshack and Groundhog Day; Art Linson's Where the Buffalo Roam; Sydney Pollack's Tootsie; John Byrum's The Razor's Edge; Richard Donner's Scrooged; Frank Oz's What About Bob?; John McNaughton's Mad Dog and Glory and Wild Things; Tim Burton's Ed Wood; Peter and Bobby Farrelly's Kingpin; Jon Amiel's The Man Who Knew Too Little; Tim Robbins' Cradle Will Rock; Michael Almereyda's Hamlet; Gil Kenan's City of Ember; Aaron Schneider's Get Low, for which he received Spirit and Satellite Award nominations; Mitch Glazer's Passion Play; and Roman Coppola's A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III.

For his performance in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, Murray received the Golden Globe, BAFTA, Independent Spirit and New York, Los Angeles and Chicago film critics' Awards, among others, for Best Actor. He also was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award®.

He starred for Jim Jarmusch in the "Delirium" segment of Coffee and Cigarettes; in Broken Flowers, for which he was nominated for a Satellite Award for Best Actor; and in The Limits of Control.

John Goodman's (Walter Garfield) recent film projects include Ben Affleck's drama Argo, which won the 2013 Academy Award® for Best Picture, Robert Zemeckis' thriller Flight; and Clint Eastwood's sports drama Trouble with the Curve. Goodman won the 2013 National Board of Review Spotlight Award for his composite work in Argo, Flight and Trouble with the Curve.

Among his 2013 releases were the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, which premiered to rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival and the Disney/Pixar animated feature Monsters University. Goodman's other recent film credits include the Weinstein Co.'s Academy Award®-winning black-and-white silent feature The Artist and Warner Bros.' Oscar® nominated drama Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, directed by Stephen Daldry.

His recent TV credits include DirecTV's Damages and NBC's Community. Among Goodman's many accolades for his work on television are a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and seven Emmy nominations for his role in Roseanne. He also earned Emmy nominations for his starring roles in TNT's Kingfish: A Story of Huey P. Long and in the CBS production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. In 2007, Goodman won his second Emmy, for Outstanding Guest Actor, on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

HBO's biopic of Jack Kevorkian, You Don't Know Jack, reunited Goodman with Al Pacino (Sea of Love) and Susan Sarandon (Speed Racer). The film also brought him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie and a SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries.

Previous film credits include In The Electric Mist, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Bee Movie, Pope Joan, Alabama Moon, Gigantic, Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School, Beyond the Sea, Masked and Anonymous, Storytelling, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Coyote Ugly, What Planet Are You From?, One Night at McCool's, Bringing Out the Dead, Fallen, The Borrowers, Blues Brothers 2000, The Runner, The Flintstones, Mother Night, Arachnophobia, Always, Pie in the Sky, Born Yesterday, Matinee, The Babe, King Ralph, Punchline, Everybody's All-American, Sea of Love, Stella, Eddie Macon's Run, C.H.U.D., Revenge of the Nerds, Maria's Lovers, Sweet Dreams, True Stories, The Big Easy, Burglar, The Wrong Guys, Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski. Goodman earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the Coen Brothers film Barton Fink.

He has lent his voice to many animated films, including Monsters, Inc., The Emperor's New Groove, Tales of the Rat Fink and The Jungle Book II. He also voiced a main character in NBC's animated series Father of the Pride.

Goodman went to Southwest Missouri State intending to play football, but an injury led him to switch his major to drama. He never returned to football and graduated with a degree in Theatre.

Goodman starred on Broadway in Waiting for Godot, for which he received rave reviews as Pozzo. His other stage credits include many dinner theatre and children's theatre productions, as well as several off-Broadway plays. His regional theatre credits include Henry IV, Parts I and II, Antony and Cleopatra, As You Like It and A Christmas Carol. He performed in a road production of The Robber Bridegroom and starred in two Broadway shows, Loose Ends in 1979 and Big River in 1985. In 2001, he starred in the NY Shakespeare Festival Central Park staging of The Seagull, directed by Mike Nichols. The following year he appeared on Broadway in the Public Theatre's Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.

Jean Dujardin (Jean Claude Clermont) garnered international acclaim for his performance as George Valentin in The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius' tribute to Hollywood's silent era that went on to win five Academy Awards® in 2012, including Best Picture and a Best Actor nod for the French star. That same year, Dujardin was also awarded a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy or Musical, a BAFTA award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Independent Spirit Award, amongst other prizes. The amazing journey of The Artist started at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2011, where, following the film's premiere, Dujardin received a Best Actor trophy from the hands of jury president Robert De Niro.

Jean Dujardin began his career in the early 1990s doing stand-up with his comedy troupe Nous C Nous, who eventually got their own special on French national television. In 1999, he got his big beak, starring in the hit sitcom Un gars, une fille with Alexandra Lamy. The show lasted for five seasons and averaged seven million viewers per episode, a phenomenal success that allowed Dujardin to transition to the big screen. After supporting roles in Mariages! and Le Convoyeur (2004), he got his first leading role in Brice de Nice, based on a character Dujardin had created on stage. The film became the most successful French movie of that year. Dujardin had another hit the following year with the spy comedy OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, which spawned a sequel in 2009, OSS 117: Lost in Rio. Both were directed by Michel Hazanavicius, who teamed up again with Dujardin in 2011 for The Artist.

After winning the Oscar®, Dujardin made his American debut in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, playing Swiss banker Jean-Jacques Saurel opposite Leonardo DiCaprio.

Dujardin is currently shooting the thriller La French, which reunites him with Gilles Lellouche, with whom he wrote, produced, starred in and co-directed a segment of the anthology film Les Infidèles in 2012. This Christmas, Dujardin will also produce and appear in a second edition of his Saturday Night Live-inspired TV sketch comedy show Le Débarquement.

Additional credits include 99 francs (2007), Ca$h (2008), Lucky Luke (2009), The Clink of Ice (2010), Little White Lies (2010), Un balcon sur la mer (2010) and Möbius (2013).

Bob Balaban (Preston Savitz) most recently co-starred in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom and with Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening in the comedy Girl Most Likely. He will next appear in Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel and in John Turturro's Fading Gigolo.

Balaban was an Academy Award® and Golden Globe Award nominee as producer of Robert Altman's Best Picture contender Gosford Park, which brought Altman the Golden Globe Award for Best Director and Julian Fellowes the Academy Award® for Best Original Screenplay, based on an idea by Altman and Balaban. He also shared the Screen Actors Guild Award's top prize for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture. He and his fellow producers won BAFTA's Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film.

He directed the telefilm Georgia O'Keeffe, starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons, which was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and nine Emmy Awards. The movie brought Balaban his second Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special. The first came for Bernard and Doris, which he also produced. That movie, starring Susan Sarandon and Ralph Fiennes, received 10 Emmy Award nominations overall, as well as three Golden Globe Award nominations. Balaban also earned Directors Guild of America Award nominations and a Producer's Guild Award nomination.

Balaban produced, directed and co-wrote The Last Good Time, starring Armin Mueller-Stahl and Olivia d'Abo for Samuel Goldwyn and directed the cult classic Parents, starring Randy Quaid, Sandy Dennis and Mary Beth Hurt.

In 2002, Balaban produced and directed the hit Off-Broadway play The Exonerated starring Richard Dreyfuss and Jill Clayburgh, which won the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award and the New York Times "Play of the Year". He produced and directed the show's touring version with Robin Williams, Stockard Channing and Mia Farrow among many others. And the television version, which starred Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Aidan Quinn, Delroy Lindo and Brian Dennehy.

He has appeared in nearly a hundred movies, including such classics as John Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy, Mike Nichols' Catch-22, Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Sidney Pollack's Absence of Malice, Gore Verbinski's The Mexican and Bennett Miller's Capote. He has starred in his friend Christopher Guest's films Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration. His many other credits as an actor include Woody Allen's Alice and Deconstructing Harry; Tim Robbins' Bob Roberts and Cradle Will Rock; Ken Russell's Altered States and Sidney Lumet's Prince of the City. He wrote a book about his experiences on Close Encounters, titled Spielberg, Truffaut and Me: An Actor's Diary.

Balaban has starred on Broadway in such shows as Plaza Suite, Speed-the-Plow and The Inspector General, for which he was a Tony Award nominee. He has starred off-Broadway in a number of plays including the original production of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel and Marie and Bruce.

He wrote a best-selling series of children's books called "McGrowl" for Scholastic and is currently in the middle of a new series called "The Creature from the Seventh Grade" for Viking/Penguin. A Chicago native, his roots are in the entertainment world. His uncle was a long-time president of Paramount Pictures and his grandfather headed production at MGM for many years.

Hugh Bonneville (Donald Jeffries) was a member of the National Youth Theatre, studied Theology at Cambridge and made his professional debut at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, in 1986, bashing a cymbal in A Midsummer Night's Dream and understudying Ralph Fiennes as Lysander. He then spent several seasons with the National Theatre, where he appeared in School For Wives, Yerma, Entertaining Strangers and Juno and the Paycock; he also played Charles Surface in The School for Scandal and the title role in The Devil's Disciple. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1991, appearing in Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Alchemist, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, The Virtuso and Amphibians. He also played Laertes to Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. His work at the RSC brought him a nomination for The Ian Charleson Award. Other theatre includes Habeas Corpus at the Donmar, directed by Sam Mendes and seasons at Colchester, Leicester Haymarket and Chichester. He also appeared in My Night with Reg (Criterion & Playhouse), Us and Them (Hampstead) and Cloaca (Old Vic, directed by Kevin Spacey).

In recent years Bonneville has become a familiar face to television audiences, with leading roles in The Cazalets, Take a Girl Like You, Armadillo, Daniel Deronda and The Commander. He appeared in the Emmy award-winning The Gathering Storm and played the poet Philip Larkin in Love Again. Other credits range from comedies like The Robinsons, The Vicar of Dibley, Freezing, Rev, Getting On and Mr Stink to dramas such as Diary of a Nobody, Tsunami: The Aftermath, Miss Austen Regrets, Five Days, Hunter, The Silence and Doctor Who.

Twenty Twelve won a British Comedy Award (2011) and a BAFTA (2013) for Best Situation Comedy, with Bonneville being nominated two years running as Best Comedy Actor. The show also won Best Comedy at both the South Bank Sky Arts and the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards. Mr Stink, in which Bonneville played the eponymous tramp, was nominated for a BAFTA as Best Comedy in 2013.

Downton Abbey has won two BAFTAs, nine Emmys, a Golden Globe, a SAG award for Best Ensemble Cast as well as Broadcast and 2 National Television Awards. Hugh has received nominations for a Golden Globe and 2 Emmys for his performance as Robert, Earl of Grantham. In 2013, the cast won Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the first non-US show to do so.

Bonneville made his feature film debut in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in 1994, directed by Kenneth Branagh. He has since appeared in more than a dozen films, including Notting Hill, Mansfield Park, Stage Beauty, Asylum, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Man to Man, From Time to Time, Glorious 39, Burke & Hare, Third Star and Shanghai. In 2002 Bonneville won the New Talent Award at the Berlin Film Festival and a BAFTA Best Supporting Actor nomination for his portrayal of the young John Bayley in Iris; in 2008, he won Best Actor at the Monte Carlo Film Festival for his performance in French Film. Filming has recently completed on a big screen remake of Paddington Bear, the classic BBC children's series and much loved Michael Bond books, with producer David Heyman (Harry Potter) and director Paul King.

In the mid 90's, Bonneville co-produced Beautiful Thing at the Duke of York's Theatre and wrote Half Time with Christopher Luscombe, which he also directed. With BBC Films, Bonneville has been developing his first feature as a producer from a screenplay by Aschlin Ditta (Scenes of a Sexual Nature, French Film, The Catherine Tate Show), based on Me: The Authorised Biography, the autobiography of journalist Byron Rogers. Filming is scheduled for September 2014.

Cate Blanchett (Claire Simone) served as the co-Artistic Director and co-CEO of Sydney Theatre Company, alongside Andrew Upton from 2008-2013. She is a graduate of the Australian National Institute of Dramatic Art and holds Honorary Doctorates of Letters from the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney.

Blanchett won an Academy Award® for her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator, for which she also won BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards and received a Golden Globe nomination. In 2008, Blanchett was nominated for two Oscars®: for Best Actress for her performance in Elizabeth: The Golden Age and for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, making her only the fifth actor in Academy history to be nominated in both acting categories in the same year. Additionally, she received dual SAG and BAFTA Award nominations, for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively, for Elizabeth: The Golden Age and I'm Not There. For the latter, she also won a Golden Globe Award, an Independent Spirit Award, several critics groups' awards and the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the 2007 Venice Film Festival.

She earned her first Oscar® nomination and won BAFTA, Golden Globe and London Film Critics Circle Awards for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth. She also received Oscar®, Golden Globe and SAG Award® nominations for her performance in Notes on a Scandal. Additionally, Blanchett has earned Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress for the title role in Joel Schumacher's Veronica Guerin and her work in Barry Levinson's Bandits and, earlier, another BAFTA Award nomination for her performance in Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Blanchett most recently starred in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine and is reprising her role as Galadriel in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy. Blanchett originated the role of Galadriel in Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This year, Blanchett will also star in Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups with Natalie Portman and Christian Bale and will voice the character Valka in the upcoming animated film How to Train Your Dragon 2.

Blanchett's many other film credits include Joe Wright's Hanna; Ridley Scott's Robin Hood; David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Steven Spielberg's blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; Steven Soderbergh's The Good German; Babel; and Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Among her other film credits are Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes, which earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination; Ron Howard's The Missing; Gillian Armstrong's Charlotte Gray; Lasse Hallström's The Shipping News; Rowan Woods' Little Fish; Mike Newell's Pushing Tin; Oliver Parker's An Ideal Husband; Sam Raimi's The Gift; Sally Potter's The Man Who Cried; Bruce Beresford's Paradise Road; the romantic comedy Thank God He Met Lizzie, for which she won both the Australian Film Institute (AFI) and the Sydney Film Critics Awards for Best Supporting Actress; and Gillian Armstrong's Oscar and Lucinda opposite Ralph Fiennes, for which she also earned an AFI nomination for Best Actress.

Blanchett has worked extensively on the stage in Australia and abroad. For the past five years, she has been the co-Artistic Director and co-CEO of Sydney Theatre Company (STC), alongside Andrew Upton. During this time, Blanchett performed Richard II in the celebrated STC production of The Wars of The Roses; Blanche Du Bois in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Liv Ullmann, which traveled to much critical acclaim from Sydney to Washington D.C. and New York (she received the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actress in a non-resident production for this role and her performance was considered the 'Performance of the Year' by The New York Times); Yelena in Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, in a version adapted by Andrew Upton as part of STC's 2010 Main Stage season, which was also staged in Washington, DC and at New York City's Lincoln Center Festival in June 2012 (and for which she also won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actress); and Lotte in Botto Strauss' Gross und Klein, which toured extensively throughout Europe in 2012 following a 2011 Sydney season and was part of the London Cultural Olympiad. Her performance in Gross und Klein received much critical acclaim and won her the Helpmann Award for Best Actress and a nomination for Best Actress in the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. In the summer of 2013, Blanchett co-starred with Isabelle Huppert in the Sydney Theatre Company's adaptation of Jean Genet's 1947 play, The Maids, directed by Benedict Andrews and adapted by Andrew Upton.

Blanchett has been awarded the Centenary Medal for Service to Australian Society through Acting and in 2007 she was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People. She has also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2008, Blanchett co-chaired the creative stream of the Prime Minister of Australia's National 2020 Summit. She is a patron of the Sydney Film Festival and an ambassador for the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Film Institute.

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