Press Conference Interview With The Cast And Director Of The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men walking outside

George, you seem to direct a movie every three years. What attracts you to directing and how different of a director are you now?

George Clooney: Well, George Clooney has learned to speak about himself in the third person (laughs). The timing for directing is that it usually takes that long to develop a piece and to go through pre-production and post-production. I prefer directing as opposed to doing other things. Directing and writing seems to be infinitely more creative. As far as how I’ve changed, what you try to do is learn from people that you’ve worked with. I’ve worked with the Coen Brothers and (Steven) Soderbergh and Alexander Payne. I’ve worked with really great directors over the years and you just try to see what they are doing and then try to steal it, that’s the theory. You go, “Oh I like that, I’m going to do it that way.” You succeeded some and you fail some and you keep slugging away at it. I really enjoy it. It’s fun. I like it more than acting now. It’s tricky directing yourself obviously, but it’s a lot of fun.

Matt Damon: Well, since you refer to yourself in the third person.

George Clooney: Yeah. I say, “George you were very good” (laughs). So anyways, I do enjoy directing. I don’t know whether it’s improving or not, but it’s certainly evolving in different directions.

Cate, would you say that you still go into roles having self-doubt?

Cate Blanchett: Yes, projects like this don’t come along that often, especially not with ensembles like this. For me, the power of the story is that it shines a light and a perspective on what we previously thought were very well known facts. There is a shot in the film where they find the barrel full of wedding rings and gold fillings and we all have seen those horrendous pictures, and the power of cinema is that it draws on that collective history. I feel the film harnesses our understanding of the Second World War, but yet it opens the door to a very particular and noble and quirky bunch of guys and girls who really changed where we are now and what we understand our contemporary culture to be.

Can you tell us a bit about the casting process?

George Clooney: Casting was fun. We couldn’t get Brad (Pitt) so we got Matt (laughs).

Matt Damon: That’s okay. I got to work with Cate Blanchett.

George Clooney: It was really fun. Grant and I sat down and were writing it, we hadn’t thought of Bob (Balaban) then we went to an Argo party and we saw Bob, and we had this part and we knew we wanted Bill in it and we kept thinking who are we going to put opposite of Bill, who Bill can give a really hard time to. Then we were at this party with Bob and we looked over and I said, “Oh it’s perfect.” So we called Bob up the next day. The rest of the gang we wrote it with them in mind, so that helps a little bit when you’re writing.

Bob Balaban: So now I have to go to all parties. I can’t stay home now.

How was it working with these actors who had to portray Nazis?

George Clooney: I do feel bad for the actors. For about 75 years these actors, German actors, had to play Nazis. You bring them in to read and you just say, “Yeah I know I’m sorry but I do need you to be sort of really mean.” Then they would say, “Maybe my character joined the Nazis because…” and I would say, “No, no he’s a bad Nazi. You’re going to just have to be bad.”

Cate Blanchett: It did feel right to shoot in Germany with the film dealing about what is culture and would you die for it. It is a country ever since the Second World War that had to ask itself massive moral questions, and it has reinforced its identity based on culture. The amount of artists living and working in Berlin is unparalleled. It’s one of the strongest economies globally and it’s because its understanding of its importance of culture, and it felt fantastic working there.