George Clooney Struggles With Tone of ‘Monuments Men': ‘It’s Been a Bit of a Dance’ (Exclusive)

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The actor-director reveals to TheWrap the challenge of his new movie, just pushed to 2014

George Clooney‘s decision to push the release of his Nazi art caper, “The Monuments Men”  to 2014 comes as he was struggling with the tone of the movie, according to a conversation the actor-director recently had with TheWrap.

In an exclusive interview with TheWrap, Clooney said that he’d been grappling with balancing the movie’s comic elements with the serious subject matter of World War II and the Nazis’ theft of Europe’s most valuable art.

Also read: George Clooney’s ‘Monuments Men’ Pushed to 2014

“It’s been a bit of a dance,” he said in the interview earlier this month. “We’re trying to do the movie in the vein of war films, but you don’t want it to sound like ‘The Great Escape.’ Those movies that were done in the ’50s and ’60s, they all had their own sort of life. You don’t want to do a replica, you have to do a new version. “

He added:  “We’re testing it – we put some laughs in there, that’s important to me, but it’s a serious subject matter.”

“How much is too much? The tone is lighter, then they get in trouble. ‘Gone With the Wind’ works in that way.”

With a hard deadline in mid-November to submit the finished cut, it seems that Clooney and producing partner Grant Heslov ran out of time. They called distributors Sony and Fox this week and the studios agreed to push the movie to 2014. Clooney told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that the reason was because visual effects work could not be completed in time.

But an individual close to the movie said that the hard-to-nail tone was more the issue than the visual effects. “The movie isn’t ready. It’s not where it needs to be,” said the insider.

Also read: George Clooney on Oscar Whisper Campaigns, Writing a ‘Gravity’ Scene and Spielberg’s Reaction to the Movie (Exclusive)

The movie’s cast reflects the split nature of the project, including the deadpan Bill Murray, John Goodman and French comedian Jean Dujardin along with Oscar winners Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett.

They play members of a real-life World War II platoon who are tasked with rescuing art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their owners, in the middle of the war.

The two trailers released so far to the film struck some viewers as being widely divergent in tone, with the first signaling an “Ocean’s 11” caper-style action movie backed by a swinging sound-track, and the second far more serious in tone reminding viewers that the soldiers were saving art “for a culture. For a way of life.”

Also read: George Clooney, Matt Damon Save History in First ‘Monuments Men’ Trailer (Video)

Clooney has built a career playing serio-comic, slightly offbeat characters, from Miles in the Coen brothers’ “Intolerable Cruelty” to Harry Pfarrar in “Burn After Reading” to Matt King in “The Descendants” to Lyn Cassady in “The Men Who Stare at Goats.”

And he is a fan of directors who tread the line between drama and comedy, including Steven Soderbergh, David O. Russell, Joel and Ethan Coen and Alexander Payne.

Clooney spoke to TheWrap from the sound stage where he was scoring the movie with Alexandre Desplat before heading to London to record the score with a live orchestra.

“If we get the tone right it will be a really fun film,” he told TheWrap. “We don’t have to do jokes. When you have Bill Murray and Bob Balaban in the frame together – it’s just fun. “