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

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

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. ”



  • Daniel Sterling SAmple

    I wish Mr Clooney the best with MONUMENTS MEN. He may have already created a cinematic masterpiece or a piece of something else. I love much of his casting, but he may be struggling with having an overload of actors who specialize in….how can I put this…. tongue-in-cheek exposition. I have trouble picturing the great Bill Murray in this film. Ultimately, everything must go back to the script, and hopefully it will all come together. I keep hearing the music from THE GREAT ESCAPE pounding in the back of my head. One would think that big music is the order of the day, perhaps even saving the day. Don't get cheap on the music, George.That extra row of violins is not going to bankrupt the budget. Bon Chance, George….
    Daniel Sterling Sample
    P.S. I hope the film teaches a little about great art. I think a film should entertain AND be an instrument for learning, don't you think?

  • Tone check?

    Holy crap, I totally called this yesterday on the Wrap's story that this was pushed to 2014. You can totally tell from the totally different trailers that they have know idea how to sell this or what the tone is.

    Clooney fan here hoping he can make it work!

  • Vino

    This shld not be WW2 “comedy” + Beyoncé. Get real music.

  • hupto

    1) “French comedian” Jean Dujardin is also an Oscar winner. How quickly they forget.

    2) If George is looking for inspiration to find the right balance between comedy and drama, he could hardly do better than Robert Aldrich's masterful “The Dirty Dozen.”

    • Jane

      I would go with Robert Alman's M*A*S*H. But Clooney had said it was ready to go a couple of weeks ago during Gravity promotion, so, what happened in just a matter of a few weeks?

      • hupto

        Not really. M*A*S*H is really a medical comedy with a wartime setting. It doesn't meet the traditional standards of a war film: no battles, no interaction with the enemy, no tanks, grenades, guns, etc. As for Clooney, he probably did think at the time it would be ready and subsequently realized otherwise.

  • Holy crap Batman

    Holy Crap. Deadline just debunked this entire story with a quote from George Clooney explaining how his earlier quote is taken out of context.


    • BUttman's crap

      Holy Crap! That's just Clooney doing damage control and Deadline slurping his dick.

      • Holy crap Batman

        Nope, this is just poor reporting. Read this article:

        “In an exclusive interview with TheWrap,”

        –Waxman's trying to make it sound like she interviewed Clooney since the date move was announced yesterday.

        ““It’s been a bit of a dance,” he said in the interview earlier this month.”

        –So you have an exclusive today, from an interview a month ago.

        “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.”

        So who is this insider? And did Sharon call George to verify what this insider said or to get a quote? According to the Deadline article, she did not.

        Shoddy reporting, but I expect nothing less from the Wrap and Sharon groveling in the footsteps of Nikki and Fleming!

        No, I don't work for Deadline, I'm just a reader who hates false stories just to drive traffic to their site.

        • BUttman's crap

          So let me get this straight? You think sources from inside that say negative things are going to reveal their names? Maybe she made up the source. Or maybe it's a real source. That's for each reader to decide. But reporters use ‘insiders’ all the time. Just like people who claim to be in the know post anonymously on both blogs all the time.

          The preview for the flick looks boring as hell. Very preachy and TV movie-like. I have little doubt that there's a tone problem.

          • Robin

            I read this string and tend to agree with Holy Crap Batman. It's not that she only has an unnamed insider to back up her story, it's that she didn't call Clooney AFTER that for a quote to get his side of the story, hence good journalism. What if this insider has a beef against Clooney, or the studio?

            If she wanted to do this story, she should have been objective and gotten both sides.

            Clooney, and other celebs, should never talk to The Wrap again, for fear something they say will be twisted and taken out of context months later, without the Wrap following up.

          • Bcrap

            Waxman: So George, there's this insider who says there's a tonal problem with your movie.

            Clooney: Who is this idiot? Name him.

            Waxman: Good-bye.

          • Jack Mehoff

            This is complete damage control……from Christmas to February? Oscars and school holidays……to February? If it was really that good they would drop it in May. Someone lost faith in this film and it's not the visual effects or music.

          • jack

            “Clooney, and other celebs, should never talk to The Wrap again”

            YOU sound like someone with a beef.

        • TheWrap

          the interview with george was on october 9. and the lead of the story tells you that it was a recent conversation and not today. stop with the invective or go back to commenting elsewhere. sw.

  • Don Hall bearcreekresearch

    I saw an entertaining (difficult to nail considering the subject matter – disconcerting “cool” conversation determining millions of concentration camp method of disposal Nazi's) picture. The movie theme is not difficult to actually learn about – nefarious politics, marketing of Hitler's vision – however so blitzkrieg fast, quiet and methodical, plus the financially troubling (Hello IBM, Coke, I.G.Farben, FORD, every major New York Wall Street Bank – Warburg brothers, etc.) Pan this movie? Easy – for the truth haters, the easily mystified and lazy bums. The truth hurts. Geo.Clooney made a great movie. Get over it.