George Clooney’s new directorial project is based on Robert M Edsel’s The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. It is an account of government efforts to retrieve artworks stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The Monuments Men were “a group of 345 or so men and women from thirteen nations who comprised the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section during World War II. Many were museum directors, curators, art historians, and educators. Together they worked to protect monuments and other cultural treasures from the destruction of World War II. In the last year of the war they tracked, located, and ultimately returned more than 5 million artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis. Their role in preserving cultural treasures was without precedent.”
There is a parallel between Clooney’s interest in the subject matter and that of Edsel, a former nationally ranked tennis player who began his business career in oil and gas exploration. In time, Edsel developed a great interest in art and became curious about the fate of the great of works of art that survived the Great War. Edsel dedicated more than a decade to researching stories of the Monuments Men and Women. He also bought rights and co-producer an important documentary film, The Rape of Europa, based on the award winning book of the same name by scholar Lynn Nicholas.
Commenting on his plans for the story, Clooney said “If we’re going to do a commercial film… Let’s do something that seems fun and actually has something to say.”