In our exclusive video featurette, George Clooney, Matt Damon and the other cast members of ‘The Monuments Men’ introduce the amazing true story of the seven soldiers tasked with saving European culture at the end of World War 2.
Set in spring 1945, the film sees Nazi Germany on the verge of defeat and hemmed in by Allied forces on both sides.
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As Clooney, who directs, produces and stars explains: “The Nazis are on the run, but they’re taking everything with them. Six million pieces (of art) were stolen and the Germans would’ve blown up a lot of it.”
“Part of this film is Hitler’s ‘Nero Decree’,” adds Damon, “which said that if anything happened to him, everything that was stolen would be destroyed.”
Issued on March 19, 1945 and officially titled "Demolitions on Reich Territory Decree”, the law was nicknamed after the mad Roman emperor who famously “fiddled while Rome burned”.
It proclaimed: "The enemy will leave us nothing but scorched earth when he withdraws, without paying the slightest regard to the population” and tasked retreating Nazis with destroying anything useful or valuable to stop it falling into enemy hands.
To counter this was the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, better known as the Monuments Men - a group of artists, scholars, and historians recruited by the military to find and protect the countless works of invaluable art taken by the Nazis. The dangerous job involved heading into enemy territory.
Matt Damon said of these men: “These guys risked their lives to rescue our shared history and culture… to go after that art and try and save it was this incredibly noble endeavour.”
Damon, Clooney plus Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin and Hugh Bonneville round out the cast of ‘The Monuments men’, which is released in the UK on February 14 2014.