February 16, 2014
More coverage of the comments made by some of the stars of the film Monuments Men, on the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.
George Clooney hits back at claims he does not understand Britain’s right to Elgin Marbles
Star responds to criticism at press conference to promote his latest film ‘The Monuments Men’
Tuesday 11 February 2014
George Clooney has hit back at suggestions that he does not understand Britain’s right to the Elgin Marbles because he is an American, as the row between Hollywood and Westminster escalated with Matt Damon and Bill Murray also weighing in.
On Saturday at a press conference in Berlin to promote his new film The Monuments Men, Clooney said he thought the marble sculptures taken from the Parthenon in Athens by the Earl of Elgin in the 19th century should be returned to Greece after a question from a Greek journalist.
That prompted John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, to tell The Independent on Sunday that Clooney might not know about the UK’s “legal entitlement” to the priceless artefacts partly because “he’s an American”.
On Tuesday, at a press conference in London, Clooney hit back.
“Apparently I got in trouble for saying that [the Marbles should be returned] and I had to do a little research to make sure I wasn’t completely out of my mind,” he said.
But he then somewhat undermined his case by mispronouncing the name of the Parthenon.
“Even in England the polling is in favour of returning the marbles from the Pantheon,” Clooney said, before calling them the “Pantheon Marbles” again.
On the subject of whether he was not fully versed on the subject because he was American, he said sarcastically, “that’s probably right”.
Mr Whittingdale’s suggestion was dismissed by co-star Damon. “That can’t always be the British default position. I mean seriously, it’s not actually an argument to say we are Americans, we don’t get it,” he said.
And Murray, who is also in the film, said the Marbles had had “a very nice stay here, certainly”.
“There’s plenty of room back there in Greece,” he said, urging the UK to let “art go back where it came from”.
Murray said if the Marbles were reunited in Athens he felt sure that Greece would “loan it back every once in a while”.
Clooney was asked if he planned to go to the British Museum, where the sculptures are kept, but said they had to head to France to “insult the Parisians” with “something about the Mona Lisa and Italy”.
Britain should return Elgin Marbles to Greece, says Monuments Men star George Clooney
Published: 11 February 2014
Updated: 11:52, 12 February 2014
Louise Jury, Chief Arts Correspondent
Hollywood pin-up George Clooney, who stars in the new film The Monuments Men, which deals with the issue of stolen art works, stood by his view that Britain should return the Elgin Marbles to Greece at a press conference at the National Gallery today.
Clooney said that in his opinion the UK should follow the example of the Vatican and the US’s Getty Museum by giving back the relics.
The American actor accepted that people may take the view that as an outsider, he did not know enough about the situation, but he said he thought it was “probably a good idea” for them to be returned.
Clooney was recently asked by a Greek journalist if he thought the 2,500-year-old sculptures – taken from the Parthenon in the early 19th century by the Earl of Elgin and now housed at the British Museum – should be returned to Athens.
Speaking at the National Gallery today, he said: “I stepped into one the other day, I was at a press conference and somebody brought it up. So I did a little research to make sure I wasn’t completely out of my mind, and even in England the polling is in favour of returning the marbles.
“The Vatican returned parts of it, the Getty [Museum] returned parts of it. It is a question in that case of breaking up one piece of art, and whether that piece of art can be as best as possible put back together. So it’s an argument to say, maybe that’s one of those instances.”
Clooney – the writer, director and star of the new film about a special troupe of soldiers on a mission to recover and return art stolen by the Nazis from Europe in the Second World War – went on: “There’s certain pieces that you look at and think that actually would probably be the right thing to do.
“I know someone yesterday said, ‘He’s an American and he doesn’t understand’. Well he’s probably right.
“But I do think its worth having an open discussion about. I said it’s probably a good idea if they found their way back.”
His co-star Bill Murray agreed, joking that the marbles had had a “nice stay” in London.
“It seems like it’s a problem all over the world,” he said. “Who wins this art and where did it come from and do they have the right to get it back. It’s had a very nice stay here, certainly, but London’s gotten crowded and there’s plenty of room back there in Greece.
“England could take the lead on this kind of thing – letting art go back where it came from. And then if they were all together, the Greeks are nothing but generous, they’d loan it back once in a while like people do with art, right?”
The Monuments Men, which also stars John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett, is based on the true story of the team of art experts who entered the war with the objective of saving Europe’s greatest art and buildings.
But Clooney and his fellow screenwriter Grant Heslov admitted they had taken a little poetic licence with the story, and they chose to change the name of The Monuments Men involved in the film.
Clooney said: “We wanted to change the names because we wanted to be able to tell a story. We weren’t doing a documentary, we didn’t want to give any of these real men flaws that would be upsetting to their families. We wanted our ability to be able to tell a story without offending anyone.”
Read Derek Malcolm’s review of The Monuments Men here.
The Monuments Men opens in cinemas on Friday.
George Clooney and Bill Murray tell Britain: hand back the Elgin Marbles
Bill Murray says the Elgin Marbles have had ‘a very nice stay’ in Britain but it’s time to send them home to Greece
George Clooney and Bill Murray, stars of The Monuments Men, have waded into the long-running row over the Elgin Marbles by saying Britain should hand the treasures back to Greece.
The classical sculptures were taken from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century. They were acquired by parliament in 1816 and currently reside in the British Museum.
David Cameron has opposed calls for their return, but some of Hollywood’s big names have urged him to reconsider.
Clooney and Murray offered their opinions at a London press conference for their new film, The Monuments Men, in which they play members of an Allied team tasked with retrieving artworks looted by the Nazis.
Asked about the Elgin Marbles, Murray said: “They’ve had a very nice stay here, certainly. London’s gotten crowded. There’s plenty of room back there in Greece.
“England can take the lead on this kind of thing – letting art go back where it came from.”
He added in deadpan style: “The Greeks are nothing but generous. They would loan it back once in a while.”
The subject first came up for Clooney at a Berlin Film Festival press conference over the weekend, when a Greek reporter pressed him on the subject. His comments were seized upon by those who believe the treasures were stolen and should be returned to their original home.
At today’s press conference, held at the National Gallery, Clooney said it had been “one in about 100 questions at a press conference, from a Greek reporter, and I said I thought it was probably a good idea if they found their way back”.
But he added: “Apparently I got in trouble for saying that and I had to do a little research to make sure I wasn’t completely out of my mind.
“Even in England, the polling is in favour of returning the marbles to the Pantheon [sic]. The Vatican returned parts of it, the Getty returned parts of it [the Vatican gave a section of the Parthenon frieze to the Acropolis museum in Athens on loan; the J Paul Getty museum in Los Angeles repatriated looted treasures last year].
“There are certain pieces you look at and think, ‘That would perhaps be the right thing to do’.”
Clooney noted that he had been criticised for commenting because he was American and did not have sufficient understanding of the situation.
But Matt Damon, who was also present at the press conference, laughed: “That can’t always be the British default setting. It’s not actually an argument to say, ‘He’s American, he doesn’t get it’.”
The Monuments Men stars are not the only actors to take up the cause célèbre.
Stephen Fry has also campaigned for their return, telling an audience in 2012: “Let’s be a classy country and return the marbles to Greece. We would be admired by the rest of the world [for] offering friendship to a country in dire need.
“Until we return the marbles – regardless of how much their debt crisis means they owe us – we will never be able to repay the debt that we owe Greece.”
However, David Cameron has made his feelings plain on the matter. In 2011, he told MPs: “The short answer is that we’re not going to lose them.”
Matt Damon defends George Clooney over Elgin Marbles row
MATT DAMON has stepped up to defend GEORGE CLOONEY after the actor came under fire from a politician in a row over the Elgin Marbles.
Published: Tue, February 11, 2014
Clooney hit headlines over the weekend (08-09Feb14) when he broached the subject during a press conference in Germany to promote his World War II drama The Monuments Men, in which he plays an art expert tracking down treasures stolen by the Nazis.
The actor/director insisted British officials should hand back the Elgin Marbles, a collection of sculptures taken from Greece in the early 1800s, prompting an outraged response from politician John Whittingdale, who hit back, “He’s an American. I suspect he doesn’t know why it is that Britain came to acquire the Elgin Marbles.”
The politician’s comments were mentioned at a press conference in London, and Clooney’s The Monuments Men co-star Damon stepped in to defend his friend, telling reporters, “That can’t always be the British default setting. It’s not actually an argument to say, ‘He’s American, he doesn’t get it’.”
Clooney went on to insist he stands by his opinion adding, “Apparently I got in trouble for saying that (they should be returned) and I had to do a little research to make sure I wasn’t completely out of my mind. Even in England, the polling is in favour of returning the marbles to the Parthenon..There are certain pieces you look at and think, ‘That would perhaps be the right thing to do’.”
The pair’s other co-star Bill Murray also backs Clooney’s stance, adding, “They’ve (the Elgin Marbles) had a very nice stay here, certainly. London’s gotten crowded. There’s plenty of room back there in Greece. England can take the lead on this kind of thing – letting art go back where it came from… The Greeks are nothing but generous. They would loan it back once in a while.”
The Elgin Marbles currently reside in the British Museum in London and have been a source of tensions between Britain and Greece for many years.
11 February 2014 Last updated at 14:46
Bill Murray backs George Clooney over Elgin Marbles
The Monuments Men actor Bill Murray has backed his co-star and director George Clooney’s view the UK should return the Elgin Marbles to Greece.
Asked by a Greek reporter on Sunday if the British Museum should hand the Marbles back, Clooney said: “That would be the right thing to do.”
On Tuesday, at a London press conference to promote the film, Murray said: “London’s gotten crowded.
“There’s plenty of room in Greece. England could take the lead on this.”
Murray said the Elgin Marbles reflected “a problem all over the world” where artefacts from other countries are on display.
The Marbles had “had a very nice stay” in the UK, he added.
Clooney joked he did not really know anything about the issue, following remarks in the Independent from Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee chairman John Whittingdale, who told the newspaper: “He’s an American. I suspect he doesn’t know why it is that Britain came to acquire the Elgin Marbles.”
The film-maker and actor said: “Even in England, the polling shows more in favour of returning them. There should be an open discussion.”
The Marbles were shipped by Lord Elgin to London in the early 1800s and have been in the British Museum ever since.
But the Greek government and many historians want them to be handed back to Greece.
Based on Robert M Edsel’s book Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, the film dramatises the real-life story of a team sent to Germany during World War Two to try to stop the Allies bombing historical landmarks and to recover art looted by the Nazis.
It features an ensemble cast including Matt Damon, Clooney, Murray, Hugh Bonneville, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin and Bob Balaban.
But many reviews have been unfavourable – its average rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website is 5.3 out of 10, and it was beaten by the Lego Movie at the US box office in its opening weekend.
Kenneth Turan wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Earnest and well-intentioned but ultimately inert, The Monuments Men talks a better game than it can deliver.”
The New York Times’s Manohla Dargis wrote: “Because Mr Clooney can’t figure out what kind of story this is, he too often slips into pandering mode, including in his own performance, which is filled with too many smiles and speeches.”
But Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun Times, was kinder, describing it as “engaging, shamelessly corny and entertaining”.
Edsel, who was at the press conference, said he was happy to have his book dramatised for the big screen, adding: “I want to reach the broadest audience possible.”
The final word went to Harry Ettlinger, 88, one of the original Monuments Men, who explained what art meant to him, saying: “We would not like life with white walls around us.”
The Monuments Men is released in the UK on Friday 14 February.
Bill Murray backs George Clooney’s call for Elgin Marbles to be returned
Comedian said Britain should ‘take the lead’ in returning ancient treasures
Nick Clark Author Biography
Tuesday 11 February 2014
Comedian Bill Murray has called on the UK to “take the lead” on restoring ancient treasures to their country of origin, echoing George Clooney’s comments from the weekend that the Elgin Marbles should be returned to Greece.
Murray, who sat alongside Clooney at a press conference for their new film The Monuments Men, said Britain “can take the lead on this sort of thing, letting art go back to where it came from.”
The film, which also stars Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett, is based on the true story of an allied squad of art experts tracking treasures looted by the Nazis in World War II. Clooney directed the movie as well as starring in it.
Referring to the 2,500-year-old Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles after Lord Elgin who brought them back from Greece 200 years ago, Murray said. “It’s had a very nice stay here, but London’s got crowded and there is plenty of room in Greece.”
The comments followed Clooney saying over the weekend that Greece “has a good case to make” for the Marbles’ return adding “It would be a very fair and nice thing to happen.” The statement came during his travels around Europe promoting the film.
Clooney said yesterday that after the backlash from his statement “I did a little research to make sure I wasn’t completely out of my mind”.
“The Vatican returned parts of it, the Getty returned parts of it. It is a question in that case of just breaking up one piece of art, and whether one piece of art should be best put together,” Clooney said.
The Marbles have caused tension between Britain and Greece, which has called for their return. The British Museum said the objects were “part of the world’s shared heritage and transcend political boundaries”.
“It’s an argument to say that with certain pieces that would probably be the right thing to do,” Clooney said yesterday adding the Nefertiti in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston should also be returned. However the actor said he had faced criticism that as an American he had not grasped the issue.
Co-star Damon said that “can’t always be the British default setting. That’s not actually an argument to say: ‘Well you’re American’.”
The Hollywood star finished saying he would not have time to visit the British Museum to see the marbles in person. The cast is to leave after tonight’s premiere for Paris, and Clooney joked he would “somehow insult the Parisians about their art. Something about a Mona Lisa and Italy.”
- Bill Murray & Matt Damon also support Marbles return : February 11, 2014
- George Clooney thinks Britain should return Parthenon Sculptures : February 10, 2014
- George Clooney on the Parthenon Marbles : February 11, 2014
- Monuments Men – the people who saved the world’s artefacts from Hitler? : November 7, 2012
- George Clooney’s new film highlights the issue of looted Nazi art : March 28, 2012
- Are the British Museum planning on moving the Elgin Marbles : July 29, 2014
- Guardian Poll shows that more than 17 out of every 20 people support return of Marbles : February 17, 2014
- Rhodes offers to host Clooney’s wedding in thanks for Parthenon Marbles support : May 3, 2014