WWII film The Monuments Men to be directed by George Clooney

George Clooney has signed a long list of celebrities — including Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Jean Dujardin — to star in his new film about heroic art scholars who retrieved stolen artefacts in the Second World War, entitled The Monuments Men.

Mr Clooney will direct and star as George Stout, who was instrumental in the formation of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas — otherwise known as the Monuments Men.

The film will tell the true story of the group who, under a mandate from President Franklin Roosevelt, located and preserved wartime artefacts which had been looted by the Nazis, mostly from Jewish families.

The blockbuster, based on the book of the same name by Robert Edsel, is set to be released on December 18 this year and will be edited in the UK.

The announcement of the film coincides with the real-life handover of seven paintings to two Jewish families by the French government last Tuesday.

Six of the seven paintings originally belonged to Robert Neumann, an Austrian Jew whose artworks were restored to his grandson Tom Selldorff, aged 82. Four of the returned paintings have been exhibited at the Louvre in Paris.

The handover was part of the French government’s efforts to return all misappropriated artworks stolen during the Nazi occupation. Between 1933 and 1945, approximately 100,000 pieces of art were taken from Jewish collections across Europe.

    Last updated: 3:12pm, March 21 2013