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The Monuments Men - Matt Damon and Bill Murray interview

The Monuments Men

Interview by Rob Carnevale

MATT Damon and Bill Murray talk about some of the challenges and fun of making The Monuments Men with George Clooney.

Murray also reminsces about one of the first times he was touched by a work of art, while Damon reflects on why being directed by a friend is easier. They were both speaking at a UK press conference…

Q. The film captures a great camaraderie, and a sense of humour and team spirit. Was it important that it existed off set as well as on?
Matt Damon: Well, George actually had to work. He and Grant [Heslov] wrote the script, produced the movie and directed as well as starred in it. The rest of us were used to headlining movies and carrying them, so when you get into an ensemble like this, where you’re working two days a week, it’s really fun. We all just kept reminding each other while we were working that we were doing a really great movie with a great director, and he [George] had it under control. We just laughed a lot.

Q. What is like to be directed by somebody who is your friend?
Matt Damon: It’s actually much easier to be directed by a friend. When you’re working on a film with somebody who’s a friend of yours, it removes all the diplomacy and it saves a lot of time. There’s a whole to speak… [of how] you’re supposed to speak to each other on film sets, and it’s all about protecting people’s egos and their feelings. But when you’re working with your friend, they can just say: “That sucked.” There’s a baseline of trust that never comes into question, and it helps to solve problems a lot quicker. It makes it more fun. It makes things faster.

Q. Were there any pranks on set?
Matt Damon: My favourite prank he actually did was… his father is in the movie, at the very end, and there’s this lovely scene where he walks off into the light. And George ran the film for him and at the end of the film, as they walk away and it fades to black, it came up ‘In Loving Memory of Nick’. He turned around and said: “What the hell George?”

Q. Bill, one of the questions the film asks is what the world would be like without art and creativity. Can you imagine your life without creativity, or if there was a specific moment you can pinpoint in your life where art really has mattered or made a difference for you?
Bill Murray: Well, back when I started acting in Chicago, I wasn’t very good. I remember my first experience on the stage, I was so bad I walked out. I walked for a couple hours and then I realised I had walked in the wrong direction – not just in relation to where I lived, but the wrong direction in terms of a desire to stay alive. This may not be completely true but it is a little bit. So, I thought: “If I’m gonna die where I am, I may as well just go over towards the lake and maybe I’ll float for a while, after I’m dead.” So, I walked over to the lake and realised I’d hit Michigan and I knew Michigan Avenue ran north too, so I started walking north.

And I ended up at the Art Institute in Chicago and I just walked inside, not feeling like I had any place being there. They used to ask for a donation… you know when you walk into a museum, but I walked right through because I was ready to die. I was pretty much dead. But I walked in and there was a painting there… I don’t even know who painted it but I think it’s called The Song of the Lark. It’s a woman working in a field and there’s a sunrise behind her. I’ve always loved this painting and I saw it that day and I just thought: “Well, there’s a girl who doesn’t have a whole lot of prospects, but the sun is coming up anyway and she’s got another chance.” So, I think that gave me some feeling that I too could, as a person, get another chance when the sun came up.

Read our review of The Monuments Men

Read our interview with George Clooney