George Clooney suggested the Elgin Marbles should be returned to Athens.
Travelling around Europe on the premiere circuit, the cast and crew of The Monuments Men hit London this week to talk about art history. The press conference was held, appropriately, in Britain's National Gallery, and focussed on the threat to Europe's heritage during World War II.
George Clooney [L] and Hugh Bonneville [R] in 'The Monuments Men'
"Hitler wasn't just trying to kill people and take their land," said writer-director-star George Clooney, "he wanted to destroy their culture. So he stole their art and destroyed a lot of it. He wanted to say that Picasso and Dali never existed. And the Monuments Men and Women went to get it back. This was the first time in the history of war that the victor didn't keep the spoils." Check out our Monuments Men review.
This sparked questions about the Elgin Marbles, and calls to return them to Greece from the British Museum. Clooney was asked about this in Berlin, and stirred the controversy in London when he said, "I do think it's worth having an open discussion. I thought it was probably a good idea if they found a way back at some point." To which Bill Murray echoed, "Well, I think they have had a very nice stay here."
Matt Damon then chimed in, teasing: "Well, you're an American, so you don't know anything!" To which Clooney replied, "Yes, we leave tonight after the London premiere to go to Paris to insult the French about their art history!" Later, Mayor Boris Johnson got involved, criticising Clooney for the remarks.
Clooney clearly hopes that his gentle romp of a film reminds us of the importance of art in our culture.