LOS ANGELES (AP) - When a leading Hollywood actor decides to make a movie, casting usually becomes as easy as dialing some of your closest A-list buddies.
At least that's the way it worked for George Clooney on the new World War II drama, "The Monuments Men," opening Friday.
"Well, they are friends so that part is easy," Clooney said in a recent joint interview with the cast. "But you know the truth is, they wouldn't do it if they didn't like the screenplay. ... I mean I flew to Australia for one day to hand Cate (Blanchett) the script."
The beginning of the film has an "Ocean's 11" feel to it when Clooney's character starts to assemble an A-team of old friends. But this time, they're the good guys.
"The Monuments Men" - also starring Blanchett, Matt Damon, John Goodman and Bill Murray, to name a few - is based on the true story of an Allied platoon whose mission was to rescue artworks from the Nazis. The film is adapted from Robert Edsel's book, "The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History."
Blanchett admitted she was unfamiliar with the works of the Monuments Men until she received the hand-delivered script from Clooney, who also directed and was co-writer.
"I knew that work had gone missing and that the Nazis had collected art and stolen art and destroyed art," said Blanchett.
Bill Murray was happy to finally work on a big film again. "Yeah, I got teased for a while (by George Clooney). He told me the whole story and then he would say, 'Can you please pass the salad?' Then like nine months later through a friend, he said, 'Ask Bill if he wants to be in the job.'"
Murray wasn't the only one who was pranked by Clooney. His father, Nick Clooney, received the final and biggest prank of all.
"Well I screened the movie for him in Italy," said George Clooney. "My father plays me at the end of the film and walks off into this beautiful church with this beautiful light and it goes to black and normally that would be like the first credit that comes up and instead I put, 'In Loving Memory of Nick Clooney.' He said, 'What the hell are you doing?' I said, 'Well, you know, it's a long time before the movie comes out so you never know.' I didn't leave it in the film but he thought it was very funny and he is going to get me back."
The movie originally had a planned release date of Dec. 18 but was pushed to early 2014 and right out of Hollywood's prestigious awards season. This year was especially crowded with an abundance of viable Oscar contenders. So was there too much competition?
"We just didn't finish it," Clooney explained. "We had a lot of work to do. It's a bigger film. You know, we started shooting this movie in March of last year, so we were going to have to flip it around in nine months, which is really moving for a film that size, and we just didn't make it."