After a busy few years (six movies in three years, from "Up in the Air" to "The Descendants"), George Clooney's been taking things a little easier in 2012. That's not to say that he hasn't been busy: the actor wrapped Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity," and is a producer on Ben Affleck's "Argo," a role which is all but certain to see him pick up an Oscar nomination in a record-breaking sixth different category (having previously got nods in Actor, Supporting Actor, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay). But with the former being delayed from its original berth in November to an unknown date next year, 2012 marks the first calendar year since Clooney's ascension to stardom in the early 90s that the actor hasn't appeared in a film in theaters.
But Clooney's on the way back, with his fourth directorial effort "The Monuments Men," and he's bringing along pretty much everyone in Hollywood with him. The WW2 drama, penned by Clooney and writing/producing partner Grant Heslov, is set in the dying days of the war, as an international team of curators and art historians come together to salvage priceless works of art from the Nazi regime. Names like Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray and Jean Dujardin were kicked around as possibilities for the film, but now the cast has solidified, and it's an even more exciting selection than previously thought.
Deadline confirm that Clooney will star in the film, with Blanchett, Murray and Dujardin all confirmed to be participating, while Daniel Craig, riding high with the international success of "Skyfall," is the highest-profile new name on board. Also joining them are "Argo" man John Goodman, "Downton Abbey"'s Earl of Grantham, Hugh Bonneville, and veteran character actor Bob Balaban. That's a pretty badass cast right there.
There's no exact word on who'll be playing who, but past rumors pegged Clooney as art conservationist George Stout, with Blanchett as a French resistance fighter. Paul Giamatti had been discussed as a potential to play New York City Ballet founder Leonard Kirstein, but seems to have fallen off; presumably Murray, Goodman or Balaban have stepped in to his place.
Fox and Sony are backing the film together, and Clooney's set to use most of the crew from "Argo," including composer Alexandre Desplat (who also scored the actor's last directorial outting, "The Ides Of March." Filming will get underway in Europe on March 1st, so there's every chance that, if Clooney's speedy in the cutting room, that this could be a big Oscar player this time next year. And honestly, we can't wait.