WITH his immaculate hair, impeccable fashion sense and dashing good looks, it’s easy to see why George Clooney cast himself as a character based on American war hero George Stout in his new film, “The Monuments Men.”
But although Stout was as dapper as Clooney – who changed Stout’s name to Frank Stokes for the movie – he never saw himself as a hero. What’s more, relatives say he would have thought it was “silly” to make a big-budget movie about his World War II exploits.
Stout was the leader of a crack unit of art and history scholars – the “Monuments Men” – who voluntarily risked their lives to stop the Nazis from destroying priceless works of art they had stolen. Stout is credited for creating the unit and leading them from the front lines in France all the way to Austria’s salt mines.
Among the 5 million works they saved were masterpieces by Michelangelo, Jan Vermeer, Rubens and Rembrandt.
Now, thanks to Clooney – and co-stars including Matt Damon, Bill Murray and John Goodman – the unit’s legacy will live on for generations to come.
Leslie Stout Marks, the art scholar’s granddaughter, dug out this previously unpublished photo of her grandfather for The ENQUIRER – and even she is stunned by the physical similarities between him and 52-year-old Clooney.
“I think it’s amazing…they could have been brothers,” said Leslie, 49, who lives near Sacramento, Calif. “And how ironic that it’s a ‘George’ playing a ‘George’!”
But Leslie doesn’t think her grandfather would have been comfortable being called a “hero.”
“He just did it for the love of art,” she said. “He probably would not have considered himself a hero. I think everybody else should, but I don’t know that he would have put himself in that category. He would have been like, ‘This just needs to be done and I’m going to do it.’”
Leslie’s uncle Tom, 78 – the only surviving child of George Stout and his wife of more than 50 years, Margaret – believes his father would have found all the fanfare “silly.”
“He didn’t boast about his achievements ever,” said Tom, a pharmacist in Rhode Island. “Not a lot of people who came back from that excursion did much talking about it. It just wasn’t done.
“No, he was just doing his job. I expect that’s what he’d say if he were alive today.”
Leslie, who was 14 when her grandfather died in 1978 at the age of 80, says she only had a vague idea about his past until very recently.
“There are only three Stouts left, that’s Tom, my sister and myself,” explained Leslie, who was invited to the film’s Feb. 4 world premiere in New York after she contacted Clooney’s camp.
“There’s not many of us to be able to share that story or legacy, so to have all of that portrayed in the film is pretty awesome.”