Now that George Clooney’s has picked up a Best Picture Oscar for his producing work on Ben Affleck’s Argo, he officially can turn his attentions to his next directorial effort … and possibly land on the Academy’s radar for next year’s ceremony.

Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox announced via press release that Clooney’s World War II action thriller The Monuments Men has started production in Berlin, Germany. Clooney, who’ll direct and star, co-wrote the Monuments screenplay with Smokehouse co-producer and frequent collaborator Grant Heslov. They are basing their story on Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter’s book about a platoon of museum directors and curators ordered by FDR to go behind enemy lines in the closing days of WWII and retrieve priceless, stolen works of art from the Nazis before they are destroyed. It sounds like an incredibly clever way to approach the traditional war genre, placing non-soldiers in hostile enemy territories but giving them a life-or-death cultural mission that leaves room for humor, history and plenty of action.

The release confirms Clooney’s Monuments co-stars, notably Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and John Goodman. No sign of Daniel Craig, though, who was attached to the cast at one point but possibly has exited. We’ll dig around for studio confirmation on his continued involvement.

Clooney’s aiming for a Dec. 18, 2013 release date for Monuments, leaning on the skills director of photography Phedon Papamichael, production designer Jim Bissell, editor Stephen Mirrione and composer Alexandre Desplat to help get him there. It will be Clooney’s first directorial effort since 2011’s The Ides of March. Needless to say, we’re excited to see what he comes up with next.

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