BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — I wrote recently about how "The Monuments Men" caught me a bit off guard for not diving full on into the baity nature of its premise. It's more of a character-driven thing, providing a lot of opportunity for intimate moments with its all-star cast.

That was at the forefront of my mind when talking to star Matt Damon about the film recently, and that was the tricky part, he told me, finding the right tone. "I think that was the big challenge for George," Damon says in the video embedded at the top of this post. "How to make it appropriately serious with the highest of stakes…but it should also feel like a heist movie and have some of the fun and the entertainment value that something like 'Ocean's Eleven' has."

Nevertheless, while that seemed to be a shorthand description for the film's story early on — "'Ocean's Eleven' in World War II" — it, again, isn't such a neat description. The humor is there but subdued, and that, Damon says, was part of the balancing act.

"Because if you go too far in that direction you're being inappropriately irreverent about an incredibly serious thing," he says. "I think it was more about trying to capture that gallows humor that these guys have when they're in war zones and to capture that time period and the way guys talk to each other and the way they didn't show emotion."

We also get into — however shallow — some discussion about Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" toward the end, in which Damon has a brief and unspecified role. If you haven't heard those comments yet, again, they aren't earth-shattering. As ever, Nolan collaborators are mum. But it sounds like Damon enjoyed himself.

(Note: We're talking at the very beginning about Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's "garbage man" dig at Damon from the Golden Globes at the beginning of the interview.)

"The Monuments Men" opens nationwide on Feb. 7.

Kristopher Tapley has covered the film awards landscape for over a decade. He founded In Contention in 2005. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Times of London and Variety. He begs you not to take any of this too seriously.