George Clooney and Grant Heslov at
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The Feb. 4 world preem of George Clooney’s fifth directorial project, Columbia and Fox 2000’s “Monuments Men” brought out New York staples like Regis Philbin and former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani to the Ziegfeld Theater.

In his opening remarks, Clooney, who co-wrote, directed and starred in the pic, addressed what he referred to as “the elephant in the room” — the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The majority of the cast has worked with Hoffman on past projects.

“It’s senseless and it’s sad, but Phil will be greatly missed,” Clooney said of his friend. “It’s hard to be here with that sort of reigning over us.”

On a more cheerful note, pic’s Bob Balaban said that notorious jokester Clooney only pranked Matt Damon on set. “I did periodically wonder if something was happening that I didn’t know about,” he admitted.

However, Balaban doubted that Clooney had much time to plan any elaborate pranks. “I don’t know. When he’s directing a movie, and it’s a World War II movie with tanks and a thousand extras and things being shot and boats and airplanes and being the star of it and writing it and producing it, I don’t think he had THAT much time to think about, ‘What’s my prank today? I’m going to get up a little earlier to work out the prank,’” Balaban said.

At The Metropolitan Club after party, Bill Murray greeted fans waiting outside the entrance before proceeding to playfully usher guests into the building. Murray later cheered on Clooney’s goddaughter, singer Nora Sagal, who crooned jazz tunes for the crowd. Also spotted at the party: helmers Alfonso Cuaron, Joel Coen, Sofia Coppola.

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