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Interpreter: Film being shot inside U.N.

When three great movie celebrities mix and mingle, that cocktail is usually sensational. We have Sydney Pollack directing Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn in Universal Pictures' "Interpreter".

So what, one may ask. We have had such impressive teams. True.

But, "Interpreter" -- whose principal photography has just begun (early 2004) -- is being shot inside the United Nations headquarters in New York. This is the first time that a film is being shot there, and a Hollywood movie at that.

Did the U.N. give its nod because all three, apart from being, great artists, have also had the distinction of clinching Academy Awards ? Difficult to guess, but Pollack has helmed some classic thrillers, such as "Three Days of the Condor", "Absence of Malice" and "The Firm", firmly setting the standard for the genre.

We know Kidman, of course, both for the right and the wrong reasons. She shot into fame in the early 1990s with her "To Die For". She did not really have to look back after that. Films like "Eyes Wide Shut", "Moulin Rouge", "The Hours" and "Cold Mountain" -- to mention just a few -- pushed her to an incredible height.

Kidman was in the news for another reason as well: her long married life with a star Hollywood guy, Tom Cruise, and the divorce that shattered the dreams of romantics.

Penn's life has not been as newsy to provoke the paparazzi into a frenzied hunt. His Oscar for the Best Actor in Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River" this year (2004) was well deserved. But he performed even better in "Dead Man Walking" (1995) and "I Am Sam" (2001), and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had ignored him then.

"Interpreter" brings these two men and the woman together in a story that sounds gripping from the word go. Interpreter Silvia  Broome (Kidman) overhears a death threat against an African head of state scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly. Realising that she has become a target of the assassins as well, Silvia desperately tries to thwart the plot. But can she can survive long enough to get someone to believe her? Tobin Keller (Penn), the federal agent responsible for protecting the interpreter, is skeptical.

The movie attempts to present two diametrically different views of life: Silvia swears by the power and sanctity of the spoken word. Tobin reads people's behaviour, their body language. And with the U.N. as the shell, Pollack's work is already being talked about. And, being looked forward to.

"The Interpreter" marks the first ever occasion a motion picture has been given permission by the U.N. to film inside its historic headquarters in New York. The U. N. Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, met Pollack and, later, officials of the General Assembly and the Security Council, before okaying the project.

Pollack was happy and he said:"Although 'The Interpreter' is first and foremost a suspense thriller, it is in sync with the values of the U.N. and its policies, in that it is against using violence to settle problems between people and countries."

Will this movie help give a new impetus to the U.N. charter in times as dark and difficult as these ?

(This story appeared in The Hindu dated April 18 2004)

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