The Interpreter, an urban thriller photographed by Darius Khondji, ASC, AFC, becomes the first feature production to shoot in United Nations headquarters.
In the winter of 2004, an unprecedented act of diplomacy took place in the office of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, but this time, it wasn’t the Noble Peace Prize winner who was mustering his powers of persuasion — it was director Sydney Pollack.
Pollack sought permission to film his new project, The Interpreter, on U.N. premises. No movie had ever been shot there, not even Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.
Pollack was aware that the U.N. is not supposed to be used for commercial activity of any kind, and by most counts, a Hollywood film is as commercial as it gets. But he believed The Interpreter was the right film to break precedent. “The U.N. has got far more important things to do than to worry about movies,” the director notes wryly. “I was very careful not to try to sell Mr. Annan. I just wanted to tell him about the film, and I assured him that there was nothing in it that would be embarrassing for the U.N., and that my sympathies were with the spirit of the U.N.” By the end of the 30-minute meeting, Annan gave the green light.
Certainly, few could dispute Pollack’s credentials as a director of thrillers with contemporary, relevant themes — he helped define the genre with pictures such as Three Days of the Condor and The Firm. To bring The Interpreter to the screen, Pollack tapped Darius Khondji, ASC, AFC, a director of photography with his own distinguished record in the suspense genre (Seven, Alien: Resurrection, The Ninth Gate, Panic Room) whose diversity had long impressed him. [...]
Published in the May 2005 issue of American Cinematographer.