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Shooting a Thriller
Once Sydney Pollack received the go-ahead to shoot inside the United Nations, he began preparing for what was to prove to be one of the most eye-opening and exhilarating production experiences anyone in the cast and crew could remember. Though the U.N. may appear in news headlines on an almost daily basis and has been central to the playing out of the international dramas of our new century, few people have ever seen much more than a glimpse of the institution. Pollack hoped to pull back the veil and give audiences an inside look within the roller-coaster thrills of The Interpreter.

From the get-go, the director felt a motivating sense of responsibility. "In a sense it was both a blessing and a curse to be the first motion picture to film at the U.N.,” Pollack says. "A blessing because we were thrilled to have the opportunity and a curse because we were petrified of living up to the challenge. You look around these rooms, at the General Assembly, the Security Council, the public and private spaces, and you wonder exactly how one can shoot this splendor. Is there a single definitive way? It's all so dramatic to begin with.”

The United Nations was established in 1945 when 51 countries made a pledge to the goal of preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, 191 countries are represented at the United Nations, nearly every government on the planet. The U.N. continues to have four main purposes as laid out in its charter: to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to cooperate in solving international problems and promoting human rights; and to be a center for harmonizing the actions of individual nations.

The United Nations is not a government and can't make any laws, but the institution has become a major force in resolving international conflicts. Though not without controversy or its detractors, the United Nations is one of the few places on earth where people from all over the world can come together to talk about the most important issues facing humankind. Many of recent history's most pivotal events—from the Suez crisis to the recent conflict in Iraq—have been debated within the United Nations' walls.

The United Nations headquarters on Manhattan's East Side were built in 1946 on a plot of land donated by John Rockefeller, Jr., which was then converted into international territory. To step into the U.N. is to literally step outside the United States. Designed by a panel of architects that included such modern heavyweights as Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer and Wallace K. Harrison, the U.N. complex is made up of four buildings: the Secretariat, the General Assembly, the Conference building and the Dag Hammarskjöld Library. The 39-story Secretariat, with its curtain of green glass, remains one of New York's most powerfully recognizable architectural classics. Adjacent to that is the five-story General Assembly building, where heads of state regularly meet, and behind those is the Conference building, where the powerful Security Council gathers in times of high global tension.

The production of The Interpreter was given full access to nearly all of the U.N.— from the Security Council's chambers to the Rose Garden—for nearly five months, with the only restriction being that filming take place after hours and on weekends so as not to interrupt the important work going on there.

Soon after getting the green light, Sydney Pollack consulted with his design team on how to handle the interiors and the unanimous decision was to keep the focus on raw authenticity. Production designer Jon Hutman explains: "We ultimately did very little to the inside of the United Nations in order to use it as a set. There's something about it that feels so incredibly idealistic and appealing and we wanted to keep that feeling int

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