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Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment

January 29, 2009

In the corporate crime thriller The International, persistent Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) and Manhattan assistant district attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) fight to uncover the insidious misdeeds of the International Bank of Business and Credit, a financial powerhouse involved in a laundry list of illegal activities meant to further its stranglehold over world affairs. Following a series of leads that takes them around the globe, the duo unearth the disturbing realization that the IBBC's influence is seemingly omnipresent and undeniable.

The International features a myriad of visually charged scenes, from stunning architecture in Berlin to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. But amidst the film's international locales and its depiction of an amoral underworld of business, there is a single sequence that stands head and shoulders above the rest: the shootout at the Guggenheim. Set in the famous Manhattan art museum, this surprisingly action-packed climax boasts an epic amount of crossfire carnage, with Clive Owen's character improvising alliances and tactics on the fly as assassins assail him from all corners.

In this interview, International producers Charles Roven (The Dark Knight, Get Smart) and Richard Suckle talk about this spectacular showdown, as well as one of the real life inspirations for their movie's faceless institutional villain.

The Interview

MEDIA: What was involved in setting up the climactic shootout at the Guggenheim?

CHARLES: Oh, that was great. We had to go through the process of showing them the script, but they loved it. The biggest logistical issues were trying to figure out how much could we shoot there? Because they have constant exhibitions there. And were we going to use an exhibition that was there? Would we have time to shut down, put one of our own up, and then bring it down? It was very complicated...We knew we couldn't shoot it up. [laughs] So we ended up building this amazing duplicate in this circular warehouse in Berlin, and we built it like 95%, 97% to scale.

RICHARD: The negotiation, or at least the interaction with, the Guggenheim was probably almost a two year period. I mean, they very rarely, if ever, let anybody come in and shoot. But we were able to work it out where it was when a show had just been taken out, and it was a day before a show was going to be brought in there. So we honestly carved out one day. And we knew going in it was going to be essentially a 16, 17 hour day. [laughs] And there were very specific things that we had planned on with [director Tom Tykwer] as to what we absolutely, positively had to get in the real Guggenheim in order to make the sequence work.

In the movie, the Guggenheim features an interesting exhibit of art on giant video monitors. Is that actually on display at the real museum, or was it created specifically for the film?

CHARLES: It was a video exhibition that was created by a German artist [for the film], but it was designed to be like a contemporary exhibition that might be at the Guggenheim.

RICHARD: The artist is a guy by the name of Julian Rosenfeldt, and part of the exhibition is art that he actually had previously created, and part of it--which was essentially the stuff that you would see in the chandelier--was stuff that we specifically created and he shot for our movie.

CHARLES: That was part of the big back and forth about how we were going to handle what that exhibition was. And when Tom came upon the idea--because it was his--to do a video exhibition, we thought it was great. And we actually thought [it] made it visually interesting and dynamic to have those images moving in the background.

Do you think the public's growing awareness of corporate malfeasance in these economically unstable times will help this movie's performance?

CHARLES: Certainly we hope so, right? [laughs]

RICHARD: I would second that.

CHARLES: I think in a certain kind of way, it makes it more resonant. You know, one of the things that this movie is about is the individual--I mean, it's Clive and Naomi, but he's one guy against what seemingly is a monolithic force. And I think that that is something that all of us feel at certain times in our lives, and certainly I think it's a common thread today with all the economic issues that are going on. So I'm hopeful that will make people interested in seeing the movie.

Should we assume banks are equipped with hit squads in real life to take care of people who pose a threat to them?

CHARLES: [laughs] I think you guys know that this is a fiction. However... [laughs] However, one of the inspirations for this was a bank that did have hit squads, which was around in the '70s and '80s, called the BCCI--the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which was, I believe, at that time, one of the largest, if not the largest privately held bank, and did in fact have...

RICHARD: ...They had their own army, I believe. But obviously we're not suggesting that banks have hit squads. But I think we are suggesting that like any big business, if you need and want something bad enough, you're willing to go to pretty far lengths to get it.

Thanks for your time.

CHARLES: Thank you very much.

RICHARD: Thank you all.

Related Material

The International: Interview with Naomi Watts
The International: Interview with Clive Owen
The International: Interview with director Tom Tykwer
Movie Coverage: The International


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