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This is the first film ever to be shot inside the United Nations Headquarters - locations include the General Assembly and the Security Council, as well as regular corridors and hallways of the complex. The cast and crew filmed on weekends in order not to disrupt the regular work week of the organization.
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The movie is banned in Zimbabwe, the country on which the fictional D. R. of Matobo was based.
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This is the only collaboration between Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. In 1996, when Kidman was missed out on an Oscar nomination for her praised turn in To Die For (1995) she received a letter from a fan that only said: "You were robbed". Kidman claims that was "as good as an Oscar nomination". The letter was from Sean Penn.
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Nicole Kidman cites the South African accent as the hardest to perform convincingly throughout her career.
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Matobo is the name of a National Park in Zimbabwe.
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Filming was originally scheduled to take place in Toronto. A replica of the U.N. general assembly was underway until it was discovered that it would be very costly to get a manufacturer to make curved fluorescent bulbs in the arched shape of the desks. This contributed to a renewed effort to film at the UN.
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Some of the extras in the film (scenes in the General Assembly, the Security Council and in the security camera footage) are actual U.N. staff members, who were allowed to participate after signing the usual waivers. Filming at the United Nations took place over weekends from April - August 2004.
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Sean Penn won his first Oscar during filming of this movie. The award was by coincidence presented to him by his co-star in this film, Nicole Kidman.
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The role of Pettigrew was offered to a number of name actors but Sydney Pollack only decided to play the role because it was impossible to get a name actor he wanted .
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The fictional language of Ku is made up of two different African languages.
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Nicole Kidman signed on without having read any script.
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This is the third Sydney Pollack film in which someone speaks the line "you think not getting caught in a lie is the same as telling the truth". The others are The Slender Thread (1965) and Three Days Of The Condor (1975).
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The scene shot in the Security Council room was shot in one day. That room is on call 24/7 for emergency meetings. If one were to be called, the crew would have three hours to clear out before the meeting.
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Nicole Kidman's part was written with her in mind, as she has worked with Sydney Pollack several times before. It was rumored that he approached Naomi Watts about the lead role of Sylvia Broome, but this wasn't true.
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Filming at the United Nations could only take place on the weekends. Film crews would move in on a Friday night, protect and prep the general assembly only to withdraw nearly all of their equipment by Sunday.
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The setting of the film inside the UN itself was the big attraction for Sydney Pollack though he didn't like the plot in the first draft of the screenplay. This was substantially altered through rewrites.
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Nicole Kidman had to interrupt filming to shoot additional scenes for The Stepford Wives (2004) after a negative test screening.
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A copy of the interpreter's booths were made so the crew could film during weekdays.
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Jackie Chan received a script for the film (the only time he's been offered a dramatic role in a US film), but told his manager "no," feeling his English wasn't strong enough at the time for a dialogue-heavy role. He later ran into Nicole Kidman at the Huading Awards in China, and told her this story.
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When Catherine Keener gets on the helicopter around 25 minutes into the movie she receives a phone call. The voice on the phone is supposed to be speaking an African language. It is actually speaking Hebrew. It is the message one gets when one dials a non-existent number in Israel.
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Despite the high security at the U.N. and terror alerts, crew members were allowed to bring in knives for their work.
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Nicole Kidman is 5'11" tall; Sean Penn, 5'8". They are not shown standing side-by-side in scenes because of the height difference. In the final riverside meeting, Penn is seated on a railing while talking to Kidman (standing), which allows them to be nearby in the scene without emphasizing that difference.
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Sean Penn was originally not interested in doing this film after an overloaded work load that spanned several years that included an Oscar win for Mystic River and wanted to spend time with his then-wife, Robin Wright, and his family. He later took the role after being convinced by director Sydney Pollack. This is the reason why he looks so tired and exhausted in moments throughout the film.
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Because her character plays the flute Nicole Kidman researched how to play the instrument for her part.
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Nicole Kidman took some days off shooting this film in order to work on an expensive perfume commercial for Chanel, directed by Baz Luhrmann. Her co-star Sean Penn was publicly annoyed by this.
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The American poster design has the flags in front of the U.N. building curved across the bottom. On the first version of the poster, the one on the far left was the U.N. flag. This placed the U.N. flag higher on the poster than the adjacent American flag, which is exactly in line with the flag etiquette in force at U.N. Headquarters. However, the poster was redesigned, presumably to avoid causing offense to American audiences who might be ignorant of the U.N. HQ flag etiquette. The second poster removes the U.N. flag entirely, and moves every other flag one flagpole over, so that the American flag is now highest, followed by the Canadian, then the British which, incidentally, is still incorrect on several counts: at U.N. HQ the US flag does not fly higher than the others since it is contrary to international flag etiquette for one nation's flag to be displayed higher than any other in time of peace, and the flags at the U.N. are arranged in English alphabetical order.
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This is the first film that director Sydney Pollack shot in 2:40.1 aspect ratio since Tootsie in 1982 which marked 22 years. The reason he stopped shooting in the anamorphic format was because he felt his films looked awful when they ran on TV and it's a decision he later regretted as the format would've benefited his later films including Out of Africa, Havana, The Firm, Sabrina and Random Hearts.
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The first feature film to use Kodak's then-new Vision2 Expression 500T 5229 film stock.
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The song Toban plays on the jukebox when he calls his answering machine is Lyle Lovett's "If I Had a Boat".
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The telephones that appear in various shots of the United Nations building (Control Booth, Security Checkpoint, etc) are ITE-12S and ITS-12SD phones, used with the EADS Telecom PointSpan telephone system (and really used by the U.N. - EADS Telecom cites "The United Nations" as a customer).
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Sean Penn would later direct Catherine Keener in Into the Wild (2007).
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Sylvia uses Scientology based Earthlink's webmail service. Her account is email@example.com and she's writing to firstname.lastname@example.org - 'MTB' of course being a fictional TLD.
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Yvan Attal who plays in the film with Nicole Kidman, was the French voice of Tom Cruise, the ex-husband of the actress, for the movie Minority Report.
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Writer David Rayfiel did some uncredited work on the script.
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Director Sydney Pollack also directed The Firm, which starred Tom Cruise when the star of this film, Nicole Kidman was married to him at the time (1993).
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The original twist ending involved Sylvia Broome having made up the idea of the assassination in order to blackmail a political official from causing genocide in Africa. Although director Sydney Pollack signed on for that draft it was one of the first things he had changed. This in turn changed a lot of the structure of the script so Scott Frank and Steven Zaillian were brought on to doctor it up.
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Terry Serpico, David Zayas, and Sydney Pollack appear in 2007s Michael Clayton.
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