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THE MOVIE: The International

Clive Owen • Naomi Watts • Armin Mueller-Stahl
DIRECTOR: Tom Tykwer

Interpol Agent Louis Salinger (Owen) and Manattan Assistant District Attorney, Eleanor Whitman (Watts), are determined to bring to justice one of the world’s most powerful banks. Finding themselves in a high-stakes chase across the globe, their relentless tenacity puts their own lives at risk as their targets will stop at nothing, even murder, to continue financing terror and war.

U.S. RELEASE: February 13 2009, Nationwide
• Rated: R


“When Eric [Warren Singer, the screenwriter] delivered us the first draft of this script, which was in early 2001, the studio really had a lot of enthusiasm for the project, they hadn’t made a lot of thrillers, they were looking to make a thriller and they saw that this was an intelligent thriller. We had to find the right casting combination and we did go through certain machinations about trying to get to the exact right budget number, but those kind of things every movie has to go through. Once we found the right director, which was Tom Tykwer, and as soon as we cast Clive, away we went.”

Clive Owen and director Tom Tykwer in the Guggenheim Museum“This character isn’t a traditional heroic movie character. For me, when you’re doing an action sequence like the one in the Guggenheim Museum, it’s like doing a big dialogue sequence. My job is to put people in the place of understanding what you’re character’s going through, and at that point, when that shoot-up takes off in the Guggenheim, that character will be terrified. It’s simple, you can do it in a movie kind of way, and try and look cool with your gun, but I’m more interested in trying to convey what it might really be like to be in that situation.”

Director Tom Tykwer in the Guggenheim Museum“The Guggenheim survives the sequence, it’s just the art that gets destroyed. I really loved the art that we had in the Guggenheim. For me the most fun part about being a film maker is that you can do all these other jobs, you can be an architect, you ca be a painter, you can be a composer and you can be a curator of the Guggenheim, and come up with your favorite exhibition for it. Shooting it to pieces was, of course, not the idea that we are doing it because we feel like it should be done, but it’s happening because the bad guys are in there and they’re destroying it.”

Naomi Watts and Clive Owen“I liked that my character was strong. She’s operating in this fast-moving world and was a great bouncing board for her colleague, Salinger. But also trying to balance that with motherhood as well, and I think I definitely relate to that now and hopefully other career mothers will. I met with an ADA in New York. I was able to take some meetings with her and talk with her about what it’s like in the office and being a woman operating very much in a man’s world. She gave me insight into that. She basically said you have to be on your game the whole time. Most of these men are pretty tough and they’ll try to take advantage of you. Not in a sexual way but in a power struggle kind of way, so you’d better be on your game and not be slinking around the office.”

TYKWER on the fact that there isn’t a love story in the movie:
“Clive and Naomi are two of the most attractive and greatest actors ever, and they don’t have a romantic scene, but I was so driven by the idea that this was a film about people in their late thirties, early forties, grown up people who have already had some substantial life [experiences]. Naomi’s character has a husband and family, why would she run away from them, even though it seems like in another life those two might have been a great couple.”

“It would have been a very cliché thing to suddenly have them fall for each other. I really like it because I think it’s mature, and what drives them is their commitment to what they’re trying to do. There is definitely an attraction there, and in another time, another place, there is the possibility that they would make a good couple.”

“Tom is a fantastic director. I loved working with him. He’s so well prepared at all times. He’s a very sensitive and fair person. Once I read the script, he talked about his style and how he wanted to shoot the film. He sent me a bunch of films from the ‘70s, political thrillers, so I could get in the mindset of it all.”

OWEN on literally shooting the last scene in the movie first:
“It was tough. Usually when people talk to me about shooting out of sequence, I’m like, ‘Well, this is the game, that’s what you do.’ But this film, because of the scope and the scale of it and the places traveled and having not shot anything, to get to the point where you’re having the showdown of the movie was very hard because you haven’t got the luxury of everything that’s come before to know where to pitch it.”

ROVEN on the relevance of the movie with the global financial disaster:
“With the years that this was in development, I don’t think you could have imagined it being as relevant as it is. When Tom read the script it was a period movie, and took place in the Eighties, and he said at that time, ‘If you want me to direct it, you’ve got to make it contemporary.’ And history has proven him right.”

“I think it’s amazing how timely it has become, because we finished it a year ago, they had been working on the script for nearly two years prior to that, so they were using a lot of research then. Since we locked that picture, what’s happened with banks around the world [is incredible]. Yes, it’s a big entertaining thriller, but it does ask questions and opens up doors to question whether banks use people’s money appropriately and whether they’re completely sound institutions.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Film Review, #701, December 2008 cover

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