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Scene Stealer

'Traitor'

September 04, 2008|Patrick Kevin Day

Early in "Traitor," writer-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff's sprawling, international terrorist thriller, the main character, a rogue ex-U.S. special operations officer played by Don Cheadle, finds himself in a confrontation with a Middle Eastern tough guy in a Yemeni prison yard. As the two men exchange threats, they slip casually between Arabic and English. Nachmanoff swears this isn't purely a conceit designed for the ease of American movie audiences. "It was convenient for dramatic purposes, but it's also very common. English is used as the common language when you have people from different countries, even if they're from different Middle Eastern countries." The scene may have been authentic, but in reality, these two actors only understood half of what they were saying to each other. "Don learned Arabic phonetically," Nachmanoff said. "He knew what the lines meant, but he listened to tapes of them being spoken to get the accent. He didn't learn Arabic." Farid Regragui, who played the tough guy, speaks Arabic fluently but little English. Nachmanoff says the lack of language comprehension works well for the scene. "The audience knows it's a showdown, and the words are much less important than what's going on with their faces."

-- Patrick Kevin Day

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