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Jacqueline Bisset on ‘Backstabbing for Beginners’ and more

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Jacqueline Bisset as Christina Du Pre - head of the U.N. Baghdad office, in director Per Fly's new political thriller "Backstabbing for Beginners." The film is based on the real-life corruption scandal related to the U.N.'s "Oil-for-Food" program. Jacqueline Bisset as Christina Du Pre - head of the U.N. Baghdad office, in director Per Fly's new political thriller "Backstabbing for Beginners." The film is based on the real-life corruption scandal related to the U.N.'s "Oil-for-Food" program. (Photo courtesy of DirecTV Cinema)

The real-life corruption scandal which contributed to the dissolution of the United Nations’ multi-billion-dollar Oil-for-Food program is the focus of “Backstabbing for Beginners” – a new political thriller from director Per Fly. The movie is currently in limited release in theaters and can be seen on demand via DirecTV.

Based on Michael Soussan’s memoir about his role as the young U.N. program officer who exposed the scheme, the film stars Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (“Gandhi,” “Schindler’s List”), Theo James (“Divergent” series) and Jacqueline Bisset (“The Deep,” “Casino Royale,” “Airport”).

Bisset appears as Christina Du Pre – head of the U.N. office in Baghdad and counterpart to Kingsley’s Pasha – the New York-based U.N. undersecretary in charge of the program. According to Bisset, the noir-ish “Backstabbing for Beginners” sticks closely to the facts.

“They may have dramatized some things but I think it’s pretty accurate,” Bisset told me during a phone interview.

The original Oil-for-Food program had honorable intentions when it was implemented in 1995: Supply lifesaving food and aid to Iraqi citizens suffering from the barbarous Saddam Hussein regime and the U.N. sanctions placed on his country after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Billions of dollars generated by the program were kicked back to Hussein, assorted oil companies and numerous beneficiaries in the United States, Russia and China. Hussein actually bribed voting U.N. members into blocking military action against his murderous regime until he was overthrown in 2003.

Bisset says her interest in the Mideast and the intensity of the film’s subject contributed to her decision to sign on for the film-shoot in Morocco and Copenhagen.

“It’s always an adventure to see how the world inter-relates,” she said. “I love Morocco in general and Casablanca had the atmosphere that Baghdad might have had. It’s a fascinating job being an actor if you can find good projects.”

She is a longtime admirer of Ben Kingsley’s work and enjoyed the push-and-pull between their characters in this film.

“Our characters are in conflict with each other,” Bisset explained. “Christina is very much angered by what she knows is going on and he plays it in a way that you’re not sure if he’s one of them or not. Ben Kingsley is such a strong actor with so much personality. He’s a very original person and is very much ‘there’ when you’re working with him.”

“Backstabbing for Beginners” is Bisset’s 81st film in a career that has spanned six decades.

Recalling her role in 1977’s “The Deep,” based on Peter Benchley’s follow-up to “Jaws,” Bisset says her experience was “a mixed bag” and recounts a harrowing moment when she nearly drowned.

“It was very frightening,” said Bisset. “Because of the swimming required, I had to learn to dive. They tried to assure me at the beginning that I would have to do very little swimming – that they would use doubles for most of it. After we started, they said the doubles did not photograph like me at all so I ended up doing a lot of the swimming – except for the very dangerous stuff. But when I needed my diving regulator to breathe, I couldn’t find it. I was terrified.”

Determined to complete the film and fulfill director Peter Yates’s requests, Bisset says she attacked her role like a good sport. “I said I didn’t want to die but I’m really going to try to make it work.”

She says her costars Nick Nolte and Robert Shaw - in one of his final roles - kept her laughing during the production, which helped lighten some of the more stressful moments.

“I was like their toy and they never stopped teasing me and coming at me underwater,” Bisset remembered. “Working with Nick and Robert was hilarious in many ways. The combination of being underwater and the laughter was dangerous but fun.”

A project we are not likely see from Jacqueline Bisset anytime soon is her autobiography. When asked if she has considered committing her life story to text, Bisset said “I’ve considered it but only for about three seconds.”

“The really interesting stuff about my life is my private life and I don’t really want to talk about that,” she continued. “Those are the relationships that have really made me grow. It’s unlikely that I will write a book but I’m asked to do it quite often.”

Bisset says she has difficulty with the fact that the world has become so public in the current social media age.

“I like my freedom,” she said. “I’ve had moments where I couldn’t move around so easily but at the moment I’m able to have a private life. I can go to the market and do all of the things I want to do. I just go for it. I try to look reasonable when I go out (laughs) but I don’t do a big number and I don’t call people in advance to let them know I’m coming so I can be surprised when the photographer turns up. I’m able to have a pretty reasonable life.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 May 2018 20:37

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