The Quiet American


1h 58m 2002

Brief Synopsis

American aid worker Alden Pyle arrives in Saigon in the fall of 1952, at the height of the Vietnamese fight for independence from French colonial rule. Filled with zeal for his mission to help the people of Vietnam through his economic aid program and eager to learn the lay of the land from a more e

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Nov 22, 2002
Premiere Information
Toronto Film Festival premiere: 6 Sep 2002; New York and Los Angeles release: 22 Nov 2002; Vietnamese premiere: 17 Dec 2002
Production Company
IMF Production; Intermedia Films; Mirage Enterprises; Saga Pictures
Distribution Company
Miramax Films
Country
Australia and United States
Location
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; Vietnam; Da Nang,Vietnam; Hanoi,Vietnam; Hanoi City,Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh City--The Continental Hotel,Vietnam; Ninh Binh,Vietnam; Saigon,Vietnam; Saigon--The Continental Hotel,Vietnam; Hoi An, Vietnam
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Quiet American by Graham Greene (London, 1955).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 58m

Synopsis

In 1952 Saigon, Thomas Fowler, a seasoned correspondent for The Times (London) who has been covering the French-Communist conflict in Vietnam, is summoned to Inspector Vigot's office to identify Alden Pyle, whose body was found floating in the Saigon River. After identifying the corpse at the morgue, Fowler crosses the newly poured cement floor in the hallway of his house and tells his young Vietnamese mistress, Phuong, that Pyle has been assassinated. Fowler then recalls the first time he met Pyle, on the terrace of the Hotel Continental in Saigon, a hotel frequented by Americans: Pyle, an idealistic young American who believes that he can "make a difference" in the war-torn country, eagerly introduces himself to Fowler as a member of the medical division of an economic aid mission. Fowler, who prides himself on being a dispassionate reporter of events, is amused by the American's certainty that he can make things better. Later at his office, Fowler's assistant Hinh hands him a telegram from his London editor ordering his return to England. To justify staying in Vietnam, Fowler decides to write a story about Phat Diem, a village in the North under siege by Communists. That night at a social gathering attended by Joe Tunney of the American Delegation, Fowler introduces Phuong to Pyle, who is enchanted by her beauty. After Pyle is dragged to a brothel by Bill Granger, a drunken, crude American, Fowler comes to his rescue and invites Pyle to join him and Phuong for dinner at the L'Arc en Ciel dance hall. There the naïve Pyle is shocked as American men vie to buy tickets to dance with young Vietnamese women. While dancing with Phuong, Pyle says that he knows only two words of Vietnamese. Phuong's avaricious older sister, Miss Hei, joins them at the table, and upon learning that Pyle is unmarried, suggests that he visit her and Phuong while Fowler is away. After leaving the women, Fowler tells Pyle that when he met her, Phuong, the daughter of a good family, was forced to work as a taxi dancer after her father's death left her penniless. Upon returning home that night, Fowler tells Phuong that he has been called back to London. When she asks to go with him, he declares that he would marry her if he could, but warns that his Roman Catholic wife will never grant him a divorce. Some time later, as Fowler nears Phat Diem, he is surprised to see Pyle, who claims that he came to get a "first-hand look" at his medical team. When they find the villagers massacred and the ground littered with dead bodies, Fowler's French escorts blame the Communists for the murders, but Fowler questions what motive the Communists would have to kill innocent villagers. That night, they take shelter in a bunker where Fowler asks Pyle his real reason for coming. Pyle replies that he has fallen in love with Phuong and wants to "protect her." Upon awakening the next morning, Fowler finds a note from the departed Pyle, stating that he will talk to him about Phuong in Saigon. When Fowler returns to Saigon he files his story, then watches in dismay as a rally is held to honor General Thé, a Vietnamese warlord who has broken allegiance with the French and thus is being hailed as the leader of a new political party. On the outskirts of the rally, Pyle looks on approvingly. Later, Pyle comes to the house to propose to Phuong, infuriating Fowler. After Pyle leaves, Fowler writes a letter to his wife, asking for a divorce. Months later, Fowler crosses a dangerous stretch along the Cambodian border to interview Thé and is surprised to see Pyle, who explains that he has set up camp with his medical team. When Thé refuses to meet with Fowler, Pyle arranges an interview in which Muoi, a Vietnamese businessman, translates. After Fowler implies that Thé was responsible for the massacre near Phat Diem, Thé becomes enraged and storms off. Fowler then spots Joe lurking in the shadows. Pyle unexpectedly asks Fowler for a ride back to Saigon, and as night falls, their car runs out of gas, leaving them stranded. Nearby is a watchtower being guarded by Vietnamese soldiers, and Fowler and Pyle take refuge there. Later that night, they hear cars approach and a voice calls out to the soldiers to turn over the foreigners. Grabbing one of the soldier's rifles, Pyle jumps down from the tower and urges Fowler to follow. Fowler injures his ankle in the leap and Pyle drags him to safety just as their assailants fire-bomb the tower. Because Fowler is unable to walk, Pyle leaves him to go in search of help. While he is alone, Fowler recalls the first time he saw Phuong at the L'Arc en Ciel as she was being pawed by crass Americans. His reverie of Phuong is interrupted when Pyle arrives with some French soldiers. Upon returning to Saigon, Fowler becomes alarmed by the sudden growth of Thé's army and begins to suspect that Joe and Muoi are backing the general. Phuong welcomes Fowler home and hands him a letter from his wife in London, which he opens and hides under his pillow when Pyle arrives unexpectedly. Fowler then announces that his wife has granted him a divorce. Some time later, Pyle, Phuong and her sister come to Fowler's office, where Phuong's sister confronts him with the letter in which his wife has stated that she will never grant him a divorce. Affronted, they accuse Fowler of lying and leave. When they depart, Hinh informs Fowler that he and some associates have learned that Muoi has been avoiding customs on the goods he imports. When Hinh states that a new shipment has just arrived at Muoi's warehouse, Fowler and Hinh break into the warehouse and find containers labeled "diolacton" with Joe Tunney as their designated consignee. Returning home to find that Phuong has left him for Pyle, Fowler proceeds to Pyle's office and then his house, where he stands forlornly in the street. Later, when Fowler asks Pyle about diolacton, Pyle says that it is a plastic used in the manufacture of eyeglasses. Soon after, Fowler is seated on the terrace of the Continental Hotel when a violent explosion rocks the square, killing and maiming innocent civilians. Horrified, Fowler runs into the carnage to help the injured while Pyle coldly observes from a distance and wipes a patch of blood from his pant leg. Back at his office, Fowler is recalling the horrific experience to Hinh when he realizes that he saw Pyle speaking fluent Vietnamese. When Fowler researches diolacton and discovers that it is used in making explosives, he realizes that the Americans are supplying Thé with the materials to make bombs. Emboldened, Hinh informs Fowler that Pyle works for the CIA and asks him to set up a meeting to which the unsuspecting Pyle will come without his bodyguards. When Fowler hesitates, Hinh counsels that "one must take sides if one is to remain human." Consequently, Fowler invites Pyle to his house, and when Pyle arrives with his dog, he fervently defends Thé as the one person who can stop Communism and then admits that the general ordered the assassination attempt on Fowler. Appalled by the American's arrogance and certainty about what is right, Fowler decides to aid Hinh in his plot and arranges to meet Pyle at a restaurant that night. Later that evening, Fowler is seated at an outdoor restaurant as Pyle crosses a bridge with his dog and is accosted by knife-wielding assailants. As the assailants pursue Pyle into the dark alleyways, a drunken Granger plops down at Fowler's table, saddened by his son's recent diagnosis with polio and desperate to talk to a familiar face. Unnerved by the turn of events, Fowler excuses himself and sees Hinh ride off on his bicycle. Late that night, after Vigot has summoned Fowler to identify Pyle's body, Vigot comes to Fowler's house and states that he has proof that Pyle was there earlier because Pyle's dog, whose throat was slashed, had wet cement from Fowler's floor between his toes. After responding that "there is a war on and people are dying every day," Fowler goes to L'Arc en Ciel and buys a ticket to dance with Phuong. Phuong is unresponsive until Fowler promises never to leave, after which she embraces him. Once at home, Fowler tells Phuong that he needs to apologize, and she replies "not to me, never to me."

Crew

Sean Ahern

Const foreman, Vietnam unit

Staffan Ahrenberg

Producer

Volker Allert

Special Effects welder

Nguyen Hoang An

Prod runner

Truong Dinh An

Assistant dresser, Vietnam unit

Paul Anderson

Grip Assistant

Steve Andrews

1st Assistant Director

Steve Andrews

Associate Producer

Huynh Kim Anh

Electrician, Vietnam unit

Tran Lan Anh

Translator, Vietnam unit

Dennis Archer

Painter

Charlie Armstrong

2D Supervisor

Craig Armstrong

Original Music prod, Arrangements & orch

Craig Armstrong

Composer

Peter Arnold

Stand-in

Zac Astill

Unit Assistant

Kerri Aungle

Neg matching

Nathan Ayres

Carpenter

Nguyen Thinh Bac

Technical Advisor

Matt Baldwin

Unit Assistant, Vietnam unit

Richard Baldwin

Paint foreman

Jason Ballantine

1st Assistant Editor

Nick Bamfield

Miniatures carpenter

Mark Bamford

Australian legal services

Quoc Bao

Composer

Vu Huy Ngoc Bao

Standby props Assistant, Vietnam unit

Mark Barber

Compositor

Aaron Barclay

Compositor

Antonia Barnard

Line prod

Annette Barnes

Sound Assistant

Pamela Barnetta

Conform Editor

Chris Barrett

Assistant eng at Air

Dave Bartlett

Stagehand

Christian Bass

Dial Editor

Mark Battaglene

Carpenter

Nguyen Van Bay

Translator, Vietnam unit

Truong Van Be

On set carpenter, Vietnam unit

Truong Van Be

Set builder, Vietnam unit

Annie Beauchamp

Art Director, Vietnam unit

Jared Behan

Board op

Linda Benjamin

[prod Assistant] For Intermedia and Pacific

Michelle Bennett

Travel consultant

Niki Bern

Compositor

Robyn Bersten

Loc Manager

Damien Berwick

Paint labourer

Ngoc Bich

Loc Assistant, Vietnam unit

Ian Bickerton

Leading hand

Ha Long Bien

Assistant freight Coordinator

Dang Thanh Binh

Translator, Vietnam unit

Le Cong Binh

Casting Assistant, Vietnam unit

Catherine Bishop

Unit Production Manager

Craig Blair

Catering Assistant

Robert Blance

Carpenter

Robert Blance

Miniatures Assistant

Toscha Blenkinsop

Newspaper seq Designer

Tanya Blumstein

Dial coach

Benoit Bollard

Double

Gary Bonnar

Runner/Driver [sets]

Malcolm Booth

Best boy grip

Moritz Borman

Executive Producer

Andrew Bosh

Special Effects Assistant

Guy Bowden

Best boy grip

John Bowring

Armourer

Natalie Bracher

Costume Assistant

Giles Bradbury

Paint foreman

Phil Bray

Still Photographer

Alan Brown

Scenic artist, Vietnam unit

Ian Brown

Senior anim

Kerrie Brown

Set Decoration

Kirsty Bruce

Conform Editor

Martin Bruveris

Scenic artist, Vietnam unit

Julie Bryant

Costume cutter

Steve Burgess

Foley rec

Arthur Burke

Senior Effects tech

Johnny Burke

Composer

David Burr

Addl Photographer

David Burrows

Conform Editor

Joshua Bush

Leading hand

Nick Byrne

Mr. Fraser's security

Ben Caine

Special Effects Coordinator

Arthur Cambridge

Col grader

Gary Cameron

Miniatures leading hand

Mark Campbell

Stunts

Nguyen Pham Can

Art Director

Van Cao

Composer

Brian Carpenter

Unit Assistant

Tic Carroll

Unit Manager

Nguyen Dinh Chan

Sound Assistant, Vietnam unit

Nguyen Van Chan

Assistant dresser, Vietnam unit

Nguyen Van Chan

Props Assistant, Vietnam unit

Le Chanh

Armourer Assistant, Vietnam unit

Pham Van Chanh

Assistant dresser, Vietnam unit

Karin Charbit

Dial coach

Karin Charbit

Cast driver

Jacques Charles

Composer

Ho Van Chat

Special Effects tech, Vietnam unit

Dara Chatten

Special Effects Assistant

Nguyen Tien Chinh

Assistant dresser, Vietnam unit

Alex Chomicz

Art Department runner

Kerry Church

Special Effects Assistant

Matt Clark

Paint labourer

Hester Clarke

Miniatures carpenter

Jake Clifton

Carpenter

Mark Clifton

Carpenter

Sam Coates

Stand-in

Sam Coates

Double

Chris Colwell

Carpenter

Dom Connor

Trade Assistant

Matt Connors

Head scenic artist, Vietnam unit

Richard Connors

Prod adv and loc Supervisor

Henri Contet

Composer

Peter Cooke

Paint labourer

Emma Cooper

Unit Publicist

Jonathan Cooper

Leading hand

Lucy Cooper

Addl Assistant Director, Vietnam unit

Stefan Coory

Compositor

Bruno Coquatrix

Composer

Heather Corbett

Cimbalom

Jane Corden

Financial controller

Ed Cotton

Draughtperson

Steve Courtley

Special Effects Supervisor

Peter Coy

Const foreman, Vietnam unit

Fiona Crawford

Visual Effects prod

Francois Crespel

Miniatures Assistant

Luke Cross

Rigging Electrician

Richard Crowe

Carpenter

Miranda Culley

Assistant to Mr. Noyce

Dang Dinh Cuong

Art Department runner, Vietnam unit

Hoang Dinh Cuong

Grip Assistant, Vietnam unit

Ngo Quoc Cuong

Translator, Vietnam unit

Nguyen Phuoc Cuong

Prod runner

Harry Dakinalis

Safety Supervisor

David Dally

Compositor

Le Quoc Dat

Translator, Vietnam unit

Nguyen Thanh Dat

Assistant set dec, Vietnam unit

Jake Davies

Music programming and keyboards

Nicholas Day

Miniatures carpenter

China De La Vega

Addl Assistant Director, Vietnam unit

Colin Deane

Focus puller, Vietnam unit

Richie Dehne

Props Master

Matt Dempsey

Stand-in

Shane Dettnam

Unit Assistant

Selina Dey

Base liaison

Matthias Deyle

IMF prod

Vo Van Dhuc

Stunts

Lisa Dickson-battye

Costume Assistant

Nguyen Thi Ngoc Diep

Costume Supervisor, Vietnam unit

Truong Bich Diep

Translator, Vietnam unit

Truong Bich Diep

Art Department translator, Vietnam unit

Nguyen Huu Dinh

Armourer Assistant, Vietnam unit

Jonathan Dixon

Digital liaison

Lai Phu Don

Casting Assistant, Vietnam unit

David Donaldson

Music programming and keyboards

David Donaldson

Vocals rec

Clarissa Donlevy

Newspaper seq Designer

Hiliary Douglas

Assistant to Mr. Fraser

Hiliary Douglas

Dial coach

Niall Douglas

Miniatures trade Assistant

Kate Dowd

European casting

Christopher Doyle

Director of Photography

Nick Drake

[prod Assistant] For Intermedia and Pacific

Pham Vien Du

Assistant dresser, Vietnam unit

Chris Dubrow

[prod Assistant] For Intermedia and Pacific

Do Hong Duc

Loc scout, Vietnam unit

Nguyen Tien Duc

Assistant set dec, Vietnam unit

Thu Duc

Security, Vietnam unit

Tran Viet Duc

2d Assistant Director, Vietnam unit

David Dulac

3D Supervisor

Dang Kim Dung

Translator, Vietnam unit

Le Tien Dung

Stunts

Luong Thanh Dung

Translator, Vietnam unit

Nguyen Tien Dung

Rigger, Vietnam unit

Tran Van Dung

Unit Assistant, Vietnam unit

Matt Dunkley

Original Music and orch Conductor/Addl orch

Bev Dunn

Buyer/Dresser, Vietnam unit

Steve Dunn

FSU prod

Paul Durand

Composer

Guy East

Executive Producer

Jodie Eastwood

Casting & extras liaison, Vietnam unit

Roger Edens

Composer

Nash Edgerton

Stunts

Nash Edgerton

Assistant stunt Coordinator

Jack Elliott

Greensman

Deana Elwell

[prod Assistant] For Intermedia and Pacific

Todd Embling

3d Assistant Director

Will Evans

[prod Assistant] For Intermedia and Pacific

Ashley Fairfield

Double

Ashley Fairfield

Stunts

Kirstin Feddersen

Stunts

Kirstin Feddersen

Animal wrangler

Jean Féline

Composer

Kerry Fetzer

Caterer

Darren Fieldhouse

Carpenter

Aren Fieldwalker

GMD prod

David Finato

Trade Assistant

Craig Fison

Miniatures Assistant

John Fitzpatrick

Miniatures carpenter

John Fitzpatrick

Carpenter

Oliver Fontenay

Director of prod, Atlab

Emma Ford

Assistant to Mr. Armstrong

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Nov 22, 2002
Premiere Information
Toronto Film Festival premiere: 6 Sep 2002; New York and Los Angeles release: 22 Nov 2002; Vietnamese premiere: 17 Dec 2002
Production Company
IMF Production; Intermedia Films; Mirage Enterprises; Saga Pictures
Distribution Company
Miramax Films
Country
Australia and United States
Location
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; Vietnam; Da Nang,Vietnam; Hanoi,Vietnam; Hanoi City,Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh City--The Continental Hotel,Vietnam; Ninh Binh,Vietnam; Saigon,Vietnam; Saigon--The Continental Hotel,Vietnam; Hoi An, Vietnam
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Quiet American by Graham Greene (London, 1955).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 58m

Award Nominations

Best Actor

2002
Michael Caine

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The opening and closing onscreen cast credits differ slightly in order. The film opens with a shimmering image of the Saigon River. Over this image, the off-screen voice of Michael Caine as "Thomas Fowler" recites an elegy to life in Vietnam. His narration is interrupted by the sound of a splash and a cut to the body of "Pyle" floating in the river. Fowler's narration continues throughout the film. The closing credits contain a number of written acknowledgments to persons and institutions who assisted in the production. Among them were various Vietnamese government departments and locations. "Dipsychus," the poem partially recited by Fowler in the film, was written in 1850 by English writer Arthur Hugh Clough.
       Although the film was completed in April 2001, it was not released until November 2002. Miramax Films, the distributor, decided to delay the release after audiences at a New Jersey test screening on September 10, 2001 reacted "negatively to the film's critique of American interventionist policies abroad," according to a New York Times November 2002 article. The next day, September 11, 2001, terrorists crashed three jets into the World Trade Center Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, causing them to collapse. Miramax then decided to postpone the release indefinitely. In the New York Times article, Harvey Weinstein, the head of Miramax, was quoted as saying "My biggest fear was erring on the side of bad taste...In light of everything that happened, you needed to have your head examined if you thought this was a time for questioning America."
       The film's fidelity to Graham Greene's novel, in which Greene, according to the film's director, Phillip Noyce, "defined a particular moment in U.S. history when America started taking responsibility for the world," seemed especially critical at a time when the United States had just come under terrorist attack. Fowler's cynical remarks about American intervention only exacerbated the situation. A September 2002 The Times, (London) article suggests that the studio ordered Noyce to reedit the film in order to make more ambiguous the criticism of "American adventurism" that screenwriter Christopher Hampton had incorporated into the script.
       Another major difference between the novel and the film is that although the novel was set in 1952, the film's ending features a collage of newspaper clippings from the late 1950s to the 1960s that trace France's defeat and America's entry into the Vietnam war. Mark Gill, the president of Miramax Los Angeles, said in the Times article that Noyce added this montage to link the events of the 1950s to events from the 1960s more familiar to Americans.
       Noyce also decided to change the nationality of Fowler's assistant, "Mr. Hinh." In the novel, the assistant was Indian, not a Vietnamese working undercover for the Communists. Noyce said that he was inspired to make the change by a story he heard about Vietnamese patriot General An. In the film's press kit Noyce explained that An, while working as an undercover spy for the Vietnamese, was employed by the French as a censor, by the Americans to gather intelligence and finally by Time magazine and the Reuters news service, making him a triple agent. The Times article notes that Caine and Anthony Minghella, one of the film's executive producers, finally convinced Weinstein to release the film, and as a result it had its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on September 6, 2002. In a September 2002 Variety news item, Gill stated that the film's enthusiastic support at the Toronto Film Festival persuaded Miramax to release the film in the U.S.
       According to a Screen International April 1991 article, the film was originally to be a co-production between Sydney Pollack's Mirage Enterprises and Electric Pictures, an independent partnership of Staffan Ahrenberg and Nicole Seguin. Materials contained in the film's press kit add that Ahrenberg acquired the rights to Greene's novel in 1988-89 and agreed to develop the project with Pollack, who had the first right of refusal to direct the picture, which was to be scripted by Frank Galati. Press kit materials note that Noyce became interested in acquiring the rights to Greene's novel in 1995 while on a research trip to Vietnam in which he was accompanying former U.S. military intelligence officers back to their training grounds. When Noyce learned that Mirage and Ahrenberg already owned the rights to the novel, he met with Pollack and his Mirage partner, William Horberg, who then agreed that Noyce should direct the picture.
       By September 1995, a Screen International article announced that film project was to be financed by Paramount and that Noyce was to direct. In May 1997, Sean Connery was named to star and Johnny Depp was being considered to co-star, according to May 1997 article in Screen International. Once Paramount rejected the project, Mirage began developing the project with Intermedia Films, according to a February 2001 article in Screen International.
       The film began production on February 17, 2001, and spent five weeks shooting locations in Vietnam. According to a November 2002 Hollywood Reporter news item, location shooting was done in Ho Chi Minh City, (which before the Communist takeover was known as Saigon), at the Continental Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, the town of Ninh Binh, the port town of Hoi An, the nearby town of Da Nang and in Hanoi City. Second unit director Dang Nhat Minh, whose father was killed by an American bomber during the war in Vietnam, directed the Saigon square scene in Ho Chi Minh City, according to the Hollywood Reporter article. A September 2001 New York Times article adds that Nguyen Thinh Bac, who worked as a technical advisor on the guillotine sequence, had been imprisoned by the French during the war.
       The Quiet American marked the English-language debut of Vietnamese actress Do Thi Hai Yen, who learned English specifically for the film. It also marked the first major American-financed film to be made in Vietnam since the end of the war. The film had its Vietnamese premiere on December 17, 2002 and was commended by the Vietnamese government as "an accurate portrayal of early U.S. involvement in Indochina," according to a December 17, 2002 Reuters news item. The film was selected as one of AFI's top ten films of the year, and Michael Caine was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor-Drama and for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Philip Noyce was named Best Director of 2002 by the National Board of Review.
       The Quiet American had previously been filmed in 1958 by Figaro, Inc., directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Audie Murphy and Michael Redgrave. There are several differences between that version and the 2002 version. In the 1958 film, Pyle is never given a name, but known only as "The American." "Phuong's" rejection of Fowler at the end of the 1958 film differs from both the novel and the 2002 film, in which she goes back to Fowler.

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner (along with "Rabbit-Proof Fence) of the 2002 award for Best Director from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

Winner of the 2002 award for Best Actor (Michael Caine) by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

Winner of two 2002 awards by the London Film Critics Circle, including: Actor of the Year award (Michael Caine) and Director of the Year.

Released in United States Fall November 22, 2002

Expanded Release in United States January 10, 2003

Released in United States on Video July 29, 2003

Released in United States November 2002

Frank Galati wrote a previous adaptation of the novel.

Remake of the film written and directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz (USA/1958), starring Audie Murphy and Michael Redgrave.

Mirage Entertainment is Sydney Pollack's production company.

Atlab color

Released in United States Fall November 22, 2002

Expanded Release in United States January 10, 2003

Released in United States on Video July 29, 2003

Released in United States November 2002 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Tribute) November 7-17, 2002.)

Voted one of the 10 best films of 2002 by the American Film Institute (AFI).