Tina Fey lends her sly, political wit to tell this feminist story based on a real-life war correspondent in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Here are 11 interesting things to know about the movie.
1. It’s based on the book, The Taliban Shuffle, by Kim Barker
The memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, documents Barker’s own journey as a war correspondent in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But it was Barker’s bold, often comedic female perspective on the situation that made the book a hit.
2. A review of the book got Tina Fey’s attention
The New York Times‘ book reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, loved The Taliban Shuffle, especially its “satiric verve,” calling Barker’s story “hilarious and harrowing, witty and illuminating.” But it was this line of the review that was a game changer: “[Barker] depicts herself as a sort of Tina Fey character, who unexpectedly finds herself addicted to the adrenaline rush of war.” Tina Fey felt compelled to read the book, and the rest is history.
3. Fey’s one disappointment about playing Kim Barker
Fey only wished she was as tall as Barker, saying, “My only regret is that I can’t pull off playing Kim at 5’10”. In the book, Kim describes how she towered over powerful men who’d proposition her and grab her butt. I’d love to portray that, but I’m only 5’4″.”
4. The movie left out Barker’s time in Pakistan
Often, when a movie is made from a book, large chunks of the story get left out because the story has to be condensed. “Although Kim’s time in Pakistan was fascinating, it was just too much to cover in one movie. This is a movie based on her life, so we changed her name from Barker to Baker, and Robert [the screenwriter] also made her a cable news producer rather than a print journalist — who wants to watch people typing? [He] amalgamated her friends, colleagues and story subjects in a way that makes the narrative more cinematic.”
5. Martin Freeman’s humiliating moment
Freeman’s character, Iain, attempts to serenade Kim in the film, which wasn’t a fun experience for Freeman. “For Iain it was no big deal, but for Martin, it was one of the most humiliating experiences of my adult life. I used to sing karaoke in my 20s, but those were songs I chose, and I was drunk enough not to care. The song [in the movie] had a ridiculously high falsetto chorus, so I had to try to lobotomize that part of my brain that knows humiliation.” The song he sings in the movie is A-ha’s “Take on Me.”
6. The movie was shot in New Mexico
There’s no way that Fey and her crew would attempt to shoot a film in war-torn Afghanistan, so they scouted locations in Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi, but eventually settled on the desert in New Mexico.
7. The “Kabul cough”
To make New Mexico look like Afghanistan, the filmmakers purchased five tons of dust that they blew into the actors’ faces, take after take. Breathing in all that dust made everyone cough, so they nicknamed the symptom the “Kabul cough.”
8. The scene that brought Kim Barker to tears
In an interview with The Daily Free Press, Barker expressed her delight in how the movie portrayed her relationship with her Afghan translator, Farouq (called Fahim in the movie, played by Christopher Abbott). In real life, Farouq was very protective of Barker and watching the scene where the two say goodbye made Barker cry.
9. Actress Sheila Vand recently played a vampire
In Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Vand (pictured above, right), an American actress of Persian descent, plays the role of Shakira Khar, also a journalist. The versatile actress also starred in the first Iranian vampire Western called A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Here is the trailer:
10. “David Sedaris meets the war on terror”
According to a letter from author Kim Barker on BookBrowse.com, her original intention was to write a book that balanced the grim darkness a reporter encounters in a war zone with David Sedaris’ style of sarcastic humor.
11. Title of book inspired by Barker’s iPod
In the same letter from BookBrowse.com, Barker wrote, “The title The Taliban Shuffle came long before the book. That’s what all the journalists and the militants did — shuffling back and forth across the vague border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I then decided to use song titles off my iPod as chapter titles, coming up with a new shuffle playlist, the Taliban shuffle.”
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot opens in theaters on Friday, March 4.