Protocol (1984)

PG | 95 mins | Comedy | 21 December 1984

Director:

Herbert Ross

Producer:

Anthea Sylbert

Cinematographer:

William Fraker

Editor:

Paul Hirsch

Production Designer:

Bill Malley

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures
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HISTORY


       As explained in a 23 Dec 1984 NYT article, star and executive producer Goldie Hawn conceived the initial idea for Protocol, which represented the debut project for her production company, co-founded with Anthea Sylbert, the film’s producer. Sylbert was best known at the time for her work as a costume designer. Hawn dedicated the film to her father, who passed away while the project was in development, and stated that “Mr. Davis,” her character’s father in the story, shared many traits with her own father. Having grown up in Washington, D.C., outside of the political arena, Hawn was interested in celebrating “the plain folk” and “common sense” overlooked by the story’s scheming politicians. A 7 Jul 1982 Var article reported that the producing team from Hawn’s 1980 hit Private Benjamin (see entry), Nancy Myers, Harvey Miller, and Charles Shyer, would be returning to collaborate on Protocol, with Myers and Miller producing and Shyer making his directing debut. Although the three did not remain with the project in these positions, they shared the onscreen credit for story. Writer Buck Henry received sole screenplay credit, and Herbert Ross was hired as director.
       According to an 8 May 1984 HR production chart, principal photography began 16 Apr 1984, and production notes in AMPAS library files stated that the first day of shooting took place at the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. Location work also included the following sites in the city: the National Archives, the Jefferson Memorial, George Washington University Hospital, the State Department, the Capitol, Dulles airport, Georgetown, the District Building, ... More Less


       As explained in a 23 Dec 1984 NYT article, star and executive producer Goldie Hawn conceived the initial idea for Protocol, which represented the debut project for her production company, co-founded with Anthea Sylbert, the film’s producer. Sylbert was best known at the time for her work as a costume designer. Hawn dedicated the film to her father, who passed away while the project was in development, and stated that “Mr. Davis,” her character’s father in the story, shared many traits with her own father. Having grown up in Washington, D.C., outside of the political arena, Hawn was interested in celebrating “the plain folk” and “common sense” overlooked by the story’s scheming politicians. A 7 Jul 1982 Var article reported that the producing team from Hawn’s 1980 hit Private Benjamin (see entry), Nancy Myers, Harvey Miller, and Charles Shyer, would be returning to collaborate on Protocol, with Myers and Miller producing and Shyer making his directing debut. Although the three did not remain with the project in these positions, they shared the onscreen credit for story. Writer Buck Henry received sole screenplay credit, and Herbert Ross was hired as director.
       According to an 8 May 1984 HR production chart, principal photography began 16 Apr 1984, and production notes in AMPAS library files stated that the first day of shooting took place at the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. Location work also included the following sites in the city: the National Archives, the Jefferson Memorial, George Washington University Hospital, the State Department, the Capitol, Dulles airport, Georgetown, the District Building, and the White House exterior. The production relocated to the towns of Grass Valley and Auburn in Northern CA to capture “Sunny’s” Oregon hometown, and also visited Sacramento, CA, to film the scene of “Sunny” running after the Afghan hounds. Next, cast and crew shot at the Burbank (CA) Studios and the following sites in and around Los Angeles, CA: City Hall, the Milbank Mansion, Burbank airport, a side street in Hollywood, the Pasadena Post Office, College of Canyons in Santa Clarita, and the Wrigley Mansion in Pasadena. The final ten days of filming took place in Tunisia. As reported in a 2 Jul 1984 LAT article, the cast and crew rushed through a twelve-week shooting schedule that included weekends and holidays to avoid a possible upcoming strike by the Directors Guild of America (DGA). Noting the film’s 258 speaking parts and over 4,000 extras, director Herbert Ross declared that Protocol was his most grueling production, to date.
       During the Washington, D.C. location work, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) protested the filming after receiving a copy of the script. According to a 7 May 1984 People magazine article, the group objected to the numerous Arab stereotypes in the screenplay, particularly the disrespectful portrayal of Islam and cited scenes in which “Nawaf Al Kabeer,” a spiritual advisor, yells “God is Great!” in Arabic as he fondles Hawn’s character and frolics with prostitutes at “Lou’s Safari Club.” The ADC demonstrated at certain locations and allegedly disrupted a scheduled shoot at the Colombian Embassy. In response, the producers “were considering changing the religious character to a secular man and eliminating some of the more offensive one-liners.” In a 24 Jul 1984 HR interview, Tarak Ben Ammar, the financier-producer of Carthago Films, which was responsibility for coordinating the Tunisia locations, stated that he was opposed to granting the production permission to shoot in his country after learning about the ADC protests. However, he changed his mind when the filmmakers agreed to make “reasonable changes” to the script, involving scenes he felt were “fictitious or damaging to the image of the Arab race and culture.”
      End credits acknowledge the following: "Life title and format used with permission of Time Inc.; Prerecorded footage supplied by CNN ©Cable News Network Inc. 1984 all rights reserved; Tonight Show footage courtesy of Carson Tonight, Inc.” End credits also state: “The producers wish to thank the City of Auburn, California, and the Tunisian authorities for their help in facilitating the production of this film.”

              A dedication appears after the end credits: “For you, Dad; Love, Kink” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
8 May 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1984
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 1984
p. 3, 27.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jul 1984
Section H, p. 1, 6.
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1984
Section H, p. 6.
New York Times
21 Dec 1984
p. 25.
New York Times
23 Dec 1984
Section H, p. 1, 17.
People
7 May 1984
pp. 187-189.
Variety
7 Jul 1982
p. 5, 20.
Variety
19 Dec 1984
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Hawn-Sylbert production
A Herbert Ross film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
D.G.A. trainee
1st asst dir, Tunisian unit
Prod mgr, Tunisian unit
Prod mgr, Tunisian unit
2d unit dir, Tunisian unit
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir, Tunisian unit
FILM EDITORS
Addl ed by
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Costumer
Men's ward
Men's ward
Women's ward
Women's ward
Mrs. St. John's ward courtesy of
MUSIC
Contemporary mus consultant
Contemporary mus consultant
Supv mus ed
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Supv A.D.R. ed
Foley services provided by
Sd mixer
Re-rec services by
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opticals by
DANCE
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Loc mgr, Los Angeles
Loc mgr, Washington, D. C.
Asst to Mr. Ross
Asst to Mr. Ross
Personal asst to Goldie Hawn
Prod secy
Transportation coord
Prod supv, Tunisian unit
Tunisian loc coord, Tunisian unit
Media seqs by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“The Glamorous Life,” performed by Sheila E., courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Hopeless Love,” performed by Phil Marsh and The Hopeless Lovers, courtesy of Folkways Records (TRF Music, Inc.)
“Shangri-La,” performed by Steve Miller, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc.
+
SONGS
“The Glamorous Life,” performed by Sheila E., courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Hopeless Love,” performed by Phil Marsh and The Hopeless Lovers, courtesy of Folkways Records (TRF Music, Inc.)
“Shangri-La,” performed by Steve Miller, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc.
“Don’t Stop,” performed by Jeffrey Osborne, courtesy of A & M Records
“Strut,” performed by Sheena Easton, courtesy of EMI America Records
“Dynamite,” performed by Jermaine Jackson, courtesy of Arista Records, Inc.
“I’m So Excited,” performed by The Pointer Sisters, courtesy of Planet Records
“I Feel For You,” performed by Chaka Khan, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“I Love You, Suzanne,” performed by Lou Reed, courtesy of RCA Records.
+
PERFORMERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 December 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 December 1984
Production Date:
16 April--July 1984
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 March 1985
Copyright Number:
PA241501
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® Cameras by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
95
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27573
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Washington, D.C. cocktail waitress, Sunny Ann Davis, is having a difficult day as her car breaks down and she is late for work at Lou’s Safari Club. After her shift, her date cancels and she walks home alone. Along the way, she stops to join a crowd of onlookers outside a Presidential banquet in honor of the Emir of Ohtar. While admiring the regal guests at the event, she notices the man standing next to her has a gun. In the ensuing struggle, Sunny bites him on the hand and interrupts an assassination attempt against the Emir. Recovering at the hospital from a bullet wound in her buttocks, she becomes the focus of the media that calls her a “national heroine.” Michael Ransome, from the U.S. State Department’s Middle East desk, visits Sunny’s bustling hospital room and helps her prepare for a televised press conference. Presidential aides John J. Hilley and Pat Hassler watch the press conference from the White House and are impressed with the young woman’s charm. When asked about her personal life, Sunny explains she is from a small town in Oregon, shares a house with a homosexual couple, and has never voted in an election. Despite her lack of sophistication, Hilley and Hassler are fascinated by her ability to appeal to various factions. In the wake of the incident, Sunny continues to be on magazine covers and television talk shows. Meanwhile, the Emir takes an interest in the famous blonde waitress and telephones Hilley to ask if Sunny can be procured as one of his wives. In exchange, the Emir will permit ... +


Washington, D.C. cocktail waitress, Sunny Ann Davis, is having a difficult day as her car breaks down and she is late for work at Lou’s Safari Club. After her shift, her date cancels and she walks home alone. Along the way, she stops to join a crowd of onlookers outside a Presidential banquet in honor of the Emir of Ohtar. While admiring the regal guests at the event, she notices the man standing next to her has a gun. In the ensuing struggle, Sunny bites him on the hand and interrupts an assassination attempt against the Emir. Recovering at the hospital from a bullet wound in her buttocks, she becomes the focus of the media that calls her a “national heroine.” Michael Ransome, from the U.S. State Department’s Middle East desk, visits Sunny’s bustling hospital room and helps her prepare for a televised press conference. Presidential aides John J. Hilley and Pat Hassler watch the press conference from the White House and are impressed with the young woman’s charm. When asked about her personal life, Sunny explains she is from a small town in Oregon, shares a house with a homosexual couple, and has never voted in an election. Despite her lack of sophistication, Hilley and Hassler are fascinated by her ability to appeal to various factions. In the wake of the incident, Sunny continues to be on magazine covers and television talk shows. Meanwhile, the Emir takes an interest in the famous blonde waitress and telephones Hilley to ask if Sunny can be procured as one of his wives. In exchange, the Emir will permit the U.S. to build a military base in his country, giving the Americans a strategic advantage in the Middle East. Colluding with Mrs. St. John, head of the State Department’s Protocol Division, Hilley and Hassler arrange a government job for Sunny, as Special Assistant in Protocol, which will facilitate her access to the Emir. They agree not to inform the President and dismiss Michael Ransome’s reservations about the scheme. After looking up the meaning of protocol in the dictionary, Sunny realizes the significance of the position and accepts, but remains unaware of the marriage ploy. On her first day of work, Sunny attends a formal event at the Embassy of Ohtar, and is introduced to Nawaf Al Kabeer, chief temporal advisor to the Emir, who presents Sunny with a Rolls Royce as a token of his leader’s affection. Michael is also there and applauds when Sunny announces she will transfer ownership of the car to the Government Services Administration, as per Protocol rules regarding foreign gifts to government officials. However, back in Ohtar, the Emir is upset, and interprets her actions as a rejection of his marriage proposal. Hilley tries to reassure the Arab leader while the Protocol staff keeps Sunny busy with other diplomatic events, until they have a chance to introduce the two of them. Although Sunny’s naiveté often causes her to fumble through her duties, she becomes inspired while giving a tour of the National Archives to foreign delegates and reads passages from the Constitution for the first time. Michael has become fond of Sunny and during one function, they kiss while locked in a bathroom together. Meanwhile, in Ohtar, a mural of the Emir and his future veiled wife is painted on a wall. As Hilley briefs Sunny on the Emir’s upcoming “unofficial” visit, he emphasizes the State Department’s goal of securing a military base in Ohtar and the importance of showing the leader “a very good time.” In response, Sunny takes the Emir and his entourage to Lou’s Safari Club where a mixture of bikers, homosexuals, her waitress friends, Japanese tourists, and prostitutes, entertain the dignitaries. Hilley, Hassler, and St. John rush to the club when they learn where Sunny has taken the Arabs, and are stunned as they gaze upon the raucous party. As a fight breaks out, the Protocol staff is unable to control the situation and police detain the partygoers, including Sunny, the Emir, and Mrs. St. John. Vice President Merck steps in to expedite their release. St. John does not want Sunny’s resignation, but asks her to return to Ohtar with the Emir, as “our principal social contact” with the Arab leader, adding that she will be treated like royalty. In Ohtar, Sunny is immersed in Arab customs and dressed in traditional veiled clothing. Meanwhile, Hassler announces at a press conference that the deal for a new military base in the Middle East has been finalized, but inadvertently divulges that Sunny is marrying the Emir. Back in Ohtar, Sunny remains unaware of the plan, until she sees the mural and realizes she has been tricked. She quickly changes back into her American clothing and confronts the Arab leader. However, the Emir is busy trying to defend himself from an attack by rebels, who are upset that their leader plans to marry the American. As the government is overthrown, the Emir and Sunny escape by helicopter and return to the U.S. There, the media debates whether Sunny had any knowledge of the scheme and coins the scandal, “Sunnygate.” At the Protocol Division, Sunny packs up her belongings and refuses to cooperate with St. John, Hilley, and Hassler, as they try to manage the crisis. Meanwhile, Michael resigns from the State Department in support of Sunny. During a Congressional hearing on the matter, Sunny refuses to name the individuals who misguided her and testifies that she takes responsibility for being duped. She quotes the Constitution as a reminder that government is “we the people,” and the courtroom erupts in applause when she pledges to watch public officials “like a hawk” in the future. Sometime later, Sunny marries Michael, and he becomes her campaign manager as she wins a congressional race in her home state of Oregon. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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