‘It changed all our lives’
Thirty years on, those involved in making TheKillingFields look back at its legacy.
out a tomato plant Dith had been growing.
“He suddenly stopped in the middle of the scene,” Joffe said. Ngor couldn’t do it anymore. The cold expression on the young girl’s face hit too close to home. In the moment, Ngor thought she really was a Khmer Rouge soldier. But Joffe eased his fears and eventually he completed the scene.
Rounding out the cast were John Malkovich as photojournalist Al Rockoff and Julian Sands as British journalist Jon Swain. Sands said the director sent the actors to Thailand a month before shooting started to get immersed in the place and the truth of the story.
“I remember the profound impact of visiting the Khmer refugee camps on the ThaiCambodian border and talking to survivors about their experiences with Haing Ngor as translator,” said Sands from Puerto Rico, where he is filming the NBC pirate series Crossbones with Malkovich.
Eleven years after winning his Oscar, Ngor was shot to death outside his apartment near Dodger Stadium. Waterston recalled that beyond his co-star’s “tremendous spine”, one could also see an “unbelievable gentleness of spirit”.
After completing the film, Waterston and Joffe became involved with Cambodian charities. Joffe still visits the country often and with friends started the Cambodian Trust, which makes artificial limbs and operates a school for prosthetics. Waterston, who followed his long stint on NBC’s Law & Order with HBO’s The Newsroom, has lent his support to an American advocacy organisation Refugees International. Puttnam frequently visits Cambodia as the prime ministerial trade envoy to that country as well as Vietnam and Laos.
Before The Killing Fields, Schanberg said, Cambodians “never knew during their time under the Khmer Rouge whether anybody in the outside world knew about what was happening to them. The truth was, that was pretty true. The movie changed that.” — Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services