Now 9/11 captures the imagination of Hollywood

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Films ever so often mimic real life and that is perhaps what motivated Paramount Pictures to give the go-ahead for a film based on the WTC bombings. In what is going to be Hollywood’s first 9/11 picture, the Viacom Inc.-owned studio is to make a film starring Nicolas Cage, based on the true story of two Port Authority officers rescued from the collapsed World Trade Center towers in New York. However, Paramount’s announcement came on the heels of the London bombings, in view of another film being churned out by the rival Columbia Pictures.

Close to four years since the attacks, Hollywood is seriously evaluating the story value of the attacks and its aftermath. With at least two major studios with films based on 9/11 in the offing, there has been an attitude shift towards depiction of the suicide attacks that prompted the U.S. global war on terrorism. While the Paramount film will be the first such Hollywood film about the event, earlier in February Columbia Pictures announced optioning for screen rights to “102 Minutes” a chronicle by two NYT journalists, of the time between the first airline crash into WTC and the collapse of the first tower. However, to date neither cast nor the director for the film had been finalized, though the first script draft was received from Billy Ray (writer and director of “Shattered Glass”).

The Paramount film, which is yet to be titled, seeks to weave a story around the last men to be rescued – Port Officers John McLoughlin and William J. Jimeno, from WTC after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. While the script deals with the key protagonists’ ordeal of being trapped, it will also focus on their rescuers and their families, in an attempt to find out what happened to those in the building. At the core of the film is the human spirit, which rose above the tragic events of that day. McLoughlin, whose character is being enacted by Cage said, “The people involved in putting this movie together are truly making an extraordinary attempt to tell those stories and the stories of those who are no longer with us”. Jimeno who is now retired, also echoed the thought that the film would be “a tribute to all those that gave everything they had to bring people home to their loved ones”.

Oscar winning director, Oliver Stone believes that screenplay written by newcomer Andrea Berloff is one of the best that he had ever seen in terms of its emotion and simplicity. He said, “Clearly, it’s a work of collective passion, a serious meditation on what happened, and carries within a compassion that heals”. Officers McLoughlin and Jimeno, sold their life rights to Paramount Pictures, facilitating the original screenplay by Berloff. Besides, the casting of Cage as McLoughlin, the other key actors in the film are yet to be decided.

While the 9/11 attacks captured the imagination and the emotions of millions around the world, studios and broadcasters had insofar steered away from themes evocative of the tragedy. With Paramount’s announcement, what used to be the province of TV documentaries and investigative reports will now be captured as a feature film, with the star power of Stone and Cage to make it one of the biggies tackling the 9/11 tragedy.