I always knew that September 11th would be made into a movie. To deny that would be denying the movie industry’s desire to make money.
Usually I’m always willing to serve up an opinon about a movie, whether I think it will be good or “craphorrible”, whether it is worthy enough to be seen. Honestly, I do not know what to feel about World Trade Center, an Oliver Stone production set for release in the summer of 2006.
First let me say that I am not opposed to any film about 9/11 as long as it is tastefully done. Film is an important medium that must be used to share history without the Hollywood crap. Think of any movie about a historical event and how that film may have affected you. A movie about 9/11 is necessary for those who did not witness it themselves.
But considering the fact that my connection to 9/11 is greater than others, my opinions regarding this movie are slightly tainted. Some may believe that I should be outraged because this movie will graphically display the event that almost killed my father and changed me for the rest of my life. Others may think that my emotions, reserved and waiting to see the final product for myself, are completely justified.
Like I said before I’m not quite sure of my opinion despite saying that I am reserved about the concept of this film. Maybe in the next days, weeks, and months, I might decided that I absolutely hate the idea of anything reagrding the WTC. I mean, I already have issues looking at pictures of the Twin Towers, do you really think I’ll be able to sit through a two to three hour movie about 9/11? Probably not. But I’m going to have to see it, otherwise I’ll never find this closure that I’ve been looking for these past 4 years.
Movies are rarely emotional experiences for me. Casablanca and The Lion King are the only two movies I have ever sobbed during. But this movie may win the prize as being the only film that I will sit down during and be completely at a loss for anything going on in my head.
Below is a NY Times article about World Trade Center. The picture is of the replication of Ground Zero created in LA for the film
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 11 – Scores of extras loiter, their faces covered in soot. A man sprays gray insulation foam – in lieu of concrete dust – at what looks much like the corner of Church and Vesey Streets in Lower Manhattan. Another tosses reams of paper in the air. Nearby, others are debating precisely how to crush a fire truck and an ambulance.
And just over there, across a dirt road in this isolated industrial tract not far from Marina del Rey, the twisted facade and mangled girders of the wreckage of the World Trade Center are taking shape into a meticulously rendered mockup of ground zero.
A continent removed from the scrutiny of scarred New Yorkers, Oliver Stone’s film about 9/11 rescue workers is deep into its second month of principal photography. And crew members working round the clock are dressing one of the most sensitive movie sets imaginable.
The film, which as of now is to be called, simply, “World Trade Center,” tells the story of two Port Authority police officers, John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno, who were the last two rescue workers pulled from ground zero alive. It is billed as an uplifting story about everyday New Yorkers helping one another amid a cataclysmic tragedy. So for 20 days in October and November, the cast and crew were in the New York metropolitan area, filming at the police desk in the Port Authority bus terminal and along the route the officers took downtown on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. They filmed scenes on the Staten Island ferry, the Long Island Rail Road and a subway train in Brooklyn. They shot in Clifton, N.J., near Mr. Jimeno’s house, and in other suburbs.
But now, as the production turns to the grim heart of this story – the scenes inside the World Trade Center, and inside the horrific pile it became; the discovery of the two officers 30-odd feet below the surface by an accountant who had donned his old Marine fatigues; and their extrication after a long and arduous night by teams of rescue workers – the shooting of Mr. Stone’s movie is being done where it will attract far less attention: in and around the gigantic airplane hangar where Howard Hughes once built the Spruce Goose.
“Obviously, not to do it in New York was crucial, because it would offend the sensibilities of some New Yorkers,” said Mr. Stone, who is one himself. “Others may look at it as a memorial, a good memorial, something that’s powerful. Any memorial is subject to criticism; it’s how you do it. I hope we do a good job.”
The producers allowed a reporter and photographer from The New York Times to visit the set in hopes that the first images of this staged ground zero would be placed in context, rather than risking that unauthorized photographs hit the blogosphere devoid of any explanation.
“Sensitivity and accuracy, at the end of the day, are the same thing,” said Michael Shamberg, who is producing the movie for Paramount Pictures with his business partner, Stacey Sher. “Because of what we’ve heard from the police, firefighters, civilians, the Port Authority, everyone who was there that day, loved ones – they said, ‘Tell the story accurately so people understand what happened.’ You can’t do the Hollywood version.”
The production brings its own credibility: Donald J. Lee Jr., the film’s executive producer, was taking his children to school, crossing the Avenue of the Americas and West Eighth Street, when the twin towers were attacked. And Jan Roelfs, the production designer, was atop the Empire State Building to shoot a music video for Lenny Kravitz.
“The hard thing is, everybody knows it so well,” said Mr. Roelfs, speaking both of the geography of Lower Manhattan and of the contours of ground zero itself. “There’s not much creativity here.”
Mr. Roelfs and his team of designers drew on the volumes of available data – including three-dimensional scans of the rubble field, blueprints of the trade center and interviews with many of the survivors – to reproduce what is essentially a one-acre swath of the 16-acre site.
Hundreds of carpenters, he explained, had hand-carved thousands of beams from Styrofoam, molded rubber into countless strands of stand-ins for shredded reinforcing bars, and assembled all of this inside a pit erected atop stacks of cargo containers.
At its core, the mockup of ground zero will be full-size, and as close to an exact replica as is practical, Mr. Roelfs said. At the perimeter, where fragments of the towers’ facade are meant to loom in the distance, it is 65 feet high, or about half-scale; smoke and nightfall will complete the illusion, he said.
The scene is even eerier inside the old airplane hangar, where the production team rebuilt a portion of the World Trade Center concourse – complete with period handbags in the Coach storefront, clothing in the Banana Republic windows and shoes from Johnston & Murphy.
There is the elevator shaft where Mr. Jimeno, who is played by Michael Peña, and Mr. McLoughlin, who is played by Nicolas Cage, had leapt in the instant before the concourse collapsed on top of them.
And a few yards away, suspended on cables from the hangar’s ceiling, is a three-dimensional sculpture of the design team’s best guess of what the officers’ immediate surroundings looked like as they struggled to stay alive – with a very small space for the two actors to squeeze in.
“You get actors in there, they’re already getting claustrophobic,” Mr. Roelfs said.
The producers of the movie, which is scheduled for release in August, had hoped to shoot extensively in Lower Manhattan, said Mr. Lee, the executive producer, who said he lost five friends in the attack. “I wanted to shoot toward St. Paul’s,” he said. “I wanted to shoot towards the Woolworth Building.” But city officials refused to allow anything below Canal Street, he said.
Eventually, he said, officials relented for two scenes: Mr. Stone was able to film a volunteer rescuer crossing a barricade to get to ground zero. And he was able to shoot cast members in a city bus and a police S.U.V., driving down West Broadway toward the trade center complex.
With those exceptions, whatever verisimilitude the movie achieves will come from digital renderings of the Lower Manhattan streetscape, and from carefully chosen substitute locations. A street in downtown Los Angeles stood in for Manhattan’s Barclay Street, with crew members tossing debris in the air.
If sensitivity and accuracy were somewhat in tension in New York, they seem not to be in Los Angeles: an earthen berm and an adjacent construction project conceal or camouflage the set in every direction except for a few houses that overlook it from the top of the Westchester bluffs.
The palm trees in the distance, Mr. Roelfs promised, would never make it into the frame.
Filming at ground zero will begin next month, he said, as he walked up to the spot beneath which the real-life police officers were discovered. And considering how carefully this set has been built, it is still an unusually dangerous one, with foam girders shifting underfoot and steep drops at any given step.
“It’s kind of odd,” Mr. Roelfs said, surveying his brutal sculpture. “You know it so well, suddenly you stand in the middle of it, and God – it’s awful.”