When you hear that Oliver Stone is going to be making a 9/11 movie, the first thing you may think of is the possibility of him tackling all the endless (and it seems to me, baseless) conspiracy theories about the buildings imploding. But in fact Stone will be making a 9/11 movie on a smaller – and more human scale. His film, which will star Nic Cage, will be about two Port Authority cops who risked their lives rushing into the Twin Towers to rescue people. They were among the few people who survived being inside during the collapse.
The project is fast tracked at Paramount, with pre-production underway right now here in New York City.
Meanwhile, Columbia’s adaptation of 102 Minutes, a book that tells a more sweeping story about the rescue efforts after the first plane hit to the toppling of the towers, now has a script, from Billy Ray, the guy who wrote and directed Shattered Glass. Whether he has an Achey Breaky Heart I couldn’t tell you.
I work a couple of blocks from the WTC site. I end up down there often, not to see the big hole but just to shop or get lunch. It’s been almost four years and there’s still no permament memorial at the site. Hell, they haven’t even really decided what to do with that big pit. There was a time when many people thought that making a movie about the events of 9/11 would be crassness at its worst – I never agreed. As the world sort of just slowly integrates the tragedy into the everyday, letting the site itself just sit there, I think it’s the role of art – books, music and movies – to deal with the situation and the aftermath.
There have been major books and songs that have dealt directly or obliquely with 9/11. Yet there hasn’t been a major narrative film that has. I think that part of this is that movies are sadly viewed only as commercial vehicles – ie, if you’re making a movie about something you’re cashing in on it, while writing a novel about it is totally cool. Part of it may also be the fact that the movies will recreate the tragedy in an almost overwhelming way (which was something I liked – and was upset by – about War of the Worlds), and there’s the worry that people won’t want to see images like that.
But I think it’s important that major films and major filmmakers tackle 9/11 – the events, the politics, the background, the people, the tragedy, the triumph. That day was such a prism for all aspects of us as people that the dramatic possibilities are endless. I just hope that the films go beyond standard disaster scenarios and don’t just use 9/11 as an exciting backdrop. I don’t need to see political discussions or religious debate, but it would be nice if the films used the tragedy as a backdrop for more serious probing of who we are.
Actually, it’s the Stone project I am most worried about. He seems to have lost his nerve with Alexander, straightening out all the gay in the film. What happened to the firebrand? Will he have the balls to make his movie something more than just a life-affirming rescue tale?