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Thread: Oliver Stone: 9/11 Was Never Investigated "The Way It Should Have Been"

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Oliver Stone: 9/11 Was Never Investigated "The Way It Should Have Been"

    A Stone sober perspective


    That Oliver Stone's name should be attached to so conspiracy-laden a subject as the events of 9/11 is hardly surprising. He is, after all, a director whose films ( JFK, Nixon, Salvador) often resonate with conspiratorial themes and left-wing sympathies.

    The dark morning of Sept. 11, 2001, is a rich vein for anyone convinced that the world is governed by shadowy, backstage political forces that orchestrate events.

    Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of Stone's World Trade Center (opening on Wednesday), then, is that it entirely and deliberately ignores all of that. There is no suggestion, as many conspiracy theorists maintain, that the U.S. government either knew about the attack in advance and did nothing to stop it, or, more insidiously, that it actually played a major role in organizing it.

    Indeed, focusing only on the heroic police and firefighters who responded to the first alarms — and their worried families — the script does not contain a single reference to terrorism or Islamic fundamentalism.

    The central characters, trapped in the rubble of the WTC, know only that a great tragedy has been visited on lower Manhattan, but they do not know or speculate about its cause. Instead, with what might be a paean to the enduring virtues of family, loyalty and human decency, Stone has won support from the unlikeliest of sources — America's conservative right. Certainly, it's a film unlike anything else Stone has made.

    During a short visit to Toronto last month, Stone said the WTC project arrived on his plate “serendipitously. It came out of the blue. In late 2004, my agent sent me a script that he was really struck by. I wasn't particularly interested in making a film about 9/11 — I was working on Alexander — but when I read the script, I knew in one sitting, ‘God, I'd love to make this movie.' ”

    Although Universal Studios took a pass, Paramount — for whom Stone had never worked — quickly gave it the green light. The $63-million (U.S.) film was shot in New York last October.

    “We couldn't quite get ready in time to do it in September,” Stone said, “but the trees still look good. But it was a dirty shoot. Imagine walking on rubble all day long and inhaling smoke — it was non-toxic smoke but it still made me sick as a dog.”

    The script, by first-time screenwriter Andrea Berloff, was heavily reworked. But Stone insists that even the first draft had a special inspirational quality and was good enough to persuade Nicolas Cage to sign on to the project. Cage, in an understated performance, plays John McLoughlin, the New York City Port Authority policeman who leads a group of officers into the World Trade Center just before its collapse.

    “We had to go to work and really make it a screenplay,” Stone said. Technically, the biggest problem were the “hole scenes” (in which Cage and co-star Michael Pena, playing Port Authority officer Will Jimeno) are trapped beneath cement girders.

    “We knocked it down from about 15 hole scenes to nine, and they consume about 35 minutes of the film. The longest scenes are first, darker, painful and oppressive.”

    But Stone maintains that the dual domestic family dramas — McLoughlin's wife (Maria Bello) and four children on Long Island, and Jimeno's wife (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and other relatives in New Jersey — are an equivalent drama. “Because the wives each had to come to terms with the probability of their husbands' death.”

    There's a third important story line as well, involving former Marine Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon). Watching the horror unfold in lower Manhattan on television, Karnes resolves to act. He gets his hair cut (Marine style), dons his battlefield garb, makes his way to the WTC site to search for survivors, and stumbles upon McLoughlin and Jimeno.

    When the film was first screen-tested in Seattle, audiences said they found this plot wrinkle improbable. But it is actually a true story. So Stone had a screen card inserted to indicate that all the events in the film were based on real occurrences.

    As for conspiracy theories, Stone says he's aware of them, but doubts whether the Bush administration would have actively planned the WTC attacks.

    “By the same token, there's no question it benefited. To me, the strangest thing about the whole thing is that the event, the real criminals, was never investigated the way it should have been and was translated into another thing entirely. A war, the breakdown of constitutional rights, the climate of fear, $60-billion allocated to the Department of Homeland Security. I think we overreacted.”

    Stone says he backed the initial push into Afghanistan to depose the Taliban, but “I don't know what happened after that.”

    Jimeno was finally rescued by Scott Strauss (Stephen Dorff), an off-duty NYC Emergency Services police officer. Strauss had just finished an overnight shift and taken the train home to his home in Mineola, N.Y. He saw the news of the second plane hitting the WTC on TV and immediately jumped in his car and went back to the city.

    Some hours later, he crawled into the hole in which Jimeno was trapped, putting his own life at risk. “That was my job to be there,” said Strauss. There was no way I couldn't go back. I packed a bag full of clothes. I knew I was going to be there a long time.”

    Three weeks after 9/11, Strauss was injured in a car accident that forced his retirement from the police. He now works as director of security for a chain of New York-area hospitals.

    Pena, a Chicago-born actor best known for his four short scenes as a locksmith in Paul Haggis's Crash, was confined for hours beneath an artfully constructed coffin of movie debris, but says he never complained. “I had this overwhelming sense of duty — number one, that I was fortunate to be telling this story. I'd be uncomfortable, but I'd think of what Will Jimeno and the emergency guys went through to make the rescue happen. It was a story that had to be told. It doesn't focus on us being victims, but survivors.”

    Self-trained, Pena says that when he decided to become an actor, he'd go to the video store and rent three movies a day for weeks. “It's just like anything. If you want to learn, you go to the masters. I learned the most from Brando because there's no ‘acting.' That's what I strive to do in every role.”
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  2. #2
    casseia Guest
    Whoa. I interpret that as some serious ass coverage.

    The fact is, Mr. Stone, choices you made as a director in regards to the depiction of the collapses are in fact profoundly political. The sounds the buildings make, so clearly suggestive of imminent collapse, have not, to my knowledge, been described by any survivor.

    nnnhhh... too tired to rant.

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