July 8, 2005

Nicolas Cage to star in upcoming 9/11 movie

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Nicolas Cage will star as a
real-life policeman who survived the collapse of the World
Trade Center in what would be one of Hollywood's first films to
dramatize the Sept. 11 attacks on America, Paramount Pictures
said on Friday.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone is on board to direct
the untitled movie, which centers on the story of the last two
men -- a pair of Port Authority police officers -- rescued from
the rubble of the twin towers, Paramount said.

The two officers, Sgt. John McLoughlin and William Jimeno,
sold their life rights to the studio, providing the basis for
the original screenplay by relative newcomer Andrea Berloff.

Cage, who won an Academy Award for "Leaving Las Vegas,"
will play McLoughlin. No other casting decisions have been
made, Paramount said.

The Viacom Inc.-owned studio has given producers the
go-ahead to begin work on the film, getting an apparent leg up
on another 9/11 feature in development at rival studio Columbia
Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp.

Columbia announced in February it had optioned screen
rights to "102 Minutes," a book by two New York Times reporters
chronicling the interval between the crash of the first
hijacked airliner into the World Trade Center and the collapse
of the first tower.

No director or actors have been signed to the "102 Minutes"
project, but Columbia has received a first script draft by
Billy Ray, the writer and director behind "Shattered Glass,"
according to Hollywood trade paper Daily Variety.

Word that Paramount had a film in the works dramatizing the
9/11 attacks came a day after London was rocked by a series of
deadly bomb blasts that renewed anxieties about terror threats.
A studio insider said the timing of its announcement was less
than "ideal," precipitated only because Variety broke the story
in its Friday edition.

The fact that at least two major studios have embraced the
subject of 9/11 marks a huge shift in Hollywood's attitude
toward depiction of the suicide hijackings that claimed nearly
3,000 lives and prompted the U.S. global war on terrorism.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, studios and
broadcasters steered clear of any themes considered evocative
of the tragedy. The trend has gradually swung the other way.

Until now, stories about 9/11 have remained the province of
film and TV documentaries, television dramas, or in big-screen
fiction like Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" featuring
9/11-like imagery.

ABC is planning a miniseries drama based on the "9/11
Commission Report," the best-selling official government
account of events surrounding the attacks. NBC recently pulled
the plug on a similar project.