World Trade Center: Making 9/11 Movie

On September 11, 2001, an unusually warm day in New York, Will Jimeno (Michael Pena), an officer with the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD), was tempted to take a personal day and enjoy his hobby of bow hunting, but then decided that he would rather go to work.

Sergeant John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage), a respected vet of the PAPD, had been up for hours, since 3:29am, a requirement of his daily one and a half trek to the city. Will and John and their colleagues made their way to midtown Manhattan, just like they did on any routine. Only September 11 was not any other day.

A team of PAPD first responders drove from mid-town Manhattan to the World Trade Center. Five men, including Will and John, went into the buildings themselves and were trapped when they towers collapsed.

Miraculously, both men survived, though they were buried and pinned beneath slabs of concrete and twisted metal, 20 feet below the rubble field. Though they couldn’t see each other, each could hear that the other had survived.

For the next 12 harrowing hours, Will and John kept each other alive by talking about their families, their lives on the force, their hopes, and their disappointments in life.

In “World Trade Center,” Oliver Stone tell their stories as well as the stories of their wives, Donna McLoughlin (Maria Bello) and Allison Jimeno (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and families, that suffered in their own confined circle of hell, with no message from or information about their loved ones. Then, one courageously determined Marine goes down on a mission and finds the two men.

“World Trade Center” began its cinematic life when the producer Debra Hill read about McLoughlin and Jimeno in a newspaper article. Hill met with the men, who related their stories to her. Reportedly, Hill was very emotional and immediately decided that the two men’s story would make for a fascinating movie that people would want to see. The movie would become Hill’s last film credit, when in 2005, after a long fight, she succumbed to cancer.

Producer Michael Shamberg notes that “The story of John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno, and all the people who helped rescue them is not the only story of the day of 9/11, but it is one story that speaks to the larger issue of how on a terrible, tragic day, people found reserves of strength and goodness and helped each other, at great personal cost.”

Director Oliver Stone felt that being entrusted with this story by the real people dictated their responsibility to be as authentic and accurate as possible at all timesto get it right.

Shooting in New York

A native New York, Stone had not shot extensively in the city since “Wall Street,” in 1987. Hence, “it was invigorating to go back to New York and be with the policemen and firemen and working guys. Everyone seemed to go out of their way, particularly the Port Authority, which became our base in New York.”

Exploring consistent themes

“World Trade Center” offered a chance for Stone to explore the themes that have defined his career. He says: “To treat 9/11 in this way, very personal, exact, and austere, really interested me. I tried to make as realistic a film as possible: Two men buried in the middle of those towers for 24 hours. What makes a person survive these horrible circumstances

Spiritual reasons

“These men were pushed to the very edge of death; yet both survived because of deeply personal and spiritual reasons. They would have died had they not been able to reach out and communicate with each other, and then able to find deep sources of strength in their family lives.”

Not a political movie

“World Trade Center is not a political film; its a human story. I’ve never done only political movies. There’s been a musical biography, a football story, a financial one, a satire, a film noir, and historical epic. With each film, I’ve tried a different outlook and style.

Personal movie

These men were not concerned with politics. Although my politics and their politics are different, that didn’t matter. We all got along. I can make a movie about them and their experiences, because they went through something that I can understand. Politics does not enter into it. The movie is about courage and survival.”

Faith in the hole

“What went on in that hole is the story of two men, in the darkest hours of their lives, hardly knowing each other, who are bonded together by the fires of their experience. On a day when we came so close to losing faith in humanity, they helped give that faith back to us.”