NEW YORK (AP) – The towers won’t fall again. Downtown Manhattan streets won’t be coated with ash and debris.

Producers of the first Hollywood film about Sept. 11 since the 2001 attacks have begun shooting scenes in the city, but have promised to tread carefully on sensitive ground. The film’s director, Oliver Stone, won’t film thousands of New Yorkers running terrified through debris-filled streets. Most of the action in the movie will be shot on a Los Angeles sound stage. And although news footage of the attack may be shown in the background, none will show the towers’ collapse.

“We’re not doing the ‘Towering Inferno-Titanic’ version,” said Michael Shamberg, who is producing the Paramount film with his partner, Stacey Sher.

Stone began shooting scenes in the city last week for his untitled film, starring Nicolas Cage as one of two Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officers who survived the towers’ collapse and were rescued from the World Trade Center ruins after 22 hours.

After months of meetings with community and family groups, producers decided to limit their filming in the city, shooting the bulk of the action in Los Angeles and staying away from the 16-acre trade center site.

Family members who met with the producers said they still weren’t sure whether Hollywood would treat Sept. 11 with proper respect.

“Are there going to be love scenes in it? How do you portray it correctly?” said Lee Ielpi, who lost his firefighter son on Sept. 11, and met with producers about the film. “It has to be done with some reverence.”

Others said they were concerned how Stone, whose more controversial films offered theories about Vietnam and the Kennedy assassination, might interpret the attacks in the film. In October 2001, Stone was quoted as referring to the attacks as a “revolt” against multinational corporations. But in July, Stone called the untitled project “a work of collective passion, a serious meditation on what happened, and carries within a compassion that heals.”

“It’s an exploration of heroism in our country – but it’s international at the same time in its humanity,” he said.

Charles Wolf, who lost his wife on Sept. 11, has met with producers and asked to see a copy of Andrea Berloff’s script. He said he appreciated the outreach and sensitivity of the filmmakers, but wanted to make sure that the events of the day, including details as precise as the officers’ view of the elevator from the rubble, are represented accurately.

“I think they need to be factual. It’s too close in people’s minds,” Wolf said. “”Based on a true story’ should not happen here.”

Because Berloff’s script focuses entirely on McLoughlin and Jimeno’s experience on Sept. 11, the film will not interpret the politics or meaning of Sept. 11, the producers said. Stone has taken great care to portray the event as it happened, and has worked closely with the Port Authority to make sure that Cage, Pena and the other actors playing officers are using authentic equipment.

“We’re not doing everyone’s story that day,” said Shamberg. “We’re trusted with the accuracy of the particular story that we’re telling.”

The Stone film may not be the first studio film about Sept. 11 to be released. “Flight 93,” a Universal Studios film about the hijacked plane that left Newark, N.J., and crashed into a Pennsylvania field, is scheduled for an April release. Stone’s film will be shooting in New York through mid-November and is tentatively scheduled to open Aug. 11, one month before the attacks’ fifth anniversary.

Other Sept. 11 films are in development, including an adaptation of the book, “102 Minutes” and a television miniseries based on the findings of the Sept. 11 commission.

But this film is believed to be the first to shoot scenes relating to the attacks in New York, according to the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting.

No scenes will be shot at or near the trade center site, the producers said, although some are scheduled downtown on Greenwich and Canal streets. Some filming has already taken place inside the Port Authority’s midtown bus terminal.

Shamberg said that while the commission never refused recreating the streets to depict the aftermath of the collapse, “we just felt after discussing it that frankly, it’s easier to do it in Los Angeles.”

Paramount hired Jennifer Brown, a former vice president for community development at the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. in charge of rebuilding the trade center site, to act as a liaison with the community. Brown set up more than a dozen meetings with business, community, family and survivor groups, along with police and fire officials.

Brown said that once people understood that the story was only about the officers and not about the entire story of Sept. 11, they were supportive. “What we’ve heard mostly, is just to be real,” she said.

The film starts very early on the morning of Sept. 11 and ends on Sept. 12, when Jimeno and McLoughlin were rescued from beneath more than 20 feet of debris. McLoughlin was leading a team of five rescuers in the underground concourse when the south tower collapsed. The other officers died and McLoughlin and Jimeno waited 22 hours for a rescue.

Said Sher:

“It’s a story about the people, courage and humanity and the good that we saw that day.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.