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August 2006
WORLD TRADE CENTER Press Conference with Director Oliver Stone, Nicholas Cage, Michael Pena, and Maggie Gyllenhaal

WORLD TRADE CENTER Press Conference with Director Oliver Stone, Nicholas Cage, Michael Pena, and Maggie Gyllenhaal By Wilson Morales

For Oliver Stone, the challenge of filming a story on real life events is what makes unique from others. He doesn’t often do the conventional genre film that Hollywood studios look to produce. His films require a certain amount of marketing and strategy. When 9/11 occurred, it was inevitable that someone would a make film out of one of the many stories that came from that horrific day. Already this year, we have seen Paul Greengrass’version of it, “United 93”, which takes a look at the day from a technical standpoint as we hear stories coming from the traffic controllers. In “World Trade Center”, Stone has made a film concentrating on the two Port Authority officers, who were the 18th and 19th individually pulled from the rubble after countless hours had gone by with almost no hope left. In playing officers John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno, Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena respectively captured the essence of the guys as well as Maggie Gyllenhaal in playing Allison Jimeno. At a recent press conference in New York City, Stone, Cage, Pena and Gyllenhaal spoke about the film and the characters they played.

Looking at your filmography, this is a departure, much more black and white. What attracted you to this film at this time?

Stone: Don't pigeon hole, I change. And I think if you go through the, we don't have time, but if you go through the film by film list, there's quitea bit of changes that go on, I mean, it goes from 'Heaven and Earth' to 'Natural Born Killers,' and then - pigeon holing, this film is another one,it's just another departure in the sense of stylistically it's a simpler film, a modest film about working class people, and we have here a series of facts, a line, a chain of evidence, that's amazing, and it's still fresh enough after five years, that we can go back and have Will (Jimeno), John (McLoughlin), Scotty Strauss, Scotty Fox, numerous rescuers, the transcripts of Chuck Sereika and Dave Karnes, to help us, actually put together almost a - I can't say a documentary, but it isn't cinema verite, it isn't 'United 93.' It is a very tightly connected, emotional, in the tradition of Hollywood, in the tradition of, tightly connected emotions of four characters. Two wives, two husbands. That's a challenge, to do things that way. That's not to say I'll do it always that way, I might surprise you next time and do something with fantasy or sci-fi.

This was so traumatic, what was it about this particular story that drew you?

Stone: There's three thousand dead, approximately, and what, twenty survivors. These two men, I can't speak for the other eighteen, but these two men went through the epicenter of the story symbolically, they were at the very center of the collapse, and because of John's foresight, they went to the elevator shaft that saved their lives. Only two of the five made it. And it's a story waiting, dying to be told, and the rescue of the men by this accountant in Connecticut, this ex-Marine, is something from the Hollywood movies, people don't believe it at first, we had previews, people were shocked, they didn't think that this guy existed. He did. He went to Iraq. And the rescuers themselves, Scotty Fox played himself, many of the rescuers played themselves, Scotty Strauss cooperated with us in the beginning. Each rescue was very complicated; Will was a rescue onto itself. That was finished by midnight, very few people realize that John was rescued from about midnight to seven thirty in the morning, that's a whole other ball game, that's – so two different types of rescues, so many challenges in this movie. Why not tell that story, it's dying to be made. Dying to be made.

What were your conversations like with your real life counterparts? Did you really get to know them, what did you pick up?

Cage: Well I never met anyone before who had been tested to the level that John McLoughlin had been tested on that day. So I did go into those first initial meetings with some nervous-ness, but he put me at ease right away, and he allowed me to video tape him and ask him literally thousands of questions about the experience, how he got through it, what he relied on, images of his family, Will Jimeno, the two of them, keeping each other alive in prayer. So it was enormously helpful. I really wanted to get it right, I didn't want to let John McLoughlin down, I didn't want to let Will down, I didn't want to let the rescue team down, the families, and Oliver Stone. And all the producers and creators of this film, so. And he, without John McLoughlin's help, it wouldn't have happened.

Gyllenhaal: Everyone's been answering it, but I think, I heard that Michael [Pena] kind of moved in with you guys, you know, he was there all the time, and he would sort of more, what you're saying you did, ask thousands of questions and spent lots and lots of time with Will. And with Allison [Jimeno] and I, it was a little bit different. I guess I felt like I also didn't want to let anyone down, and I wanted to make a movie that was as effecting as possible. And I guess for me, I thought the way to do that was to experience the things that Allison experiences in the script, myself. As opposed to -

By getting pregnant.

Gyllenhaal: [laughs] I didn't do it quite in time. But for me, I felt like I was worried about falling into the trap of trying to imitate Allison as opposed to experiencing it myself. But at the same time, every time I was with Allison, there was this really intense experience that really impacted me, and I think I was mostly interested in just being near her, less than actually asking her about the specifics of the day, although we did some of that. Most of what was going in was just being near you. But then when I watched the movie, I saw that - I kind of thought I'd be like her, and I think that has to do with you, actually, I think you had more to do with that than I.

Stone: You're - I had the instinct of Maggie and you. You and I met - it was good, we had conflict, it was good. I like her, she's a thoroughbred.

Pena: I did some of what they both did, I just - we got along right away, right off the bat, and I asked him a lot of questions, and I was asking so many questions, so many questions, and I really, just like everybody else, I didn't want to let anybody down. And I just felt fortunate that I was even in this movie.

Stone: Well that's just not true, Will was complaining to me, he said, how are we gonna get this wimp to play me? And we had to build Michael up, we had to send him on running expeditions with Will. Right, Will, tell the truth.

Pena: The thing that I wanted to get right, more than anything, is kind of sort of like - I don't know, just his - you know, the brotherhood, and the real feel of like un-cheesy love that you had for your, the people that you worked with and the people that you're trying to save, and there's a line specifically, he said, my whole life I just wanted to be a cop. I'm like, I think we should cut it, you know. And the first time I met him, that was like the second thing out of this mouth, so I was like, okay, I've got to re-evaluate the whole thing. So yeah, but that's basically it.

Where were you on 9/11, and what was going through your mind?

Cage: Thoroughly unexciting, I was at home, and I got a phone call saying you can't believe what's on television, turn it on. And I saw those images, that are like the rest of us, I'll never be able to get out of my head, it's as simple as that.


Stone: Me too, I was in Los Angeles at home, sleeping. My wife woke me up.

Did you think terrorism right away?

Stone: Yes. Well, we had a clearer picture than John and Will did. We knew that the second plane had hit.


Stone: I was living here, but actually alone, out of the country at the time. And I happened to check my email and my mom said, before anyone knew what had happened, that the World Trade Center had been bombed. And then I did everything I could to get home, took a little while, it was hard.


Pena: Yeah, I was at home. I got the phone call, and it brought about some interesting instincts that I think the movie touches on as well. At that point you had like the need - I went to a friend's house, and it was funny, like twenty, twenty five people went there, and that's a reason that I was excited about this movie in particular, is because we all know what happened on that day, but this is a different story. And more of a story that touches on man, like the need to be with each other, and like how people, they do pull together in times like this.


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