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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, continued
By Wilson Morales

You were in New York or L.A.?

Pena: I was in Los Angeles.

How did you try to express this roller coaster of emotions that New Yorkers went through on that day?

Stone: Through the wives. Through the wives. I mean, we can only do it through the wives, Donna and Allison, and what they go through, we tried to pay special attention to, because we wanted to not only get out of the hole, to relieve the burdens of the hole, but to get to the light, to go back to Jersey. But these women went through hell, I mean, there had to be a moment in that day when they accepted that their husbands would probably not come home, and that was a very important moment, to go beyond clichés, you know. And what makes Donna, married to John for thirty years, or twenty-five years, with four children, what keeps them together? It's just a cliché, if you say you're married, that doesn't mean anything. What is marriage? What are the little things in life that they will miss, take for granted. You have to ask Allison and Donna, we did, Maria [Bello] and Maggie played it the way they thought was right. And for them it was hell. So that's the only way we can relate to it, we can't live the New York experience, only through them. And the Marine.

It was interesting to use the marine character to express his particular point of view, of this was an act of war.

Stone: Yeah, I think it would've been politically correct to sanitize that, and I couldn't live with that. The film is accurate to every single person that was in it, and their emotions are naked. Some people with things we don't like, we gotta live with.

How do you feel about the resulting war, and not finding Osama, and all of that?

Cage: My comment is, our movie ends on 9/12, and that's probably the story we're gonna tell.

Stone: And you've gotta go one day further, and you can say, where were we on September 12th, 2001, and where are we now? And I think when you answer that question honestly, you have to wonder, something went wrong.

Cage: I really don't want to attach politics to this movie, this movie is a triumph of the human spirit, it's about survival, it's about courage, and I think trying to link it to anything else right now, would take away from what the movie is really about. It's a very emotional film, it is not a downer, you walk out feeling like yeah, angels do exist, these people are heroes.

How does this film exemplify the way civilians are the primary victims of conflicts, rather than soldiers?

Stone: We made the point at the end of the film that eighty-seven countries, citizens from eighty-seven countries were destroyed. Most of them were civilians. It's the nature of modern warfare since Dresden since World War II, and it's gotten worse and worse and worse. So you're talking about, it's the nature of modern warfare, where is it gonna end? I don't know. And I can't - I'm not a war - I can't tell you, I'm not an expert. I just hope to God that we can move to a peaceful world wherein we can respect the rights of civilians, and I don't know how to do that except through international bodies and a sense of commitment from everybody, to stop this, destruction of civilian life.

Do you think you can better identify with your character now that you are pregnant?

Gyllenhaal: I really was a little bit pregnant at the end of shooting. I was a little bit, but no one knew but me. But most of the time, yeah, most of the time I wasn't pregnant. Yeah, I think being pregnant now, trying to imagine what pregnancy is like I think for anyone who hasn't been pregnant is very hard. I mean, it's very different than you kind of think it's gonna be. So, yes, I do think maybe now I can relate to some things that Allison went through. At first I just got hit by how - you're so emotional when you're pregnant, but I've also found that I'm also pretty strong and pretty clear in pregnancy in a way that I wasn't before, so maybe there's a kind of mix, you know, it was probably both more emotional and kind of a little more rooted, for Allison, that I imagined it might have been.

How did you film ground zero? How was it to be trapped the entire time?

Cage: Well, it was actually quite liberating, I'm a very kinetic actor, I like to move, but I was in that hole, boxed in like that, I didn't have to think about movement, so I was able to go inward, and rely on my imagination, to try to re-create in some small way what John's experience might have been like.

Pena: Similar thing to me, in a weird way, for me, dealing with that, it was almost like doing one big monologue, and then everything - whenever he spoke, it was like it was his thoughts that were in my head, and yeah.

And Oliver, creating Ground Zero?

Stone: Yeah, we created - we built these vast interior halls in the, in Playa Del Rey in California, as well as an exterior rubble set, these were vast sets, and we had the actors in different modules, and they never saw each other, in the whole time, so that's an interesting aspect to that scene, don't even have visual contact, so it's all suggested. I think the key is lighting, I really do, there's not much camera work you can do, and I think Seamus McGarvey deserves tremendous credit for the work he did to really give it - you haven't seen the final film out, you've seen the tape, but when you see it, I hope you appreciate the shot - to me, the story is always about shadow and light, and they were in the darkness but they were reaching for the light, and one of the great shots, is Nick coming out of the hole at the end, into the light, and his struggle for the light, and even at home, that's why we go out to the families, because there's light there, as the day sets and their hopes diminish, you see the night comes on, so it's sort of we reversed the holes, in the domestic situations, where it becomes darker, and the holes become lighter at the end. So there's a whole kind of concept of light and dark that we're playing with.

Did you make a conscious decision to go away from your last picture, or does a certain film just come along and catch your attention?

Stone: It's partly that. And Andrea's script caught my attention, slammed me in the side of the head and said, this is it, this is the one to do. And partly because, you know, I've been in the world of Macedonian royalty and politics and Persian courts, for three years, certainly was refreshing to come back to working class New York. I had done working class movies, 'Born on the Fourth of August,' 'Wall Street,' part of it. 'Any Given Sunday,' 'Platoon.' It's good to come back and remind yourself, these are very extraordinary people because they do it everyday, they do it consistently. John McLoughlin wakes up at three twenty nine, Will gets up at what, four o'clock - I mean, these guys are out the gate and they go to work, and they're not thanked very often for it, it's a tough job.

What was it like to work with Nick Cage and Oliver Stone?

Stone: Make it good, Michael. [laughs]

Pena: Well I would have to say it's an amazing experience, when they tell you, Oliver Stone wants me in his office, he wanted me to be in this movie, you think that they're joking.

Stone: What?!

Pena: I thought it was bull crap. I did. But it was amazing, it was - working with Nick was very specific and very, very prepared going in, and I took some lessons from that, and actually to be honest with you, and he was very - it was very easy to work with him, and he was encouraging me, like any chances that I thought were interesting, he really encouraged me, and I'm glad that the first of these roles that I had, was with somebody like him, and then Oliver, also did the same thing, and encouraged me, and was saying that I'm gonna bring, you know, hopefully every role, the attention to detail, he has tremendous passion for that, and he would always.and it was sometimes more important how he said something, as opposed to what he said, because of the passion. He would say, you've just gotta get it right. [laughs]

WORLD TRADE CENTER opens on August 9th, 2006


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