It’s another hot day in Boston, and Paramount has taken over the 10th floor of the Ritz Carlton to host a press junket for Oliver Stone’s sunny take on 9/11, World Trade Center. Given the hectic nature of such events, it’s a remarkably well-orchestrated affair. From the welcoming breakfast to the catered lunch, just about the only thing missing is Jesus Himself offering beverages. An atmosphere of graciousness permeates the proceedings, in a calculated manner not unlike the events portrayed in Stone’s film.
RIGHT-WING PROPAGANDA?: Well, no, because “it’s not political.”
“Beautiful day in Boston!”
These were not the first words I’d expected to come out of Stone’s gap-toothed mouth. Is this really the same filmmaker who gave us the politically charged outrageousness (some would say “outrages”) of JFK and Natural Born Killers? Has Stone gone soft, or has he just dipped into the psychedelic opiates of earlier days in his quest for box-office success following the disastrous Alexander? How to explain the apolitical party line he and everyone else involved in the production is offering?
John McLoughlin, the 53-year-old former Port Authority police sergeant whose lower legs don’t work after being crushed under the wreckage of Tower 2, has little interest in polemics. He’s hoping people will find inspiration in a story that just happened to take place at the center of one of history’s most horrific tragedies.
“This is not to play up planes crashing into towers, buildings collapsing. There’s also a good side to this story. There were survivors. You see how men risked their lives — men who didn’t even know us — to get us out. 9/11 is not all bad. If the country can see that and remember how we came together, that’s a good thing.”
And what of the political turmoil surrounding the troubled World Trade Center Memorial?
“I really don’t have a feeling one way or another. I think the people that are going to be doing this memorial know a lot more than I do. I just feel that it’ll be appropriate, whatever they do.”
McLoughlin has nothing but praise for Nicolas Cage, who portrays him on screen and who donated his salary to the Katrina relief effort. Did this project inspire a change in Cage’s outlook?
“At some point in life you have to make a decision about what you want to do, what you want to be, which way you want to go. Because I started very young, I spent a lot of time without an opinion, without a choice, and I have indulged myself, and now I’m trying to reverse that.”
Maria Bello, who plays John’s wife, Donna, felt a change as well. “Usually after a film I hang onto my character and really have to grieve it. After this film I felt such a grace and joy that I felt a need to connect with my family and friends.”
And with the election season approaching, is the usually conspiracy-minded Stone fearful that his film will be used as right-wing propaganda, or has he changed as well?
“The misuse of images from 9/11 — it’s been going on for a long time. It has been politicized to the point where I feel a film like this is the opposite of this phenomenon, because it’s not political.”
The day after the junket takes place, it’s revealed that the film’s publicity is being handled by Creative Response Concepts, a PR firm best known for its campaign for the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.”
Sounds like a conspiracy to me.