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Context of 'April 1977: Movie Has Terrorists Attempting to Crash Explosive-Laden Blimp into Super Bowl Stadium'

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Back Sunday.Back Sunday. [Source: Paramount Pictures]Black Sunday, a big-budget action film, has a storyline centered on a terrorist group trying to hijack the blimp used by television networks to film the Super Bowl football game from the air. The plot by a group of Palestinian terrorists is to load the blimp’s cabin with explosives and poisoned shrapnel, and detonate them over the thousands of spectators at the Super Bowl stadium, including the president of the United States who is attending the game. To stop the terrorists, the FBI calls upon a Mossad agent who has received wind of the plot. This film will be recalled after 9/11 for its resemblance to that day’s attacks. [New York Times, 4/1/1977; New York Times, 9/13/2001]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Luc Besson.Luc Besson. [Source: Publicity photo]Hollywood film studio 20th Century Fox works on producing WW3.com, a movie about cyber-terrorists declaring war on the United States, which will include a 9/11-like scene where a Boeing 767 crashes into New York’s Central Park. [Variety, 1/26/1998; Fox News, 6/3/2002] The storyline of WW3.com is rooted in a 1997 article in Wired magazine, which described the potential for the US becoming engaged in a cataclysmic and nation-crippling “information war.” [Wired, 5/1997; Variety, 8/24/2000; New York Times, 6/27/2007] 20th Century Fox acquires the rights to this article in January 1998, as source material for the movie. Screenwriter David Marconi, who previously wrote the action movie Enemy of the State, works on the script.
Idea behind Movie Is a 'Blueprint for Disaster' - WW3.com will “blend the tensions of a Cold War thriller with a high-concept, special effects-laden storyline involving cyber-terrorists who have declared war on the United States,” according to Variety magazine. [Variety, 1/26/1998] The idea of the movie, according to Marconi, is “about basically turning the US into Kuwait. It was a blueprint for disaster.” The climax of the story features a Boeing 767 crashing into a Simon and Garfunkel concert in Central Park, just a few miles from the World Trade Center. [Fox News, 6/3/2002] The two planes that crash into the WTC on September 11 are also Boeing 767s. [Fox News, 9/11/2003] Marconi will later comment that the screenplay for WW3.com “was incredibly prescient about the events of September 11.”
NSA Employees Suggest 9/11-Like Scenarios - Experts from the National Security Agency (NSA) assist Marconi while he is working on the screenplay. These experts, Marconi will recall, are “more than helpful in laying out situations not dissimilar from what happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon” on September 11, although he will provide no details of these situations. Marconi will add: “One of my experts [at the NSA] told Boeing they had trouble with their avionics. He came up with scenarios. One was that a guy disguises himself as someone who works in food service in order to get on the plane. It’s much more low-tech than you think.” On the day of the 9/11 attacks, one of the people at the NSA who has been assisting Marconi calls the screenwriter and says to him, “Turn on the TV, it’s happening.” [Fox News, 6/3/2002]
Movie 'in Limbo' by 2002 - In August 2000, Variety reports that the well-known French film writer, director, and producer Luc Besson will produce WW3.com, although at this time the movie is still without a director. [Variety, 8/24/2000] But in June 2002, Fox News will report that the movie has been “lost in limbo.” [Fox News, 6/3/2002] The script will eventually be rewritten and made into the fourth Die Hard movie, Live Free or Die Hard, which is released in 2007. [Variety, 7/6/2004; New York Times, 6/27/2007] WW3.com is one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten after the 9/11 attacks (see February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001; Washington Times, 3/7/2002]

Entity Tags: David Marconi, Luc Besson, 20th Century Fox, National Security Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Nicholas Meyer.Nicholas Meyer. [Source: Shanghai TV Festival]Filming was originally going to start in Winnipeg, Canada, around this time for Fall from the Sky, a big-budget CBS TV movie about the investigation of a jumbo jet crash in which the possibility that Osama bin Laden was responsible is one of the lines of inquiry. [Observer, 9/30/2001; Irish Independent, 10/7/2001; Winnipeg Free Press, 3/22/2002] Fall from the Sky was co-written by Nicholas Meyer, who previously wrote several of the Star Trek movies, and Brian Rehak. [Variety, 9/19/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/31/2003; Los Angeles Times, 7/22/2010] It has been budgeted at $7.2 million and is set to star Forest Whitaker, who previously played jazz legend Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood’s movie Bird.
Hundreds Killed in Fictional Plane Crash - Fall from the Sky would be set a couple of years in the future and involve the crash of a plane that is one of a new generation of passenger jets. According to some reports, 700 people die in the fictitious crash. [Chicago Sun-Times, 8/20/2001; Winnipeg Free Press, 3/22/2002] But according to Variety magazine, 400 people are on the plane that crashes. [Variety, 9/19/2001; Variety, 9/24/2001] Whitaker was to have played the National Transportation Safety Board investigator who leads the examination of the crash. The story would “concentrate on the meticulous process of gathering scientific evidence after the tragedy,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. [Chicago Sun-Times, 8/20/2001; Winnipeg Free Press, 3/22/2002] Meyer has said that the planned TV movie would “not show the crash—only pieces [of plane wreckage] on the ground.” [Variety, 9/24/2001] However, Jamie Brown, the CEO of a special effects company that was going to work on Fall from the Sky, will later say his company planned to depict “the destruction of a super jumbo jet” for the TV movie. [Winnipeg Free Press, 12/5/2001]
Possible Bin Laden Responsibility Investigated - Furthermore, the storyline of Fall from the Sky includes “the investigation of a theory that the crash had been the work of Osama bin Laden,” according to The Observer. [Observer, 9/30/2001] But according to Meyer, it turns out that terrorists were not responsible. [Variety, 9/19/2001; Variety, 9/24/2001] Whitaker will say that the story “dealt a lot with the FAA and issues of concealment. It almost read as if it was a true story, because of the political things that were going on inside of it.” [Winnipeg Free Press, 3/22/2002] It “shows the political pressures brought to bear on the investigation,” Meyer will say. [Variety, 9/24/2001]
Production Canceled due to 9/11 - Fall from the Sky was in preproduction in September. Filming was scheduled to begin in Winnipeg on October 2, according to some reports. [Playback, 11/12/2001; Winnipeg Free Press, 3/22/2002] But according to Variety magazine, it was set to begin on October 8 or October 9. Production was halted within two weeks of 9/11. [Variety, 9/19/2001; Variety, 9/24/2001] The Winnipeg Free Press will comment, “Naturally, the deliberate, catastrophic destruction of four passenger jets on September 11 made a TV movie about a fictional jumbo jet crash untenable for CBS.” [Winnipeg Free Press, 3/22/2002] Fall from the Sky is one of a number of movies and television dramas that are canceled or rewritten as a result of the 9/11 attacks (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Irish Independent, 10/7/2001] Meyer has commented that his TV movie “was in its own way rather timely,” and added, “I think it’s unfortunate that it’s been canceled.” [Observer, 9/30/2001] Another, unnamed, TV movie dealing with an airline disaster was set to begin production in Vancouver, Canada, around this time, according to the Canadian magazine Playback, although further details of that movie are unstated. [Playback, 11/12/2001]

Entity Tags: CBS, Jamie Brown, Nicholas Meyer, Forest Whitaker

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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