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Context of '(8:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001: NBC Team near WTC, Working on Drama Series about Terrorist Attacks in New York'

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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

Stu Zicherman (left) and Raven Metzner (right).Stu Zicherman (left) and Raven Metzner (right). [Source: Publicity photos]Production begins on Nosebleed, a major action-comedy movie based around a terrorist plot to blow up the World Trade Center, which will star the well-known martial artist and actor Jackie Chan. In the proposed movie, Chan will play a window washer at the WTC who uncovers a terrorist plot to bomb the Twin Towers. Chan’s character teams up with a waitress who works at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower, to thwart the plot. [Variety, 2/7/1999; Variety, 10/3/2000; Entertainment Weekly, 9/24/2001] The script, originally written in 1999 and subsequently developed, includes one of the terrorists explaining why the WTC should be destroyed. The terrorist says: “It represents capitalism. It represents freedom. It represents everything America is about. And to bring those two buildings down would bring America to its knees.” [Entertainment Weekly, 9/24/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001]
'Die Hard 2' Director in Talks to Work on Film - In February 1999, film studio New Line Cinema pays $600,000 to take on Nosebleed, which it is estimated will cost $50 million to $60 million to make. [Variety, 2/7/1999; Variety, 5/24/2001] In May 2000, it is reported that Renny Harlin is in talks to direct the film. [Guardian, 5/26/2000] Harlin previously directed action movies such as Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. [New York Times, 6/18/1997; Deseret News, 7/28/1999] Then, in spring 2001, Hollywood production company MGM takes over the film from New Line. [Variety, 5/24/2001; Hollywood (.com), 6/9/2001]
Executives Find Storyline Implausible - The screenplay for Nosebleed is being written by Stu Zicherman and Raven Metzner. Zicherman and Metzner came up with the storyline for the film, which they then took to management company Blue Train Entertainment, where it was developed for Chan. [Variety, 2/7/1999] In August 2001, the two writers meet with MGM executives to discuss possible rewrites of the script. Zicherman will later recall: “[W]e actually talked about changing the plot. Incredibly, some of the executives thought a re-bombing of the World Trade Center was implausible.” [Entertainment Weekly, 9/24/2001]
Movie Canceled after 9/11 - A scene for the movie is originally scheduled to be filmed at the top of one of the Twin Towers at 7:00 a.m. on September 11, but the filming is canceled because the script for that scene is late to arrive (see 7:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/19/2001; Empire, 9/19/2001] MGM will cancel work on Nosebleed in response to the 9/11 attacks. Nosebleed is one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten following the attacks (see (January 1998-2001); June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Baltimore Sun, 9/16/2001; ABC News, 9/25/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001] Although news reports before 9/11 state that the terrorists’ intended target in Nosebleed is the WTC, some reports after 9/11 will say, apparently incorrectly, that either the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building is the target. [USA Today, 9/12/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/14/2001; New York Post, 9/15/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/17/2001; Wired, 7/18/2012]

Entity Tags: Blue Train Entertainment, Jackie Chan, Stuart Zicherman, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Raven Metzner, Renny Harlin, New Line Cinema

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Dick Wolf.Dick Wolf. [Source: Deadline]Writers at NBC work on a five-hour big-budget drama miniseries called Terror, which will be about Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda group committing a series of terrorist attacks in New York. [Variety, 9/10/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002; USA Today, 12/5/2002] Terror will combine the casts of all three of NBC’s Law & Order crime drama series: the original show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. [Entertainment Weekly, 9/7/2001; Variety, 9/10/2001]
Story Includes Attack Killing over 1,000 in New York - The storyline the writers come up with begins at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. There, a man who is a devotee of bin Laden tells a group of children that he is going to America on a mission for Allah, which the whole world will know about soon. Using a United Arab Emirates passport, he then enters the US across the Canadian border in a rental car. After arriving in New York, he sets off explosives in the subway under Times Square, killing over 1,000 people. [Los Angeles, 4/2002; USA Today, 12/5/2002] Clues then lead to a bioterrorist release of anthrax being discovered. The story culminates in the threat of a release of smallpox.
Filming to Begin in September - Terror is intended to be broadcast in May 2002 as a two-hour movie on a Sunday followed by one-hour episodes over the next three nights. According to Dick Wolf, the creator of Law & Order, the miniseries will have a large budget. “[T]his is expensive,” he will later say. [Variety, 3/19/2001; Variety, 9/10/2001] NBC is scheduled to begin filming in late September this year, according to some accounts. [Knight Ridder, 9/14/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002] Wolf will say that filming is set to begin on September 24. [USA Today, 12/5/2002] But according to CNN, it is scheduled to begin the week after 9/11. [CNN, 9/9/2002]
Show's Creator Suggested Terrorism Storyline - The proposed show came about after Wolf was contacted earlier this year by Steve White, NBC’s executive vice president for movies, miniseries, and special projects, and asked if he had any ideas for a five-hour miniseries. Wolf suggested “terrorism in New York City,” which was a story he had “long wanted to do,” according to Los Angeles magazine. “[T]he only story I could think of that justified five hours is terrorism,” Wolf will comment. White agreed to the idea. When Wolf then told Neal Baer, one of Law & Order’s executive producers, that he wanted to do a miniseries about terrorism, Baer said the miniseries “should be [about] bioterrorism.”
Writers Spend Two Days in New York Working on Story - In June 2001, Wolf gets together with a number of his colleagues, including Baer and several writers, in New York, to develop the storyline for Terror. Wolf has already come up with a 40-page outline for the miniseries. Now, the group spends two days working on it. [Variety, 9/10/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002] By August, according to Baer, “we were really deeply involved in the story.” Baer will recall that those working on the miniseries “would joke that we hoped the real thing didn’t pre-empt our work. Obviously, we had no idea of what was to come.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 pdf file]
NBC Does Extensive Research for Show - NBC spends nine months conducting meticulous research for Terror, according to Wolf. [Variety, 9/10/2001] Baer talks to experts at the Rand Corporation think tank, hires a consultant from Stanford University, and reads books on biological warfare. [Los Angeles, 4/2002] Those involved with the miniseries also talk with experts at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia. [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 pdf file] And, according to Wolf, they talk to “top law enforcement people on the state, federal, and local levels” about bioterrorism. [Variety, 9/10/2001] Baer will comment that as a result of their extensive research, “We knew a lot of things most people didn’t know, because we spoke with so many experts all over the country.” At one point, the team working on the miniseries is talked to by the FBI, “because our accumulation of so much information raised a red flag.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 pdf file]
Miniseries Canceled in Response to 9/11 - Terror will be canceled less than a week after the 9/11 attacks. [Variety, 9/17/2001] It is one of a number of television dramas and movies featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten following 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-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] Baer and others involved with the show are actually in New York, only a couple of miles away from the World Trade Center, on the morning of September 11, doing planning work for the miniseries (see (8:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/9/2002]

Entity Tags: University of Minnesota, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dick Wolf, University of Michigan, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RAND Corporation, Johns Hopkins University, NBC, Neal Baer, Stanford University

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

James Cameron.James Cameron. [Source: Contactmusic (.com )]Hollywood film studio 20th Century Fox is working on a movie, called Deadline, which would feature terrorists hijacking a commercial aircraft. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2001; Washington Times, 12/10/2001; Baltimore City Paper, 1/2/2002] Deadline is being written by brothers Peter and David Griffiths, who also wrote the screenplay for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Collateral Damage. The Griffiths have already completed two drafts of the script for Deadline. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2001; Variety, 2/7/2002] Reports will describe the movie’s storyline as “involving terrorists taking over a jetliner”; featuring “the hijacking of an airliner”; and featuring “terrorists taking over a commercial aircraft.” Further details, however, are unknown. The movie is “in top-secret development at 20th Century Fox,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Deadline is being produced by James Cameron, the director of movies such as Titanic and The Terminator. And Tony Scott, who previously directed blockbuster movies such as Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State, has expressed an interest in Deadline, according to sources close to the film. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2001; Washington Times, 12/10/2001; Baltimore City Paper, 1/2/2002] However, 20th Century Fox will suspend work on the film in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It will be one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten after 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Village Voice, 12/4/2001; Washington Times, 3/7/2002] In November 2008, Variety magazine will report that the movie has been revived, with the new name Nagasaki Deadline. Variety will report that the storyline centers on “an emotionally damaged FBI agent who must decipher historic events in a desperate race to avert a terrorist plot.” It is unclear if this was the original plot of the movie or if the story has been changed since 9/11. [Variety, 11/11/2008] In 2010, it will be reported that a director has been found for the movie. [Deadline, 6/28/2010; Variety, 6/29/2010] By 2013, no further details of the movie will have been announced.

Entity Tags: James Cameron, Tony Scott, Peter Griffiths, 20th Century Fox, David Griffiths

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Neal Baer.Neal Baer. [Source: Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles]A group from NBC is in New York, near the World Trade Center, doing preparatory work for a drama miniseries about al-Qaeda committing a series of terrorist attacks in the city. [Variety, 9/10/2001; Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 pdf file; CNN, 9/9/2002; USA Today, 12/5/2002] The big-budget five-hour miniseries, called Terror, will combine the casts of all three of NBC’s Law & Order crime drama series: the original show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. It is intended to be broadcast in May 2002. Its storyline follows a devotee of Osama bin Laden who goes from an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan to New York. There, he sets off explosives in the subway under Times Square, killing over 1,000 people. A bioterrorist release of anthrax is subsequently discovered. [Variety, 9/10/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002; USA Today, 12/5/2002]
Group Doing Planning Work for Show - This morning, Neal Baer, one of Law & Order’s executive producers, is in New York with some of his colleagues, doing preproduction planning for Terror. The group is at a facility at Chelsea Piers, on Manhattan’s West Side, only a couple of miles from the WTC. Baer and his colleagues are “ironing out details” for the miniseries, according to CNN. After the attacks on the WTC take place, they will watch in shock as people run up the West Side Highway, “first panicky groups fleeing the initial hit, then ash-covered survivors of the towers’ collapse.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 pdf file; CNN, 9/9/2002]
Magazine Has Front-Page Story about Show - Writers have been working on Terror for several months (see June-September 11, 2001) and filming is scheduled to begin later this month. [Los Angeles, 4/2002; Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 pdf file] This morning, Variety magazine even has a front-page story about the miniseries. [Variety, 9/10/2001; CNN, 9/9/2002] But Terror will be canceled less than a week after the 9/11 attacks. The show’s producers will say that it would be “[i]nappropriate to produce the Law & Order miniseries dealing with terrorists, dealing with terrorism, in light of the horrifying events that have unfolded over the past week.” [Variety, 9/17/2001]

Entity Tags: NBC, Neal Baer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bryce Zabel.Bryce Zabel. [Source: Publicity photo]Bryce Zabel, a longtime television writer and producer, was set to meet executives at the cable channel USA Network on this day, to present to them details of a miniseries he has been working on about an act of terrorism in the United States and how it leads to a global conflict, but the meeting and the miniseries are canceled as a result of the 9/11 attacks. [Dallas Observer, 9/20/2001; New York Times, 9/24/2001; NPR, 9/6/2002] Zabel, who was recently elected as chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, previously created television shows such as Dark Skies and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. [Deseret News, 8/12/2001; Dallas Observer, 9/20/2001] He is scheduled to meet with USA Network executives today, to present his plans for a miniseries called World War III for consideration. The miniseries, according to the Dallas Observer, would be “about how an act of terrorism on United States soil expanded into global conflict.”
Show's Creator Considered 9/11-Like Scenarios - Zabel has been working with members of the US military to help him decide what kind of terrorist attack to incorporate into the storyline of World War III. “My partner and I had worked carefully with the Air Force and some Pentagon war planners to figure out the possible scenarios by which such a conflict could come into being,” he will later recall. Zabel and the military officials apparently considered scenarios resembling the 9/11 attacks: “The irony is that we had sort of rejected something as radical as what just happened [on September 11] as being a little too much,” Zabel will say. Therefore, according to Zabel, the 9/11 attacks meant that “the cautionary tale we hoped to tell in fiction ended up becoming a cautionary tale told on the evening news, and there almost is no need for the wake-up call, because America has been woken up.”
Show Canceled due to 9/11 - It is unclear how long Zabel has been working on World War III, but according to the Dallas Observer, his scheduled meeting with USA Network executives to discuss the miniseries has been “on his calendar for weeks.” [Dallas Observer, 9/20/2001] The meeting and the miniseries are both canceled as a result of what happened on September 11. [NPR, 9/6/2002] “Obviously this show died when the victims died,” Zabel will say. [New York Times, 9/24/2001] Zabel will also note, two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, that his miniseries would have “reflected exactly what’s going on in the world right now.” [Media Life, 9/25/2001] World War III is one of a number of television dramas and movies featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten following 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Newsweek, 10/7/2001]

Entity Tags: USA Network, Bryce Zabel

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Characters from ‘The Agency.’Characters from ‘The Agency.’ [Source: CBS]The pilot episode of a major new CBS drama series called The Agency was originally scheduled to be broadcast on this day, and would have featured a storyline about Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist group plotting to blow up a department store in London, England, but the episode is postponed due to its resemblance to the events of September 11. [New York Times, 9/29/2001; CNN, 10/31/2001; Jenkins, 2012, pp. 62-63] The Agency, according to The Guardian, is “a new CBS drama, full of best-and-brightest types rolling up their sleeves and attacking problems of national security.” [Guardian, 10/5/2001] The series will “tell stories of everyday life inside ‘The Agency,’” according to the New York Times. [New York Times, 5/6/2001] The Guardian has reported that the show’s villains will include “Arab terrorists, Colombian drug dealers, Iraqis, and German urban guerrillas.” [Guardian, 9/6/2001] Wolfgang Petersen, who directed blockbuster movies such as In the Line of Fire and Air Force One, is the show’s principal executive producer. [Dallas Morning News, 9/27/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/29/2001]
Storyline Includes Planned Al-Qaeda Attack - The storyline of the pilot episode of The Agency features “terrorists from Osama bin Laden’s cells, waging a holy war against the West,” according to the New York Times. Early in the episode, it is revealed that the CIA has identified al-Qaeda as a security threat and that the terrorist group is planning a major attack in Europe. Fortunately, a CIA officer was able to infiltrate al-Qaeda and discovered the date of the planned attack. However, the agency has just three days to thwart the plot. Agents then discover that the terrorists intend to bomb the Harrods department store in London. They pass on this information to British intelligence officers, thereby helping to prevent the attack at the last minute. [New York Times, 9/29/2001; Jenkins, 2012, pp. 62-63] Bin Laden’s name is mentioned twice in the episode. [Dallas Morning News, 9/27/2001]
CIA Liaison Assisted with Script - Michael Frost Beckner, the creator of The Agency, will later say that he wrote the show’s pilot episode “over a year before 9/11,” presumably meaning around mid-2000. [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 pdf file] He worked with Chase Brandon to develop the script, and submitted early drafts to Brandon for approval. [Jenkins, 2012, pp. 56] Brandon is the CIA’s entertainment liaison officer, and before taking that post spent 25 years in the agency’s elite clandestine service. [Guardian, 9/6/2001; Guardian, 11/14/2008]
Storyline 'Originated from the CIA' - The similarity between the storylines of The Agency and real-world events, according to CNN, is because the show’s producers and writers have been “researching each storyline in detail. They read intelligence manuals, pull from actual CIA cases, and confer at length with the show’s consultant, retired [CIA] operative Bazzel Baz.” [CNN, 10/31/2001] Bill Harlow, the CIA’s chief spokesman, will suggest that the reason for the similarity is that the show “simply got lucky that the headlines intersected with its storylines so neatly.” But Beckner will reveal that the storyline for the pilot episode was suggested to him by Brandon. “In other words,” author Tricia Jenkins will note, the story about al-Qaeda plotting to bomb Harrods “originated from the CIA.” [Jenkins, 2012, pp. 66-67] Beckner will also say the pilot episode resembled what happened in the US on September 11 because the CIA “would let in anyone, including a little writer like me, to hear that al-Qaeda and bin Laden are going to attack us.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 pdf file]
Show's Premier at CIA Headquarters Canceled - The Agency received extensive assistance from the CIA during its production. As well as the CIA reviewing scripts, it is the first television series that was permitted to film inside CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and it used agency employees as extras. The pilot episode was even going to be premiered at CIA headquarters, on September 18, but the event was canceled because the agency was busy responding to the 9/11 attacks. [New York Times, 8/26/2001; Hollywood Reporter, 9/17/2001; Jenkins, 2012, pp. 56]
CIA Liaison Thinks Series 'Couldn't Be More Timely' - CBS cancels the broadcast of the pilot episode on September 27, when it was originally scheduled to be aired, in response to the 9/11 attacks. Gail Katz, one of the show’s executive producers, will comment, “Our show seems to be too close to what’s in the headlines” and it is therefore “not appropriate for viewing.” [CNN, 10/31/2001] Instead, another episode of The Agency is aired, in which agents work to prevent the assassination of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. [Variety, 9/23/2001; New York Times, 9/29/2001] Brandon, however, is upbeat about the series coming out at a time when terrorism has become such a major issue. “If anything, a show like The Agency couldn’t be more timely,” he will say. This, according to Brandon, is because, “Right now, the American public needs a sense of reassurance.” Brandon will add: “Our whole national consciousness is going to change. And I think a responsible film or TV episode about the agency, even one that weaves elements of terrorism into the storyline, can show the magnitude of what’s at stake.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/29/2001] Indeed, the show’s tag line is “Now, more than ever, America needs the unsung heroes of The Agency.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/2/2001]
Modified Version of Episode Later Broadcast - The pilot episode of The Agency is one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten in response to 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001] A subsequent episode, based around a planned terrorist attack in the US using anthrax, will also be rescheduled, because its original broadcast date coincides with the actual anthrax attacks in the US (see October 18, 2001). [Variety, 10/16/2001; People, 11/6/2001] A modified version of the pilot episode, with all references to bin Laden removed, will be broadcast on November 1. [South Florida Sun Sentinel, 10/25/2001; Jenkins, 2012, pp. 145]

Entity Tags: Bill Harlow, Central Intelligence Agency, CBS, Gail Katz, Charles (“Chase”) Brandon, Michael Frost Beckner

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

Billy Crystal.Billy Crystal. [Source: Evan Agostini / Associated Press]Filming was originally going to start on this day for a comedy movie called Till Death Do Us Part, which would feature a terrorist targeting New York and include a key scene set at the World Trade Center, but the film has been postponed and is going to be rewritten as a result of the 9/11 attacks. [Newsday, 9/13/2001; United Press International, 11/1/2001; Variety, 11/12/2001] Till Death Do Us Part, which is set to star the well-known actors Michael Douglas and Billy Crystal, “is about two fathers, soon to be related by their children’s marriage, who find themselves trying to foil a terrorist bent on creating havoc in New York City,” according to Newsday. The story includes a “significant scene” that takes place at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower of the WTC. [Newsday, 9/13/2001] The movie has “a big World Trade Center scene with terrorists,” Crystal has said. “Funny, but the whole story was about that,” he added. [United Press International, 11/1/2001] Till Death Do Us Part is supposed to be a remake of the 1979 movie The In-Laws, which was about a dentist and a CIA agent in South America. Its script was written by Nat Mauldin, who previously worked on the 1996 movie The Preacher’s Wife and the 1998 movie Dr. Dolittle. [Variety, 11/15/2000; Hollywood (.com), 5/8/2001] The decision to postpone work on Till Death Do Us Part was made the week after 9/11, because the movie’s plot concerned “New York, the World Trade Center, and terrorists,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/27/2001] After the film was put on hold, Douglas explained: “There are too many elements we just couldn’t live with since the terrorist attack. It’s going back to the drawing boards.” [Times of India, 9/26/2001] The movie will subsequently be rewritten. [Variety, 11/12/2001] It will be released in May 2003, but renamed The In-Laws and without Crystal starring in it. [Los Angeles Times, 5/18/2003; CNN, 5/23/2003; Entertainment Weekly, 5/30/2003] Till Death Do Us Part is one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten following 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). [Newsday, 9/13/2001; ABC News, 9/25/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001]

Entity Tags: Michael Douglas, Billy Crystal

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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