There isn’t much Hollywood and the entertainment industry won’t tackle, including the tragic day of Sept. 11, 2001. However, the events of that day require a great deal of sensitive handling and care, even from the most established entertainers — which is why there hasn’t been a lot of Hollywood material in the past 16 years that fully addresses the terrorist attacks.
There was Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” and “United 93” from Paul Greengrass, but most filmmakers have avoided the subject altogether. They were likely scared off by the fresh wounds of the tragic day and the level of scrutiny such a project falls under with the public.
This weekend brings a new drama revolving around the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that changed the world, entitled “9/11,” starring Charlie Sheen and Whoopi Goldberg. Sheen plays a man who is trapped in an elevator inside the north tower of the World Trade Center on that awful morning, along with a group of other people, played by actors such as Luis Guzman and Wood Harris. The movie was written and directed by Martin Guigui, whose previous films include forgettable works such as “Beneath the Darkness,” “My X-Girlfriend’s Wedding Reception,” and “Cattle Call.”
This isn’t the first trapped-in-an-elevator thriller, believe it or not. The 2010 film “Devil” was also set in an elevator in a skyscraper — but it was a horror film with M. Night Shyamalan as the writer, so everyone knew what to expect. Guigui has no such luck: His subject is the one of the toughest and most sensitive of all topics. Industry response has thus far suggested the production team might have erred in its choice of both theme and lead actor.
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Indiewire opined in its coverage of the film’s trailer, “There are really no words to describe how disgraceful and offensive the trailer is.” The piece went further by hoping that Guigui never goes on to direct another feature film.
“There are really no words to describe how disgraceful and offensive the trailer is.”
Reactions on social media have mostly been just as negative.
“Never will I watch this poor representation of events,” said Michael Layman on the film’s Facebook page.
“No thanks, I’d only go see this if all the proceeds went to the families of those lost in this tragedy. Hollywood [is] trying to make a buck off a terrorist attack, sorry Hollywood, there is already a 911 movie,” commented Vince Pellegrino.
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Guigui shared with the Daily News his thoughts on his motivation behind the film. “This is an inspiring story about the heroes. It’s really about the first responders and people who sacrificed their lives to save others.”
He further explained that “the key for us was to tell an honest story, and unlike the other 9/11 films that have been made, this one is about the humanity.”
In an effort to honor the “heroes” of 9/11, Guigui actually cast real firefighters who were on the ground during the September 11 terrorist attacks into scenes of the movie as first responders. “We felt privileged to work alongside them and knew we had to get it right,” Guigui said, according to his film’s Facebook page. The firefighters were also used as consultants on the set.
“It’s really about the first responders and people who sacrificed their lives to save others.”
Besides the poorly received trailer, the big shadow hanging over the movie is the casting of its lead actor — Charlie Sheen, a man who has expressed 9/11 “truther” views in the past. He’s gone on record at various times to say he doesn’t believe the official story of the tragedy of September 11. He shared in a 2006 interview with InfoWars founder and host Alex Jones that he thought there were detonations that went off inside the Twin Towers.
“We’re not the conspiracy theorists on this issue,” Sheen said. “It seems to me like 19 amateurs with box cutters taking over four commercial airliners and hitting 75 percent of the targets — that feels like a conspiracy theory.”
He later doubled down on these views by speaking at a 9/11 truther event in Los Angeles — and then discussed the topic again in an interview with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. “I’ve done a lot of research,” Sheen said. “And it’s not just me. It’s the people that have come before me — the experts, the engineers, the physicists, the scientists, and the scholars that raised a lot of these things. And I took a look at their research and said, ‘Yeah, it doesn’t add up.'”
The choice of Sheen for this film has turned off many from seeing it.
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It’s something producers may have been sensing, as Sheen reportedly skipped out on the film’s recent premiere.
Making the best of it, Guigui insisted, “There are many people who have made comments along those lines over the years. I found out when everybody else did. But that was never something that affected my decision-making process.”
Sheen has not recently promoted his truther beliefs. He said in a behind-the-scenes video released by the film’s marketing team, “It’s a story about heroes. It’s really honoring those that sacrificed everything and those that didn’t make it and those that did. As I started thinking more about it and started imagining it and feeling it, it just became something that I couldn’t not do.”