September 10, 2006

Newsflash! 9/11 Flick Far Fairer Than Other "Historical" Docudramas

Hatched by Dafydd

This New York Post story, which appears to be trying to cast doubts upon the accuracy and even veracity of movie the Path to 9/11, instead shows it to be tremendously better researched, with more consultants and a greater willingness to change the script for historical accuracy, than any previous movie I've read about.

The showrunners metaphorically bent over backwards, tuchas over teakettle, to accomodate changes demanded by ultraliberal star Harvey Keitel to make the movie more historically accurate by his standards. (Keitel is still kvetching that they didn't rewrite the entire screenplay to make everything Bush's fault.)

I've never been involved in the production of big-budget TV movies, but I've hung around the set and "acted" in low-budget pictures many times, and I know what happens on a movie set. (In this context, "acted" means "stood stiffly and unconvincingly in a crowd scene, shifting nervously and wondering how many takes there would actually be before the two-minute scene was finished.")

Given Keitel's political leanings (about the same as Jack Lemmon) and financial contributions to Democrats:

  • He gave $2,000 each to Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY, 100%) and Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%);
  • $1,000 each to Sens. John Kerry (D-MA, 100%) and Bill Bradley (D-NJ);
  • $1,000 each to Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY , 100%), and Charles Schumer (for reelection to his House seat the same cycle he ran for the Senate, 1998);
  • $1,000 to leftist gadfly candidates Barry Gordon and Mark Green (Keitel contributed $1,000 each to all three candidates in the Democratic primary for Senate for 1998: Schumer, Green, and Geraldine Ferraro);
  • $1,000 to Majority 2000 (a Democratic PAC);
  • And $1, 200 directly to the DNC;

Given that, the many changes he demanded (and received) in the Path to 9/11 were almost certainly pro-Clinton or anti-Bush.

Anyone who has ever worked with directors and producers knows that the usual reaction when they're told by an actor that "this scene isn't historically accurate" is a glazed-eye stare and another snort of cocaine. The 1AD will then tell you haughtily that "this is a movie, not a documentary; just shut up and read your friggin' lines!" (Or, if you're a minor character, "take a hike, cement head.")

But look at the way the creators of this movie abjectly surrendered to Harvey Keitel:

When Oscar nominee Harvey Keitel signed on to play Deputy FBI Director John O'Neill, who perished in the World Trade Center attacks, he thought the film's aim was to be historically correct, he said.

"It turned out not all the facts were correct," which led to "arguments," he said on CNN.

Virtually from Day 1 of shooting, "Keitel put his own researcher on the case," looking to correct historical, character and other inaccuracies he found in the script, said John Dondertman, a production designer on the film.

That led to Keitel rewriting most of his own lines - which in turn meant almost daily revisions for cast members who had scenes with him....

On one occasion, Keitel holed up in his hotel for an entire day with director David Cunningham revising the script.

Other times, Cunningham would "fumble through the 9/11 Commission book trying to figure out how to correct details Keitel called into question," said the script supervisor....

Fulvio Cecere, who plays NYPD Chief John Dunne, recalls director Cunningham allowing Keitel to improvise entire scenes with fellow cast members.

(Those of you with movie-making experience, please pick your jaws up off the floor.)

And with all that, the Clintonistas still object to the movie and demand that ABC suppress it, so the American people don't finally understand what a prat and rube Bill Clinton was for eight years. Eight years during which al-Qaeda grew to become the most powerful terrorist organization in the world; attacked the United States on numerous occasions, killing scores of Americans and hundreds of other people, with barely a response from us; and conceived, planned, and set in motion the horrific attacks of September 11th themselves, likely the biggest terrorist attack in history.

Often supposedly historical movies use a technical consultant to "get the facts right"... one technical consultant; who isn't allowed on the set (he vets the screenplay) and certainly is ignored when he tells the director what's wrong with the picture. Did the Path to 9/11 use expert consultants? Take a look:

The network hired 9/11 Commission chairman and former Republican New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean [1] as the project's senior consultant.

"Kean was never on the set," said Greg Chown, an art director on the film. "The only adviser I worked with was a former CIA guy [2], who ensured that all the graphics and documents we used were accurate...."

[A commenter who says he is Greg Chown (and I have no reason to doubt it) writes, "I was definitely mis-quoted by the reporter for the Post. All I said during the interview is that I did not know who Keane was." -- DaH]

Another staffer, who spoke confidentially, said the only adviser she recalls is retired FBI agent Terry Carney [3]....

Barclay Hope, who plays FBI Assistant Director of Public Affairs John Miller, says he spoke briefly with Miller, although the FBI man indicated he didn't want to be involved in production.

Miller was a consultant on the film [4], and ABC had optioned his book for use in its teleplay.

This is an incredible level of consultation and willingness to change the script during production, all for as much historical accuracy as could be included and still make the movie watchable as a movie.

At this point, I think it fair to say that the historical accuracy of the Path to 9/11 is lightyears beyond the accuracy of most movies based upon real events or actual people (see our previous post for some other such titles).

The Clintonistas have no legitimate complaint; they can only whine that the movie unfairly depicts the Clinton administration being as feckless and pathetic as it actually was. We'll see tonight whether they managed to bully ABC/Disney into editing it beyond all recognition -- cutting out all the parts where Clinton ignores the problem, so it looks as though he were a two-fisted terrorist-buster. Or even whether they're going to air it at all.

Fingers crossed...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 10, 2006, at the time of 3:02 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I dunno but from what I have read from people in places like Australia where the film has already aired Clinton does not come across like a super hero.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 10, 2006 4:14 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Excellent, Dafydd. Excerpted and linked at Old War Dogs >> Bill's Bites

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 10, 2006 7:46 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

I just watched it, not bad.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 10, 2006 8:05 PM

The following hissed in response by: Jesse Brown

One small bit of accuracy surrendered to artistic license regarding the movie:

The movie shows JP, O'Neil's son wandering around lower Manhatten just after the planes hit and O'Neil is exiting the tower he was in and talking to each other on a cell phone. Then the son watches in horror as the towers collapse.

How do I know this is inaccurate? JP was on the Acela train across the aisle from me when we pulled onto the New Jersey flats out of Trenton prior to entering Mahatten on 9/11. We watched the towers burning as we slowly crawled into New York. He was talking to his dad on the cell. On the train. I found out who he was as we were leaving the train in Union Station. " How do you know so much about the WTC?" I asked him. "My father is the Director of Security" he replied as he was exiting. The towers came down about 1/2 hour later.

A small matter.

Also from what I learned afterwards (Frontline's "The Man who Knew", and other stories) Keitel was probably the worse actor to play O'Neil you could have found. O'Neil was a large man, in stature and in life - a true modern day James Bond, a maverick. Which was one reason his FBI superiors had little regard for him. Keitel, a small man, played him as a frustrated beaurocrat.

A better pick would have been Chris Noth or even Robert DeNiro (an unlikely pick for a TV docudrama I admit)

The above hissed in response by: Jesse Brown [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 3:57 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Jesse Brown:

I liked the first part better than the second, but that's primarily because of the Dick Clarke hagiography. I think that was a mistake, dramatically (not to mention historically): it makes no sense that an analyst on the National Security Council would be issuing orders to the DCI and the Army and Air Force Chiefs of Staff. It just looks silly.

Besides, the actor they got to play Clarke, Stephen Root spent much of his career as a voice actor to cartoons... and not without good reason: he's so bugeyed, I thought he might have whatever Bette Davis had.

He reminded me of an insect. I wish they had picked a different actor and not taken Clarke's self-serving testimony so solemnly.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 5:17 AM

The following hissed in response by: Greg Chown

Re: New York Post Article
I was definitely mis-quoted by the reporter for the Post. All I said during the interview is that I did not know who Keane was.

The above hissed in response by: Greg Chown [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 7, 2010 7:25 AM

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