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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 12:33 GMT
Collateral Damage debuts
Arnold Schwazenegger
Schwarzenegger admits 11 September will boost audiences
By Peter Bowes in Los Angeles

The tragic events of 11 September last year had a profound impact on Hollywood. One of the first decisions, made in the hours after the attacks on New York and Washington, was to put on hold the upcoming fast-action drama, Collateral Damage.

The Warner Bros film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Los Angeles firefighter who is seeking revenge for the killing of his wife and young son during a terrorist attack in the city.

The movie, which was due to be released last October, finally opened in US cinemas on Friday. No changes have been made in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Rudy Guiliani
Former mayor Guiliani's backing upset some
"I think the movie is much more significant and important now than it would have been perceived prior to September," says director Andrew Davis.

Schwarzenegger's character, Gordy Brewer, becomes disillusioned with the official inquiry into the bombing which killed his family.

Elaborate plot

The explosion is blamed on El Lobo, the Wolf, an infamous rebel leader in Columbia's civil war. The targets of the attack were members of the Colombia consulate and American intelligence agents.

Gordy travels to Colombia to track down the man responsible for the atrocity. The climax of the film revolves around an elaborate plot to attack Washington DC.

World Trade Center
Test screenings took place after the US attacks
In the months following the real-life attacks, the film was test-screened to audiences on both the US east and west coasts. Mr Davis says attitudes of people towards the movie were quick to change.

"They may have felt that it was appropriate to postpone it but they're drawn to this kind of story now and I don't think this film is exploitative. It doesn't take advantage of the events of 11 September - it's a parallel mirror to them," he explains.

"There's been some closure, some healing and some understanding about what happened."

Action dramas up

Such attitudes also reflect a general upsurge in interest in films about war and terrorism. Video rentals of action dramas featuring heroic Americans have grown since the terrorist attacks.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Schwarzenegger at Wednesday's special screening in New York
"People are much more interested in collateral damage today," says Schwarzenegger.

"When we started bombing Afghanistan they heard the collateral damage terminology a lot of times because during the bombing innocent people have died.

"I think before this movie and before 11 September no one paid any attention to the innocent people that always died in a war or in any kind of terrorist attack."

However, as Schwarzenegger acknowledges: "Collateral Damage was made for pure entertainment."


What 11 September has said is you may have to pay attention to what's going on in the rest of the world because it's going to affect you

Director Andrew Davis
"It is great entertainment, it has great action, it has wonderful scenes but at the same time besides it being a fast movie with a lot of stunts and action and explosions, it has a greater emotional roller coaster ride," he adds.

The film-makers have been careful to avoid any notion that the movie's release will benefit though an association with the events of 11 September.

NYSE chairman Richard Grasso, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin
Even Wall Street is backing the film
However, a screening attended by former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani has already attracted criticism from some fire-fighters.

'Reality-based'

Schwarzenegger says it is impossible to watch the film without making comparisons with the September tragedy,

"Many of the things that we have in the movie happen in real life. So many of the things that Bin Laden's talking about - or other terrorist leaders are talking about - we have actually in the movie. Our movie is really reality based."

While the scenario of a devastating terrorist attack on a US city is chillingly reminiscent of recent events, the underlying politics are somewhat different.

"It's an insightful view of what's going on in Columbia," explains Mr Davis.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
The film is an "emotional roller-coaster ride", its star says
"Hopefully this film can shed some light on Columbia and people's lives will be saved by being aware of what's happening there."

The director also hopes that movie will draw attention to an underlying ignorance in the United States of the world's hot spots and potential global problems.

"Americans don't want to be bothered with other people's problems - they have their own problems and I think what 11 September has said is you may have to pay attention to what's going on in the rest of the world because it's going to affect you."

Ironically, the attention now being paid to the movie, may serve to boost its popularity at the box office. Before 11 September, Collateral Damage may well have passed through cinemas, with moderate success, essentially as just another popcorn flick heavy on special effects.

Now, times have certainly changed. "I think people will look at it much more seriously today and will be much more interested in it than maybe before,' says Schwarzenegger.

See also:

12 Nov 01 | Showbiz
Bush adviser meets Hollywood execs
12 Sep 01 | Showbiz
US showbusiness shuts down
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