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Sunday, 12 May, 2002, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Movie tribute to New York firefighters
New York firefighters
More than 300 firefighters were killed trying to save victims
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By Tom Brook
In New York
line

One of the first films to tackle directly the emotional trauma of 11 September has just finished shooting on location in New York.

It is called The Guys and it stars Sigourney Weaver as a journalist trying to help a grieving fire captain write eulogies for eight of his firemen who died in the World Trade Center carnage.

The film, in which Anthony LaPaglia is the fire captain, is an adaptation of a successful play that has been running since December at New York's small Flea Theatre, just a short distance from where the World Trade Center towers once stood.


One of the unique qualities of this piece is that it seeks to put a human face on what was really a very large catastrophe for New York City and Washington DC

Director Jim Simpson

Weaver and LaPaglia, as well as a host of other actors including Bill Murray, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, have taken turns on stage doing the lead roles.

The play was written by Anne Nelson, a Professor of Journalism at Columbia University.

She based it on her own experiences last September when she assisted a Brooklyn fire captain who was struggling to find words to pay fitting tributes to the firefighters under his command.

Chance

Many real-life firefighters, and rescue workers, have attended the Flea Theatre production and found watching the play a wrenching emotional experience.

Weaver plays the journalist and found she, too, had an emotional involvement in the production.

Sigourney Weaver
Sigourney Weaver: Found filming had an emotional impact

"I think it's been meaningful to me as a New Yorker, someone who loves New York, to be able to do this," she says.

The play on which the film was based was commissioned by Jim Simpson, the artistic director of the Flea Theatre, after he had a chance meeting with Nelson, who told him of her experiences.

Simpson, who is married to Weaver, is now directing the film.

He says: "I think one of the unique qualities of this piece is that it seeks to put a human face on what was really a very large catastrophe for New York City and Washington DC.

"Thousands of people were killed. This piece, in very humble means, seeks to just find a human face on the people that lost their lives that day."

Timing

The Guys has been shooting at various locations in New York including fire stations where the wounds of 11 September are still quite raw.

Real New York firefighters have participated in the film. Weaver says: "The firefighters who agreed to be in our movie, and the firefighters who came to the play have been very supportive."

The play version of The Guys was staged just three weeks after director Simpson received the manuscript.

He also wants to put the film on a fast track and make sure it reaches audiences as quickly as possible.

He says: "It's important for this particular piece to have it out and have it be seen as soon as possible.

"The mode of reacting to something like this is to forget and move on and I don¿t know that¿s always the best idea.

"This piece is not about just forgetting and getting into the usual amnesia that our culture relies on to get through events like this.¿

There are a number of 11 September-related movie and documentary projects in the works.

So there is always the possibility that a film like The Guys, however well intentioned, could be seen as exploiting the tragedy.

Weaver says: "The idea that in any way we might exploit what happened - that's certainly not our intention.

"A lot of the people working on the movie were affected personally by 11 September and wanted to come together to do this.

"I do think it's a very delicate balance, but our intention is completely respectful."

The Guys is set for an autumn release, possibly to coincide with the first anniversary of 11 September.

See also:

10 Nov 01 | Americas
Residents move away from Ground Zero
10 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Ground Zero 'vision of hell'
24 Sep 01 | Americas
New heroes of the nation
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