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<i>The Guys</i> Personalizes 9-11 Losses - 2003-04-13


More than a year and a half since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Hollywood is releasing the first film to deal dramatically with those events. It's called "The Guys."

This is a powerful film about the tragedy of 9/11, as it unfolded in New York City. The movie personalizes the loss of thousands of people that day, after two hijacked jetliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The story focuses on the lives and deaths of eight fire fighters who sacrificed themselves trying to save others from the inferno.

Like every other New Yorker, Joan, a middle-aged journalist played by Sigourney Weaver, does not know how to deal with her feelings in the days after the disaster. All she know is, she wants to help. And she does it by doing what she knows how to do best: writing. She helps Nick, a fire captain played by Anthony LaPaglia, to write eulogies for his eight lost men. These two people, strangers to each other, spend a whole day together, assembling, piece by piece, pictures of the lives of the dead firemen, weighing, as they do, their strengths and weaknesses.

By the end of the day, Joan the writer, and Nick, the fire captain, form an unexpected bond, a bond that only a tragedy can create.

This is the true story of writer Anne Nelson, who wrote Guys first for the stage and then for the screen, as her way of dealing with the tragedy of 9/11. I talked about the film's moral and political message with actress Sigourney Weaver, who plays the writer, and with her husband, Jim Simpson,who directed both the stage and screen versions of the The Guys.

Weaver: "We knew from the experience of doing the play that people came with their own experiences and my impression always was that it offered them some solace and that they were very glad they'd come. So, that's was what I thought was guiding us."
Poulou: "What do you expect to be the reaction of the world to this movie?"
Weaver: "It's to me a bit like a document of what it felt like to be in New York at that time. And I think it will remind people, especially right now, that we are human beings and that what happened between these two people could have happened anywhere after a terrible tragedy."
Poulou: "Any fears?"
Simpson: "You know, I actually think the movie is pretty honest. I think there will be people that will be dissatisfied because there won't be an overt political statement made in the picture. This movie is not purporting to be the answers for that, and it's in fact saying "There was a human cost on what happened in 9/11 and not simply to be answered with political answers." So, those people will be dissatisfied."
Poulou: "Do you think this is going to encourage other people to create new movies on 9/11?"
Simpson: "If it does do that, I think, that's great. Because, I think in America specifically, I think there were people that were very much affected by what happened. Yet, need to find the human face again about this. And not just that. All over the world very much everyone is looking at what does America feel like? Are they just simply angry, or what is it? And I think that this movie shows a very interesting side of what actually happened and the aftermath of it, in the way that many communities all over the world have experienced cataclysmic catastrophes like 9/11. Maybe not exactly like 9/11 but, very very close."
Weaver: "You know we are not taking anything for granted. I do think there are obstacles. People don't want to go back and feel those very painful feelings again. But I think, if they can take that chance that it would not be something they would regret."
Poulou: "There is this scene where you dance with Anthony LaPaglia. You touch hands, he explains to you how the dance goes and then you get up and you follow him on the floor. What really inspired that scene?"
Weaver: "Ann wrote it."
Simpson: "Well, it's true. The fire captain dances. And I think, Ann, in her own way, writing very truthfully, probably imagined that they got up and danced. And of course that didn't happen but she couldn't help imagine 'what if it had?'"
Weaver: "I do think that we were able to achieve that sense of one long afternoon where we go through such ups and downs, by the time we got to the tango scene, you know, you're so blitzed trying to work on this stuff that I thought "of course they need to take time out, they need to go somewhere else for a while." And it was such a relief to see them relate on a different level and get a tiny break. They needed it so much, and I thought that makes a lot of sense in that day, that they have this island of tango."
Simpson: "Even if it didn't happen!"
Poulou: "The language is also very powerful. So, you have a double advantage there. Great acting. But, the language! They way you interpret it! The words, the way they flow! They carry you through the whole movie. It's impossible to stay impartial."
Weaver: "Well I think, Ann, I was so grateful to say her words because I had no eloquence about what happened you know? And to be able to make any kind of sense of it at all, and she is a very eloquent person, was a blessing. And so, hearing them, would also be, I don't know, a comfort."

Actress Sigourney Weaver and Director Jim Simpson, speaking about the film The Guys.