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by dr andrew cousins

September 11th: The Musical

The events of September 11th, when terrorists forced two aeroplanes filled with passengers to crash into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, are unlikely to be forgotten by anybody who witnessed them. One man who is aiming to make sure that the tragic event is immortalised forever is film producer, Remington Carlisle. Later this week he begins preproduction on ‘Hell In New York’ a big-budget film musical based on the tragedy. The idea has already caused shockwaves of controversy around the world. Even the usually restrained Daily Mail’s front page today carried a picture of Carlisle accompanied by the caption, "The Sickest Movie Ever". I went to talk to the man that Lynda Leigh-Potter called "Just plain wrong"

AC: Remington Carlisle, the idea of doing any film based on the September 11th tragedy is bound to be controversial. Surely you are just adding to the inevitable criticism by choosing to make it into a musical?

RC: When I first came up with the idea of making this movie, I knew that there was bound to be some concern by people that perhaps it would be done in an exploitative or crass way. However I can assure people that when they see the finished results they will know in their heart of hearts that we’ve done the right thing. As for making it a musical? Well, I want this to be a feelgood film. Yes we will deal with the negative aspects of the story - the senseless waste of human life, the wanton destruction and so on — but I want to focus on the positives.

Which are?

The triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity. The coming together of people of all nationalities, colours and creeds to aid the rescue effort. Paul McCartney playing his first live concert in years. This film is a celebration of the life of every single person who perished in that disaster. What better way to honour them then with a series of large-scale musical production numbers? I can personally assure you that every family who lost loved ones as a result of the tragedy will receive a complimentary copy of the soundtrack album, just to give them a boost when it all gets too much.

President Bush said of you, "If I had my way, he’d be horse-whipped". World leaders are calling for you to abandon the project. Is there nothing that will dissuade you from making this film?

I think the President is being a little shortsighted. He himself has said on many occasions that we must remember the events of that day. Science has proven that music aids memory retention. There’s another issue here too. Can you remember how you felt when you first saw the television pictures of the planes colliding with the twin towers?

Well, er. Shock. Disbelief. Astonishment, I suppose.

Do you know what the first thing that crossed my mind was?

I hesitate to ask. What?

"Who the hell is directing this thing?!" Where were the close-ups? Where were the cutaways of people on the streets looking on in horrified disbelief? Where was the view from inside the tower as the first plane struck? Where was the shot of the crazed terrorist at the controls? You know? It had been directed by television people. They’ve got no visual imagination. But don’t worry. In this film all that will be there. Our special effects will be better too. Planes colliding with buildings just don’t look like planes colliding with buildings on film. Know what I mean?

But most people see the idea of a musical version of the story as trivialising a very serious event.

Look, I don’t want this film to end on a downer, it’s bad for box office. Musicals are happy and uplifting by nature. Look at ‘Oh, What A Lovely War!’. That was all about the First World War but the fact that it had songs in it gave it a real lift. Besides which there’s nothing trivial about a musical. They used to be the films that studios spent the most money on. So maybe these days musicals aren’t as popular as they used to be. I partly blame myself for that. About fifteen years ago I made a musical that went down quite badly.

That would be your musical version of the life of Gandhi entitled ‘Who Shot Mahatma?’

That was the one. In retrospect I made several mistakes on that one. The casting was all wrong for a start. Robin Williams has one hell of a singing voice but he wasn’t right for the part of Gandhi. I wanted to cast Ben Kingsley but for some reason he wouldn’t return any of my phone calls. That’s showbiz, I guess. But since ‘Moulin Rouge’ I think people are ready to accept the musical as a valid art form. And if not, screw ‘em. Actually now that I think back, I thought that Madonna made a fabulous Queen Victoria in ‘Who Shot Mahatma?’

Presumably you’re being more careful with the casting this time around?

Oh absolutely. The hardest job was casting Osama Bin Laden. That was tricky. But I knew that once we cracked that part the rest would fall into place.

So who’s playing him?

Danny DeVito.

Isn’t he a bit short?

As long as he never stands up he’ll be fine. I see the part very much as a modern day Fagin. If he does have to walk around we’ll just CGI some longer legs on him. Actually, Industrial Light and Magic have already started work on the crash footage. If you look closely at the windows of the plane you can see that each screaming, terrified passenger has a different, individually rendered face. Those guys are real artists.

So who else is starring in the film?

Ben Affleck is a courageous young New York fire-fighter. He spends the movie trying to dig his young fiancée, played by Liv Tyler, out of the rubble. Gene Hackman is playing George W Bush and Samuel L Jackson is taking the part of Colin Powell. I’m very pleased to say that Ralph Fiennes is making a cameo appearance as Tony Blair. He’s been watching tapes of the guy all week and I have to say that the resemblance is uncanny. Christopher Reeve is making his movie comeback in the picture too.

And who is he playing?

A guy on a life support machine. He doesn’t want to get typecast in lots of ‘wheelchair’ roles.

So what about the songs then?

We’ve decided to use a mixture of existing songs coupled with ones that are either new or have had their lyrics re-written for the movie by Burt Baccarach. Among the songs featured will be ‘Jet’ by Wings, ‘I’m Leaving on a Jet plane’ by John Denver, ‘I Feel the Earth Move Under my Feet’, ‘Boom Boom, Shake the Room’ and of course ‘I Fall to Pieces’. Personally, I think one of the most moving moments in the picture will come just after the towers have collapsed. Five hundred police and firemen are going to sing "New York/ New York/ It’s a wonderful town/ The sky lights up/ and the buildings fall down" That’s just sheer poetry isn’t it?

Remington Carlisle, thank you.

‘Hell in New York’ is expected to begin filming early in the New Year.

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