Sweat from a Stone

Nic Cage and Oliver Stone on the set of World Trade Center, which Stone was in Dallas yesterday to promote

As I wrote yesterday, Oliver Stone was in town Wednesday to promote World Trade Center, which is essentially a feel-good story about September 11, 2001; it tells of the rescue of Port Authority Police Department officers Will Jimeno and Sgt. John McLoughlin, who were two of only 12 survivors pulled from the wreckage after the towers collapsed. (Jimeno was in town as well, and even at this late date the giant man tears up when discussing what happened that day or when listening to Michael Pena, the actor who plays him in the movie, talk about the nightmares he had while shooting the movie.) To say World Trade Center is Stone's most restrained film is putting it mildly; it's meant to inspire rather than infuriate, and 30 minutes in you even forget it's about September 11. It's about two guys trapped beneath piles of shifting concrete and seething flames, and about how their families cope with the news that grows worse with each passing hour.

At some point, Stone and I got around to talking about that and much more--but only after he walked out of our first scheduled interview. Why? Because the man was hot. Sweaty hot. Melting hot. Hot to trot out of the room and reschedule when we could find some place in the Crescent Court Hotel that wasn't sticky and didn't "smell like a locker room." Can't say I blame him. The hotel's having a hard time dealing with the 105-degree heat: There were enormous fans scattered throughout the fifth floor of the Crescent yesterday afternoon, trying to cool down sweltering rooms and hallways. Air conditioners were set in the 60s; temperatures read in the 80s.

How hot was it? After the director of Wall Street and Platoon told me I was a "handsome man [who] could be a movie actor," which is totally true, Stone actually forgot how many movies he has made in Dallas. "I shot three movies here," he said. I told him, well, actually, you did four here, didn't you? "Four?" he asked, with a very small chuckle. "I shot JFK, Born on the Fourth of July and Talk Radio." I then said, "And Any Given Sunday." He paused for a second.

"You're absolutely correct," he said, astounded that he had forgotten what had been a difficult shoot at Texas Stadium, which he's about to call the Astrodome. "We did the last two weeks here at the stadium. That was fun, that stadium. It was a tough one. We tried to canopy the roof of the Astrodome with flags and tents, and they kept blowing off. We kept putting crews up there late at night, working overtime. We worked it three, four days and couldn't get the wind to keep the covering from blowing off. So we ended up having to shoot in the entire stadium avoiding the light that was coming through the crack. We'd run around the whole day trying to avoid the light. It was tough, but I enjoyed making that movie. It was a challenge."

We talked for a few more minutes, but it got too hot to go on. Stone kept forgetting questions. He had to stop to towel off. His assistant sprayed air freshener to get the funk out of the room. (I feel bad for whoever winds up in Room 502 in the near future.) And nothing worked. By the time he called it quits, the temperature in the room was 82. We eventually got in 20 minutes later in the day, but as he walked out on this aborted first attempt, he groaned, "Burn the fucking tape." Didn't have to. By then, it was already melting. Incidentally, Will Jimeno--and, for that matter, a very pregnant Maggie Gyllenhaal--had no problem with a hot room. Then, he's already spent his time in hell. --Robert Wilonsky


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