Hollywood and 9/11: The Movies and TV Dramas Resembling the Terrorist Attacks That Were Being Produced in September 2001
"It represents capitalism. It represents freedom. It represents everything America is
about. And to bring those two buildings down would bring America to its knees."
- Line from Nosebleed, a movie originally set to start being
filmed at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001
A significant number of movies and television dramas were being produced at the time of the 9/11 attacks, which had storylines with some remarkable similarities to the events of September 11, 2001. These storylines featured incidents such as terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, terrorists hijacking a commercial aircraft, and terrorists causing a jumbo jet to crash in New York.
The movies and TV shows would have featured some famous actors, and were being made for major companies, such as CBS and 20th Century Fox. Furthermore, employees of the military and other U.S. government agencies are known to have assisted in developing the storylines of some of these productions. Unsurprisingly, after September 11, the movies and TV shows were either canceled or significantly rewritten so as to remove any resemblance to the 9/11 attacks.
The existence of these movies and TV dramas, at the very least, disproves claims that the 9/11 attacks could not have been foreseen. It is worth considering, however, whether these productions served a more sinister purpose in relation to 9/11, albeit unknown to most of the people working on them.
This article examines seven movies and television dramas that were in production at the time of the 9/11 attacks, which all had notable similarities to aspects of what happened on September 11. These proposed movies and TV shows received some attention after September 11 because of their resemblance to the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon. Newsweek even commented that the amount of movies and TV shows about terrorism being made at that time "makes you wonder if this [i.e. terrorism] wasn't an obsessive theme in the culture even before September 11."  However, no one suggested that there might have been a more sinister reason for there being so many productions about terrorism. Instead, their existence was treated like a simple coincidence.
ACTION MOVIE FEATURED TERRORIST PLOT TO BLOW UP THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
A number of movies and TV shows that were being produced at the time of the 9/11 attacks are notable because they featured acts of terrorism in New York or, specifically, at the World Trade Center.
A movie that is particularly striking is Nosebleed, which would have been about a terrorist plot to bomb the Twin Towers.  It was going to feature the well-known martial artist and actor Jackie Chan as a window washer at the World Trade Center who uncovers the plot and tries to thwart the terrorists. 
The script for Nosebleed was initially written in 1999 by Stu Zicherman and Raven Metzner, and developed after that. Zicherman and Metzner had also come up with the film's storyline. 
A line reportedly in the script indicates that the fictitious terrorists intended to cause the Twin Towers to collapse--like what actually happened on September 11. A terrorist would say of the WTC: "It represents capitalism. It represents freedom. It represents everything America is about. And to bring those two buildings down would bring America to its knees." 
Nosebleed would have been a major film. It would have cost $50 million to $60 million to make, according to Variety magazine.  In May 2000, it was reported that Renny Harlin, who previously directed action movies such as Die Hard 2 and The Long Kiss Goodnight, was in talks to direct it, although whether he was subsequently taken on as director is unclear. 
FILMING WAS SET TO TAKE PLACE AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER ON SEPTEMBER 11
Not only did the plot of Nosebleed have similarities to the 9/11 attacks, but a scene for the movie was scheduled to be filmed at the top of one of the Twin Towers at 7:00 a.m. on September 11.  The filming would have taken place at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower, according to Jackie Chan, but it was canceled. So instead of being at the WTC, Chan was in Toronto working on another movie, The Tuxedo, on September 11. 
Had the filming gone ahead as originally scheduled, Chan and the other people involved would likely have died, since everyone who was in Windows on the World when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. on September 11 was trapped and subsequently died.  Chan told one newspaper, "I would probably have died if the shooting went ahead as planned."  He said that on September 11, after he learned about the attacks on the WTC, he was "like a walking dead man" for the rest of the day. 
It is unclear why the filming at the WTC was canceled. According to some reports, it was because the script for the scene there was late.  According to the Orlando Sentinel, it was because Chan "didn't want to make Nosebleed without a finished script." "The action was good, but, somehow, the script not ready," he commented.  But Chan gave a different explanation to the Boston Phoenix, saying: "The studio didn't really like the script of Nosebleed because it was not perfect yet. So my manager said: 'Don't worry. If you do not like this film, we can do Tuxedo. You will meet with [Steven] Spielberg to see if you like it or not.' Then I met with Spielberg and I say I will do Tuxedo, because I trust Spielberg." 
Unsurprisingly, work on Nosebleed was put on hold after 9/11 and the movie has never been made. 
COMEDY MOVIE WOULD HAVE INCLUDED 'A BIG WORLD TRADE CENTER SCENE WITH TERRORISTS'
Another movie was, like Nosebleed, notable because--as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described--its plot featured "New York, the World Trade Center, and terrorists."  Till Death Do Us Part would have been a comedy starring the well-known actors Billy Crystal and Michael Douglas. Its storyline, according to Newsday, was "about two fathers, soon to be related by their children's marriage," who have to take on "a terrorist bent on creating havoc in New York City." The movie would have included "a significant scene that was to take place at the Windows on the World restaurant" at the top of the North Tower.  It featured "a big World Trade Center scene with terrorists," according to Crystal, who added, "Funny, but the whole story was about that." 
Till Death Do Us Part was being made by Warner Brothers and Franchise Pictures, and was written in 2000 by Nat Mauldin, whose previous work included writing Dr. Dolittle, the 1998 comedy starring Eddie Murphy.  Filming was set to begin on November 17, 2001.  The movie was put on hold after September 11, but it was subsequently rewritten and was released in May 2003, renamed The In-Laws and with Crystal no longer starring in it. 
NBC PLANNED A DRAMA SERIES ABOUT AL-QAEDA ATTACKS IN NEW YORK
A big-budget television drama was being developed at the time of the 9/11 attacks, which, like these movies, centered on terrorism in New York. NBC was working on a five-hour miniseries, called Terror, about a series of al-Qaeda attacks in the city. The show would have been a crossover between the network's three Law & Order series (the original show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and was going to be broadcast in May 2002. 
Terror would have followed an Osama bin Laden devotee who goes from an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan to New York. There, he detonates explosives in the subway under Times Square, killing over 1,000 New Yorkers.  Investigators then discover a terrorist release of anthrax, and the storyline would subsequently include the threat of a release of smallpox. 
Dick Wolf, the creator of Law & Order, put forward the idea for the show. When he was asked, early in 2001, if he had any suggestions for a miniseries, Wolf answered, "Terrorism in New York City." This, according to Los Angeles magazine, was a story he had "long wanted to do." When Wolf told Neal Baer, one of Law & Order's executive producers, about the miniseries, Baer said the show should specifically be about bioterrorism.
By June 2001, Wolf had written a 40-page outline for Terror.  By August, Wolf and his colleagues were "deeply involved in the story," according to Baer.  Filming was set to begin on September 24, less than two weeks after 9/11. 
On September 11, before the attacks took place in New York, Baer and some of his colleagues were at a facility only a couple of miles from the World Trade Center doing "preproduction planning" for the show.  Terror was canceled a week later, in light of the 9/11 attacks. 
WRITER AND MILITARY OFFICIALS CONSIDERED 9/11-STYLE SCENARIO FOR SERIES ABOUT TERRORIST ATTACK IN THE U.S.
Other movies and television shows being produced at the time of the 9/11 attacks stand out because their storylines featured terrorist events that resembled specific aspects of 9/11: an aircraft hijacking, a plane crash, and an attack in the U.S. that leads to a wider conflict, like the actual "war on terror."
One of these was a TV miniseries called World War III, which would have been about "how an act of terrorism on United States soil expanded into global conflict," according to the Dallas Observer. Bryce Zabel, a longtime television writer and producer, who was elected as chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in August 2001, was working on this show. He was scheduled to meet with executives at the cable channel USA Network on September 13, 2001, to present the details of his miniseries to them.
Zabel consulted the U.S. military while working on the storyline for World War III and apparently considered scenarios resembling the 9/11 attacks. He has recalled: "My partner and I had worked carefully with the Air Force and some Pentagon war planners to figure out the possible scenarios by which such a conflict [i.e. a world war] could come into being. The irony is that we had sort of rejected something as radical as what just happened [on September 11] as being a little too much."
Zabel has not said what kind of terrorist attack he eventually decided to incorporate into his storyline. But he noted a similarity between what his show envisioned and what happened on September 11, saying the 9/11 attacks meant that "the cautionary tale we hoped to tell in fiction ended up becoming a cautionary tale told on the evening news." 
Zabel's miniseries was canceled in response to the 9/11 attacks. But, possibly referring to the similarity between its storyline and the "global war on terrorism" that began after 9/11, Zabel said, two weeks after September 11, that World War III would have "reflected exactly what's going on in the world right now." 
PLANNED MOVIE FEATURED CYBER-TERRORISTS CAUSING A JUMBO JET TO CRASH IN NEW YORK
One movie that was in the pipeline on September 11, called WW3.com, would have involved cyber-terrorists causing a Boeing 767--the type of plane that hit the Twin Towers--to crash just a few miles from the World Trade Center.
Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox had been working on WW3.com since 1998. The movie, according to Variety, would have featured "a high-concept, special effects-laden storyline involving cyber-terrorists who have declared war on the United States."  It was written by David Marconi, who previously wrote Enemy of the State, a 1998 thriller starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman.
Marconi said his screenplay for WW3.com was "incredibly prescient about the events of September 11." He described the storyline as "a blueprint for disaster." Notably, the movie's climax would have featured a Boeing 767 crashing into a Simon and Garfunkel concert in New York's Central Park.
Marconi was assisted by experts from the National Security Agency (NSA) while he was working on the screenplay. He has recalled that these experts were "more than helpful in laying out situations not dissimilar from what happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon" on September 11. On the day of 9/11, one of them even phoned Marconi and said to him: "Turn on the TV. It's happening." Marconi has not said whether the scenario of a 767 crashing into Central Park was suggested to him by someone at the NSA. 
In August 2000, it was reported that WW3.com would be produced by Luc Besson, the well-known French film writer, director, and producer.  The film was shelved after 9/11, but the script was rewritten and made into the fourth Die Hard movie, Live Free or Die Hard, which was released in 2007. 
'TOP-SECRET' MOVIE FEATURED A PLANE HIJACKING
20th Century Fox also worked on Deadline, a movie that would have involved an aircraft hijacking. Few details are known about this film. It was, according to the Los Angeles Times, "in top-secret development" before September 11. All that has been reported of its storyline is that it featured terrorists hijacking a commercial aircraft.
Deadline was reportedly being produced by James Cameron, the renowned director of movies such as Titanic and The Terminator. It was written by brothers Peter and David Griffiths, who also wrote Collateral Damage, a movie about terrorism starring Arnold Schwarzenegger that was released in 2002. 
Deadline was put on hold after 9/11.  It was revived in 2008, with the new name Nagasaki Deadline. At that time, Variety reported that the storyline "centered on an emotionally damaged FBI agent who must decipher historic events in a desperate race to avert a terrorist plot." It is unclear if this was the original storyline of the movie or if the plot was changed after September 11.  Five years later, the movie has still not been made.
TV MOVIE WOULD HAVE FOLLOWED THE INVESTIGATION OF A PLANE CRASH POSSIBLY CAUSED BY BIN LADEN
One production is notable because, although it did not feature a terrorist attack, its storyline centered on the investigation of a plane crash, just as the 9/11 attacks led to the investigations of plane crashes. Furthermore, Osama bin Laden would have been mentioned in it.
Fall From the Sky was to have been a TV movie for CBS. Although being made for television rather than cinema, it had a large budget, of $7.2 million.  It was written by Nicholas Meyer--who previously wrote several of the Star Trek movies--and Brian Rehak, and would have starred Forest Whitaker, the award-winning actor of such movies as Bird and The Last King of Scotland.
Fall From the Sky would have told the story of the crash of a new type of passenger aircraft in which hundreds of people die, and the investigation that follows. Whitaker was to have played the National Transportation Safety Board official who leads the investigation. 
The storyline, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, looked at "the meticulous process of gathering scientific evidence after the tragedy."  It also "dealt a lot with the [Federal Aviation Administration] and issues of concealment," Whitaker said.  The TV movie, according to Meyer, would show "the political pressures brought to bear on the investigation." 
Furthermore, the storyline included investigators examining the theory that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the crash.  According to Meyer, it would transpire that terrorists were not to blame.
Filming was scheduled to begin in Winnipeg, Canada, around the start of October 2001 and the TV movie was in preproduction in September that year.  However, CBS canceled Fall From the Sky shortly after 9/11. 
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AGENCIES AND THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
The fact that these movies and television shows were in production at the time of the 9/11 attacks, at the very least, disproves official claims that no one could have predicted what happened on September 11. What we know of the storylines of these productions shows that some scriptwriters, and people working for government agencies who assisted them, did indeed envision scenarios resembling the 9/11 attacks. The storylines are also evidence that some individuals may have had foreknowledge of the attacks--a possibility that should certainly be investigated.
It is also plausible that these movies and TV shows served a more disturbing purpose. Might, for example, rogue individuals working for U.S. government agencies have used a particular film or television show as a cover, to help them prepare the 9/11 attacks?
When considering this possibility, it is worth noting that there has been a long history of collaboration between government agencies and the entertainment industry. Former CIA officer Robert Baer described this relationship, saying, "All these people that run [film] studios, they go to Washington, they hang around with senators, they hang around with CIA directors, and everybody's on board." 
Furthermore, government agencies have, for many years, employed entertainment liaison officers to influence the image of them portrayed in the media. The FBI set up an office in the 1930s to improve its image in movies, radio programs, and television shows. The Department of Defense established a similar office in 1947.
The CIA was the last major government agency to establish a formal relationship with the movie industry. It set up a basic entertainment program in the early 1990s and employed its first entertainment liaison officer in 1996. Other agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service, similarly have motion picture and television offices or employ official assistants to the media. 
The CIA and the military have cooperated on numerous Hollywood productions. The Pentagon provided its "full cooperation" for movies such as Top Gun (1986), True Lies (1994), Air Force One (1997), Transformers (2007), and Iron Man (2008).  And the CIA helped shape such movies as Enemy of the State (1998), Bad Company (2002), The Sum of All Fears (2002), and The Recruit (2003). 
THE CIA'S 'VERY ACTIVE' NETWORK IN HOLLYWOOD
Although it only employed its first liaison to the entertainment industry in 1996, the CIA has been working with Hollywood since the 1950s.  Jerry Naylor, a country singer and veteran of the entertainment business, revealed that he was first recruited by the agency in 1968, and subsequently "used his international fame as cover to work as a secret agent for the CIA" on more than 100 occasions. Naylor believes other celebrities must have similarly been employed by the agency. "I think using celebrities from Los Angeles and Hollywood for covert operations is probably something that the CIA liked to do," he said. "I doubt I was the only one." 
Furthermore, retired CIA intelligence officer Antonio Mendez (who was played by Ben Affleck in the movie Argo) wrote that when he was head of the agency's disguise section, between 1974 and 1979, he "engaged the services of many consultants in the entertainment industry." These included makeup artist John Chambers, who won an honorary Academy Award for his work on the 1968 movie Planet of the Apes. 
John Rizzo, a senior CIA lawyer, stated in 2007 that the CIA has "a very active" network of people in Hollywood, helping "in whatever way they can to give back." 
WHAT PURPOSE MIGHT 9/11-STYLE TV SHOWS AND MOVIES HAVE SERVED?
It is also worth noting that movies had, long before 2001, been used as a cover for covert operations, so if this tactic was utilized by those who planned 9/11, it would not have been the first time a movie served such a purpose. For example, from 1978 to 1982, Jerry Naylor worked on the research and production of a movie called The Bounty Hunter, which, Naylor has claimed, was a cover for monitoring terrorists in the Lebanon. 
A better known example of the tactic was the subject of the Oscar-winning movie Argo. On that occasion, the CIA helped rescue six American embassy workers who were trapped in Iran during the 1979 to 1981 hostage crisis by disguising them as a Canadian film crew that was supposedly scouting the country for shooting locations.
The team running the operation set up a fake production company called Studio Six Productions, with offices in a suite on the old Columbia Studio lot in Hollywood. The company soon announced its first supposed production--a science-fiction movie called Argo--and arranged for full-page adverts in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter to publicize it. Using the cover of the Hollywood production company and the movie, the CIA was then able to get the six embassy workers out of Iran.
Studio Six Productions appeared so convincing that by the time it closed, several weeks after the rescue, it had received 26 scripts, one of which was from Steven Spielberg. The Hollywood community only learned about the deception behind the company and its planned movie 17 years later, when the CIA decided to go public with the story. 
WERE 9/11-STYLE MOVIES AND TV SHOWS USED AS A COVER?
Seeing how movies had previously been successfully used as a cover for covert operations, we can imagine how films and television shows with plots resembling the events of September 11 might have served as a cover for some of the preparations for the 9/11 attacks. For example, a person working on one of these productions could have used their position to obtain information that would otherwise have been unavailable to them and might have been beneficial for planning 9/11.
Jackie Chan has revealed how his involvement in the movie Nosebleed, about a terrorist plot to blow up the Twin Towers, enabled him to learn about the World Trade Center buildings. "We had visited the location before September 11," he said. "The producer. My manager. We had dinner upstairs. We were getting all kinds of information. I was going to play a window washer, so they were telling me things like how many windows the building had.''  In his preparation for the movie, according to the Orlando Sentinel, Chan learned the "secrets" of the Twin Towers, such as "how air pressure was regulated with doors that might be useful as gags in one of his trademark fights," and "which sides of the buildings one could work on to avoid the wind." 
Considering the opportunities the movie thus provided, might Nosebleed have been used by someone who, while working on the film, was secretly involved in planning 9/11 and using their work on the movie as a cover, in order to find out information about the Twin Towers? This person might, for example, have been able to learn about security at the World Trade Center and the layout of the towers, which would have been useful information for anyone who wanted to plant explosives, so as to cause the buildings to collapse on September 11.
Since the movie Till Death Do Us Part, like Nosebleed, would have featured "New York, the World Trade Center, and terrorists," it seems plausible that a person involved in its production could similarly have used their position to obtain information about the WTC.
A production like the TV movie Fall From the Sky could have provided different opportunities for a person who was secretly helping to plan the 9/11 attacks. Since Fall From the Sky would have been about a National Transportation Safety Board official and the investigation of a plane crash, a person working on it might have been able to obtain information that would be useful for covering up the truth of what happened on September 11 in the aftermath of the attacks.
They might have learned what kinds of investigations would follow the plane crashes on September 11 and how the National Transportation Safety Board would respond. Such information could have helped the group planning 9/11 determine how to obstruct the investigations that would follow the attacks.
PRODUCTION TEAM LEARNED 'A LOT OF THINGS MOST PEOPLE DIDN'T KNOW'
The experiences of those who worked on NBC's miniseries Terror, about a series of al-Qaeda attacks in New York, illustrate the many opportunities a television show or movie about terrorism could create for someone who wanted to gather information on the subject.
Those working on Terror did a lot of research, particularly on bioterrorism, for the miniseries. They talked to "top law enforcement people on the state, federal, and local levels" about the subject, according to Dick Wolf.  Neil Baer talked to experts at the Rand Corporation think tank and hired a consultant from Stanford University in California. 
Those involved with the miniseries also consulted experts at the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia. At one point, Baer said, the FBI talked to them, because their "accumulation of so much information raised a red flag." Baer said that as a result of their research, "We knew a lot of things most people didn't know, because we spoke with so many experts all over the country." 
It is worth noting, however, that it would surely only require a small number of complicit individuals for a movie or television series to be used to help with planning the 9/11 attacks. In her book The CIA in Hollywood, Tricia Jenkins noted that when the CIA wants to influence a particular production, its involvement with that production is "shadowy and difficult to trace, especially since its interactions often take place only between two well-placed individuals, either in person or over the phone." 
If a movie or TV show was serving as a cover for those planning the 9/11 attacks, most people involved with it would therefore, presumably, have been unaware that they were being used by individuals with murderous intentions, and would have just thought they were working on a normal production.
9/11-STYLE MOVIES AND TV SHOWS NEED FURTHER INVESTIGATION
The fact that numerous movies and television dramas with storylines resembling the events of September 11 were in production at the time of the 9/11 attacks is surely something that requires closer examination, especially in light of the history of cooperation between government agencies and the entertainment industry. And yet, after receiving some attention in the aftermath of the attacks, these productions have been largely forgotten.
There are numerous questions that could be considered as part of a new investigation of 9/11. For example, which individuals came up with the scenarios resembling aspects of the 9/11 attacks for the storylines of these movies and TV shows? Some of the writers have said that scenarios similar to what happened on September 11 were suggested to them by employees of the NSA and the military. So who were those employees and what exactly did they suggest?
Investigators could presumably discover more details of the plots of the TV shows and movies, and obtain copies of the scripts. And it would surely be worth researching whether other productions with storylines resembling the 9/11 attacks were being worked on in September 2001.
Inquiries may well reveal a different story behind the terrorist attacks of September 11 than the official account we were led to believe.
 David Gates, "Living a New Normal." Newsweek, October 7, 2001.
 Some news reports after September 11 claimed that the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building was the terrorists' target in Nosebleed. However, these claims were likely incorrect, as all reports before September 11 stated that the World Trade Center was the target.
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 "Late Script Kept Chan From Tragedy."
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 Tricia Jenkins, The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2012, p. 1.
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 Tricia Jenkins, The CIA in Hollywood, p. 1.
 "The History of the CIA in Hollywood Movies." The World, PRI, January 11, 2013.
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 Tricia Jenkins, The CIA in Hollywood, p. 94.
 Simon Tomlinson, "Revealed: U.S. Country Star Jerry Naylor Who Replaced Buddy Holly in the Crickets Was a Secret CIA Agent Who Spied for America on 100 Missions."
 Antonio J. Mendez, "A Classic Case of Deception," pp. 1-16; Joshuah Bearman, "How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran." Wired, April 24, 2007; Tricia Jenkins, The CIA in Hollywood, pp. 9-10, 96.
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 Michael Fleming, "'Terror' Tactics at NBC."
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 "Critical Issues in Writing About Bioterrorism."
 Tricia Jenkins, The CIA in Hollywood, p. 69.