More than once Tuesday, television newsmen referred to the acts of terrorism as a tale more likely to spring from a Hollywood director than a cable news channel.
Indeed, it already had.
Helmer Ed Zwick had presaged just such a tragedy in his 1998 film “The Siege,” in which multiple terrorist attacks leave a crippled Manhattan under martial law.
Despite starring Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington, the pic was commercially hampered by the protests of Arab Americans who objected to its portrayal of terrorists. It grossed a disappointing $41 million in the U.S. Controversy surrounding the film also was linked to a deadly bombing at a Planet Hollywood restaurant in South Africa.
“What always stuck with me after meetings with Defense Dept. officials, back when we were preparing to make ‘The Siege,’ was their sense of inevitability that this would happen,” Zwick told Daily Variety Tuesday afternoon. “They took it as an article of faith that it would (happen). They didn’t know where or when, only that it would.”
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The book trade crawled to a halt Tuesday, with publishing houses sparsely staffed and phone service sporadic.
Most of the publishing employees immersed in their morning office rituals when the attacks on the World Trade Center occurred didn’t linger at work.
It will be days before sales and marketing staffs are in a position to assess how round-the-clock news coverage in coming weeks will affect book sales for the fall season, traditionally the most profitable period of the year.
When it comes to covering major national events, book publishers operate at a glacial pace, so the publishing fallout from these events is likely to materialize gradually. A flurry of instant books on the attacks can be expected in a few weeks’ time.
And much touted new books, like Jack Welch’s memoir, “Jack: Straight From the Gut,” which hit bookstores Tuesday, may be eclipsed by tomes on terrorism and international affairs.
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On Tuesday, New York City weather was forecast at 81 degrees and clear skies, but a Gotham entertainment attorney with offices less than a mile from the carnage described skies so dark with smoke that “It was like midnight at noon.” There was so much dust and ash in the air that “it might as well have been a snowstorm.”