War is hell for Coalition

Five years on, H'w'd 9/11 org is dormant

Shortly after 9/11, some 50 industry leaders met with Karl Rove at Beverly Hills’ Peninsula Hotel, where, in a show of unprecedented and bipartisan unity, they pledged their help in the administration’s war on terrorism.

They even formed a group, organized by then-MPAA chief Jack Valenti, called the Hollywood 9/11 Coalition.

But five years later, the coalition seems a distant memory.

“You can’t keep something like that going for five years,” Valenti says. “We did all that we could at the very beginning. There wasn’t much left that we could do.”

The coalition did produce several PSAs, on such topics as tolerance and volunteerism, and supplied troops with video copies of the latest Hollywood releases.

Studios still supply screeners to troops and stars still do USO tours, but the coalition itself is dormant.

From the start, it was limited in scope and size. Unlike World War II, when Hollywood’s coordinated efforts resulted in docs and features supporting the U.S.’ war campaign, Hollywood 9/11 never was intended to influence what directors and writers produced.

Some participants complained that with so many members, the group was slow getting things done. One 90-second PSA aimed at overseas Muslims, featuring Morocco’s 1984 Olympics champion Nawal el Moutawakel-Bennis, debuted in fall 2002, just as U.S. diplomatic efforts were getting drowned out by the administration’s drumbeat for war in Iraq.

Valenti made it clear the group would not help sell America’s point of view for the war in Iraq. The coalition started to peter out just as the U.S. was planning its invasion, which many in the industry actively opposed, and the message of the War on Terror became muddled.

Says Valenti: “The whole tenor has changed.”

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