This article was updated at 9:29 p.m.
Little more than a month before production on “3000 Degrees” was skedded to start, Warner Bros. and Imagine Entertainment have abruptly decided they are nixing the fire disaster pic.
Film was to tell the story of the 1999 blaze at the Worcester Cold Storage warehouse in Massachusetts that claimed the lives of six firefighters. Script, by Worcester native Scott Silver, was based on Sean Flynn’s Esquire article and Warner book about the fire. The cast included Ed Harris, Woody Harrelson and Billy Crudup and pic was to be helmed by Danny Boyle.
Relatives of some of the victims and firefighter groups in Worcester had strongly opposed the making of the film. But the decision to scratch production was made after the Intl. Assn. of Fire Fighters, the union that represents 85% of all firefighters in North America, told producers that out of allegiance to those families, its members would not assist the pic’s production, in effect denying “3000 Degrees” access to fire stations, firetrucks, other equipment and technical consultation services to ensure the accuracy of the film.
Warners had said as recently as two weeks ago that it was planning to start lensing the pic in Toronto on May 10.
Frank Raffa, prexy of the Worcester Fire Dept. Union Local 1009, hailed the announcement, saying: “We’re extremely pleased with the decision by Warner Bros. and Imagine to not pursue the making of the movie.”
Raffa said four of the victims’ families, all of which include young children of the fallen firefighters, opposed the making of the film because they believed it would reopen the trauma of the disaster.
“The families sat their children down and asked them if they wanted to see it, and they said they didn’t want to see this movie,” Raffa said. He added the families feared a media blitz, especially in Massachusetts, upon the release of the pic and its constant reminders of the disaster in TV trailers and movie posters.
“If making this movie adversely affects just one kid, it wouldn’t be worth it,” he said.
Raffa said he had learned of those plans six weeks ago when firefighters in Toronto and surrounding cities reported receiving requests from the film production crew for assistance in the movie. “They were looking for extras and to lease some of the equipment,” he said.
Working with the D.C.-based IAFF, Raffa said he “called our brothers in Canada and asked that they not assist in the production.”
Michael Crouse, IAFF chief of staff said, “A good number of the families and the kids were opposed to the movie, so for us, it was a no-brainer.”
In a statement released Tuesday, Warners and Imagine said, “The process of making a film of this size and scope is complex and demanding, and requires the support and participation of many groups, including various firefighting organizations and a number of individuals. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we no longer have such support. We have therefore decided not to move ahead with this project at this time.”
The families opposed to the pic had been protesting the making of the pic since last year. Michelle Lucey, widow of firefighter Jeremiah Lucey, told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette in February 2003: “It starts with that book. Then there is a movie and then a videotape, DVD and on it goes. It’s like it is always in our face.”
She added: “We also believe there is nothing good to come from this movie. We’d prefer that a documentary be made on how little equipment firefighters across the country have to fight fires.”