You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Remote Controlled: ‘Looming Tower’ Bosses on Their 9/11 Drama: ‘I Don’t Think We Really Know the Story’

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In this week’s episode, Variety‘s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with Alex Gibney, Lawrence Wright, and Dan Futterman, the executive producers of Hulu’s new 9/11 drama, “The Looming Tower.”

The series is based on Wright’s bestseller, and he says he had “a lot of overtures” over the years to adapt it. “But I just didn’t feel trusting that the story wouldn’t be cheapened in some fashion, commercialized,” he says. “At the time television hadn’t become what it is now.”

But with the evolution of the small screen, he changed his mind. He also wanted to be able to speak to a new generation — “people who had grown up in the post-9/11 world, who maybe didn’t understand why we’re living in the country we’re living now,” he says.

Gibney, who had worked with Wright on “Going Clear,” signed on to help adapt it, and together they brought it to Hulu, which eventually won them over by promising to give them “the money, the freedom, and the backing” they were demanding.

Although history tells us how the story ends, the filmmakers were confident they could find the suspense in the storytelling, comparing it to the movie “Titanic.” “We all know what happened to the Titanic, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting to see what leads up to it,” says Gibney. “I don’t think we really know that story.”

The story centers on John O’Neill (played by Jeff Daniels in the series), the FBI counterterrorism chief who died in the 9/11 attacks, when he was working as head of security for the World Trade Center. “This was the man who was supposed to get Bin Laden, but Bin Laden got him,” says Wright.

Dan Futterman was brought on board as showrunner to turn Wright’s book into a dramatic series. “I was excited about the prospect of doing that — in particular, the prospect of delving into the character of Ali Soufan,” says Futterman of the Muslim-American FBI agent who worked alongside O’Neill. “He’s a patriot, deeply loves America, and is also trying to rescue his religion from people who are hijacking it.”

You can listen to this week’s podcast here:

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday, and you can find past episodes here.

More TV

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Hollywood Agents, Writers Guild Make Little Progress in Talks

    Leaders of Hollywood agencies and the Writers Guild of America made little progress in Tuesday meeting to negotiate proposed rule revisions to how agents represent writers. The WGA said after the meeting — the fifth since Feb. 5 — that talks would resume later this week but did not give a specific day. “The Agencies [...]

  • THE MASKED SINGER: L-R: Monster (T-Pain)

    New-Model Murdochs: Fox Corporation to Emerge Tuesday

    A new era for the Murdoch clan and the media business begins with the debut of Fox Corporation on Tuesday, a day before Disney completes its acquisition of 21st Century Fox. The new-model Fox will begin trading Tuesday on the NASDAQ under the FOXA symbol. On Tuesday, 21st Century Fox will initiate a complex transfer [...]

  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2' Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s TV roundup, Netflix has dropped the first trailer for “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2” starring Kiernan Shipka, and former “O.C.” star Rachel Bilson has been cast in Fox’s drama pilot “Lovestruck.” CASTING Former “O.C.” star Rachel Bilson is set to play the female lead in Fox’s new drama pilot “Lovestruck.” The [...]

  • Ron Howard and Brian Grazer

    Imagine TV Sets 'Mindscaping' as First China Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Imagine Television is developing “Mindscaping,” a 24-episode science fiction series written by Oscar Yang (“Medical Examiner Dr. Qin,” “The Ten Deadly Sins”). The series is the first Chinese-language series developed by Imagine Television, part of Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment group, for a Chinese audience. The show is pitched as an original sci-fi [...]

  • "The Bow Tie Asymmetry" - Pictured:

    Pilot Season 2019: Multi-Camera Comedies Remain in High Demand

    For the second pilot season in a row, multi-camera comedies have proven to be a hot commodity. The Big 4 have collectively ordered 28 comedy pilots this year, including two animated straight-to-series orders at Fox. Of those 28, 12 are single-cams and 13 are multi-cams (including one multi-cam hybrid at ABC and two at CBS). [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Hollywood Agents Warn of Losses to Writers Without Packaging Fees

    The bitter war of words between Hollywood agents and writers continues. Agents are warning that the Writers Guild of America’s proposed elimination of television packaging fees will hurt writers to the tune of $49 million annually in commissions. Sources close to the Association of Talent Agents said Monday that the L.E.K. consulting firm has estimated   [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content