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

  • Game of Thrones finale

    Six Things We Learned From 'Game of Thrones: The Last Watch' Documentary

    HBO gave fans a long parting look at the making of “Game of Thrones” on Sunday night in a two-hour documentary that focused on the Herculean efforts by the small army craft and technical experts who worked on the mammoth fantasy drama. “Game of Thrones: The Last Watch” introduced viewers to the leaders of the [...]

  • 'Killing Eve' Season 2 Failed Where

    'Killing Eve' Season 2 Stumbled Where 'Barry' Soared (Column)

    SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for the entire second seasons of “Killing Eve” and “Barry.”  I was dead certain that “Killing Eve” and “Barry” — two of my favorite television debuts of 2018 — should have ended after a single season. Both coincidentally starring unstable assassins, the shows were smart, propulsive, and extremely weird [...]

  • A.P. BIO -- "Melvin" Episode 208

    'AP Bio' Canceled After Two Seasons at NBC

    “AP Bio” has been canceled at NBC. Series creator Mike O’Brien shared the news with fans on Twitter, writing that “This has been my favorite project of my life.” In the single-camera comedy, Glenn Howerton portrayed a disgraced Harvard philosophy scholar who lost out on his dream job and was forced to return to Toledo, [...]

  • James Holzhauer $2 million

    'Jeopardy!' Champion James Holzhauer Hits $2 Million Winnings Milestone

    This current “Jeopardy!” player has just won over $2 million on the popular game show. Who is James Holzhauer? The 34 year old professional sports gambler from Las Vegas has hit a “Jeopardy!” milestone by becoming only the second person in the show’s history to win over $2 million in regular season play. Holzhauer won [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content