Almost four years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, major Hollywood studios are prepping big releases about the tragedies and triumphs of the day.

Earlier projects on Sept. 11, like the 2003 TV movie “DC 9/11: Time of Crisis,” have been more modest tellings, but Hollywood is now taking a more dramatic step.

Headlining one of the projects is director Oliver Stone, best known for his controversial film treatments of American presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, in addition to films about Vietnam like “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July.”

Stone’s as-yet-untitled project is backed by Paramount Pictures and will star Nicolas Cage as Port Authority Police Sergeant John McLoughlin. McLoughlin spent nearly 24 hours beneath rubble at Ground Zero with fellow officer William Jimeno.

Pre-production on the film is already underway in New York, though no release date has been announced.

Stone said the film would be “an exploration of heroism in our country,” according to an article for Britain’s Times Online, “but it’s international at the same time in its humanity.”

The script is being written by Andrea Berloff, who is also scripting Paramount’s remake of “Don’t Look Now,” according to a Variety article.

“I feel someone had to tell the story of the people who were in the Trade Centre before and after it collapsed,” said McLoughlin, as reported by the Times Online. “It needs to be told how this horrific tragedy brought Americans and the world together to help those in need.”

Columbia Pictures is also revisiting the day of the attacks with its planned “102 Minutes,” based on the book 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the TwinTowers, by New York Times writers Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. Billy Ray, the writer-director behind “Shattered Glass,” has already turned in a draft, according to Variety.

This film takes its name and focus from the time between the first plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. and the tower’s collapse at 10:28 a.m. (The South Tower was hit second but fell first.)

NBC “abruptly pulled the plug” on a planned 9/11 project two weeks ago, Variety reported, while ABC is currently pursuing its own multipart film written by Cyrus Nowrasteh. Nowrasteh wrote and directed the 2001 TV movie “The Day Reagan Was Shot,” which was produced by Oliver Stone.

Steven Spielberg used the Sept. 11 attacks to help inspire the terror evoked in his recent film “War of the Worlds” (a Paramount co-production). His main character, played by Tom Cruise, wears a Yankees cap and lives in a patriotic neighborhood outside New York City. When civilization as he knows it literally begins crumbling, his daughter asks, “Is that the terrorists?”

David Sterritt, film critic for The Christian Science Monitor, criticized the film in a recent Beliefnet article, though not necessarily for its use of 9/11 imagery (which included at least one downed airliner).

“I don’t think drawing on 9/11 is unscrupulous in itself,” wrote Sterritt. “Little has changed in American culture since then, despite the vaguely defined ‘war on terror’ it provoked, and there’s a chance that mass-media treatments, including camouflaged ones like this, will renew the urge to ponder the cataclysm’s causes and implications.”

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for

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