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Ladder 49 - Preview



Preview by: Jack Foley

THE American firefighter will forever hold a place in the hearts of the world since the events of September 11, 2001. But their use in movies is nothing new, having been immortalised in the likes of Ron Howard’s Backdraft, as well as, to a lesser extent, in movies such as Frequency (starring Dennis Quaid).

One of Touchstone’s big releases of the year, however, Ladder 49, could well capitalise on the current fascination for the fire service, by turning in a genuinely affecting character study, coupled with the spectacle of any film involving burning buildings.

The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as an everyday fire hero, who finds himself trapped in an inferno, awaiting rescue, who uses the time to reflect on his experiences and relationship with his commanding officer, John Travolta.

It is due for release in the UK on January 21, , 2005, and is devised, in part, as a tribute to the heroics of the fire service, in general. As such, some 30 real-life firefighters are said to cameo in the film’s fire-fighting scenes.

The stars, themselves, were dedicated to honouring the service they are seeking to portray and, according to an extensive article (and photos) on the website, firehouse.com, spent a lot of time with members of the Baltimore fire service, at the city training academy.

Phoenix, especially, enjoyed the challenge of becoming personally involved and jumped in with an academy class, subsequently graduating with class members. He even spent a number of weeks working a shift with a west Baltimore truck company.

He is also said to have ‘knocked down some fires’, or ‘slayed the dragon’, and admits to having lost the hose line in trying to make an exit.

Both he and Travolta remain tremendously humbled by their experience and are both aware of the importance of learning the job, so they can portray it correctly in the film.

Another interesting fact is the presence of female lead, Jacinda Barrett, who’s firefighter father only recently retired after 33 years.

Barrett, who plays Phoenix’s wife, has likened the film to her parents’ story and drew a lot of comparisons between elements of the story and her time growing up in Brisbane, where her father worked with the emergency services.

She fondly remembers the sense of pride she felt whenever she saw her father in newspaper clippings or on television, and loved being around him and his firefighter colleagues, who possessed a tremendous amount of respect for each other.

It is the bond which exists between members of the fire service which will play a significant part of the movie, as well as the required spectacle of the set piece blazes.

Jay Russell (Tuck Everlasting) directs from a script devised by Lewis Collick (of Domestic Disturbance and October Sky).

There is no word, as yet, on whether the subsequent picture looks like being one of the year’s hottest prospects.

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