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Joel Stillerman 2018 Winter TCA Tour – Day 11

By Valerie Milano

Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 2/12/18 – Joel Stillerman of Hulu introduced a lively panel that included actors

Jeff Daniels, Tahar Rahim, Wrenn Schmidt, and Peter Sarsgaard; director and executive producer Craig Zisk; writer and executive producer Dan Futterman; and executive producer Alex Gibney at the TCA Winter 2018 press tour event for THE LOOMING TOWER conducted on Tuesday, January 14th at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena.  Also present was Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of THE LOOMING TOWER: AL-QAEDA AND THE ROAD TO 9/11 (the book upon which the Hulu series was based). 

Jeff Daniels
Hulu ‘The Looming Tower’ TV show panel, TCA Winter Press Tour, Los Angeles, USA – 14 Jan 2018 (Photo by David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock)


It’s 1998, and Americans are just beginning to understand the rising threat of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.  Did the rivalry between the FBI and CIA inadvertently set a path for the tragedy of 9/11 and the war in Iraq?  THE LOOMIMG TOWER ponders this key question and many more.

Jeff Daniels, who signed on for the 10-episode Hulu series after reading the pilot, appreciated how his character John O’Neill “gulped life.”  His FBI protégé Ali Soufan is played by Tahar Rahim and his CIA rival Martin Schmidt is played by Peter Sarsgaard, who half jestingly describes his team as the “Manson family.”

Do we as a nation still need to get this terrorist ship in order?  Lawrence Wright said that the terrorist threat had only increased since 1998.  In the meantime, we have reorganized our intelligence communities–and now there is a National Counterterrorism Center in an undisclosed location near Washington built by Disney Imagineering.

(Top L-R) Showrunner/Executive producer Dan Futterman, executive producer Craig Zisk, executive producer/author Lawrence Wright, executive producer Alex Gibney, and (Bottom L-R) actors Jeff Daniels and Tahar Rahim of ‘The Looming Tower’ speak onstage during the Hulu portion of the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 14, 2018 in Pasadena, California.
(Jan. 13, 2018 – Source: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America)

Wright’s main impediments to research for the book were terrorists and intelligence agents!  He interviewed 600 people over the course of five years.

John O’Neill’s death tolled like Greek tragedy since he was working at the World Trade Center during 9/11 after washing out at the FBI.  The man who was supposed to get bin Laden was gotten by him!

According to Lawrence Wright, friends told O’Neill, “You’ll be safe now, John, because they already tried bombing the World Trade Center in 1993.”  And O’Neill said, “No, they’ll come back to finish the job.”  So perhaps he instinctively placed himself at Ground Zero!

This gripping story oscillates between fiction and fact.  Alex Gibney’s background as a documentarian proved useful as he worked with THE LOOMING TOWER’s “extraordinary” cast.

Future seasons of TLT may go backwards or forwards in time according to writer Dan Futterman, who appreciated the complex character arcs found from beginning to end in Wright’s non-fiction book.  The “other side” of the terrorist equation is subtitled in Arabic to maintain the sense of reality and urgency.

THE LOOMING TOWER hails from Legendary Television.  It is scheduled to launch on Wednesday, February 28th, 2018.  Legendary Television Distribution will distribute the series worldwide.