Hollywood Caught in a Quandary

Hollywood has been thrown into a tailspin, feverishly excising references to the World Trade Center as if it never was.

Miramax has chopped the Twin Towers from the opening credits of next month's New York-set romantic comedy Serendipity, and the iconic skyscrapers were swiftly edited out of a number of sweeping cityscape shots in Zoolander, opening tomorrow. 

The battle at the end of Men in Black 2, which took place near the World Trade Center, is being rewritten to feature the Chrysler Building instead. And posters for Sidewalks of New York and Spider-Man, which both featured shots of the WTC, were quickly recalled. 

But Tinseltown's efforts to calm a jittery public may have backfired. 

Complaints are surfacing in online polls and letters to the editor that this revisionism is akin to snipping a deceased loved one out of family photos. The Twin Towers, one of the great symbols of America's commerce and financial might, may be gone but should they be forgotten? 

"I think it is a mistake to act like the beautiful World Trade Center never existed," reads a letter to the editor in Entertainment Weekly. "To me that would be a huge victory for the terrorists." 

And Hollywood.com users responded overwhelmingly - 78 to 22 percent - in favor of keeping images of the WTC intact. 

"We are attempting to forget something that should never be forgotten," said one respondent. 

Late Night with Conan O'Brien has been covering its Manhattan skyline backdrop with a curtain until a new one can be built. 

Columbia Pictures chairman Amy Pascal, for one, has warned of a "hysterical overreaction." 

"There's an immediate reaction when your mind gets flooded with all sorts of worrisome things - where you start to find that the Twin Towers exist when there are two l's in a title," she said recently. 

There are those who believe the sudden appearance of the World Trade Center in a film is a reminder of the pain and suffering moviegoers are trying to forget. 

"Part of what movies can provide in today's strange world is a sense of relief from the news on CNN," says native New Yorker Jon Landau, who produced 1997's Titanic, 85 years after that real-life disaster. "If there is an image in a movie that pulls people out of the moment and gets them thinking about something else, we haven't done our job." 

But Hollywood may have misread the nation's mercurial mood. 

Critics have reported audiences being "roused to applause" when they caught a glimpse of the Twin Towers in Glitter, while others have noted that preview audiences "squirmed in their seats" as they looked for the familiar skyscrapers in "Zoolander" and found them missing. 

Don't Say a Word, a Michael Douglas thriller opening tomorrow, has left the Twin Towers in. So has Paramount Classics' Sidewalks of New York, opening on Nov. 21. 

"We decided to slightly alter our poster [but] based on audiences across the country standing up and applauding our trailer, we will most definitely leave in the two seconds of film that shows the World Trade Center in the far background," a spokesman said. 

"That brief reminder seems to be a source of pride for a lot of filmgoers."

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