Networks Cash in on Giuliani

The race to make the first TV movie about Rudy Giuliani is officially on.

NBC will have a three-hour movie based on Giuliani's heroics on Sept. 11 on the air sometime next February. 

Meanwhile, USA Network is also working on a Giuliani movie — and is reportedly close to signing actor James Woods to play hizzoner, according to TV Guide

No date as been set yet for the cable movie. 

But NBC got in the race this week by buying the film rights to NY1 reporter Andrew Kirtzman's biography of Giuliani, Emperor of the City: The Story of America's Mayor

Coincidentally, Kirtzman was with Giuliani doing a story on the morning of Sept. 11 and was an eyewitness to the Mayor's now-famous efforts to lead confused civilians to safety in the moments after the hijacked airliners struck the Twin Towers. 

Kirtzman, who began as a skeptic of the Giuliani Adminstration early in the mayor's tenure, ended up as one of his strongest advocates near the end of this term. 

True-life movies are just about the hottest thing on TV right now. By recreating the lives of familiar people — from Judy Garland to Gilda Radner to the Three Stooges — the networks have discovered they can promote their movies more easily than traditional fiction films. 

As well, the events and aftermath of 9/11 have proved to have a strong pull on viewers, who are still struggling to make sense of what happened that day and why. 

Documentary films — usually ratings poison — by CBS and PBS on the attacks have drawn record audiences and are pushing the networks to see if there are bigger audiences in recreating the events of that day. 

"It will be a big NBC event for February sweeps," said Russ Kagan, who's co-producing the movie with Lorenzo Manoli. 

"We haven't cast the movie yet because it's still in the script stage, and we can't pursue anybody until we have a script written. 

"I can tell you that we have a great writer, Nicholas Meyer, who wrote and directed two Star Trek movies and a Nicole Kidman movie that's shooting right now. 

"Nicholas spent last week going through the U.S. Attorney's office and City Hall, and walking the path that Giuliani walked on Sept. 11 with Andrew Kirtzman," Kagan said. "It's a great local angle." 

USA's movie is based on Wayne Barrett's book, Rudy! An Investigative Biography of Rudolph Giuliani

TV Guide quotes industry sources as saying that actor Woods is close to signing a deal to star in the USA movie, with Stanley Weiser writing the script.

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