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Look out for more coverage of
Ladder 49 in our magazines

THE MOVIE: Ladder 49

THE STARS:
John Travolta • Joaquin Phoenix
DIRECTOR: Jay Russell

Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta THE CONCEPT:
Set against a busy Baltimore firehouse, the movie spotlights the life of firefighter Jack Morrison (Phoenix). Trapped in a warehouse, with his life hanging in the balance, the movie uses flashbacks to tell his story, while outside his mentor, Fire Chief Mike Kennedy (Travota) battles to keep his best friend alive.

U.S. RELEASE: October 1 2004, Nationwide
• Rated: PG-13

THE COMMENTS:

JOHN TRAVOLTA:
“Firemen are a very unusual group of people; a very modest, humble group. They’re not the squeaky wheel, so they don’t get a lot of attention, and I think September 11th was the first time they were kind of revealed. Their courage was unquestionable. Their integrity was unquestionable, and doing the film it was like, ‘are you going to live up to them and get it right or not?’ That was mostly the demand. The ball was in our court.”

JOAQUIN PHOENIX on being scared of heights:
“What was I thinking? That’s what Jay [Russell, the director] was asking himself when I got to the first firehouse and I couldn’t go down the pole. He was like, ‘Who have I cast for this?’ And I was panicking. I was, ‘What am I gonna do?’ But the training at the academy made all the difference. It was an amazing experience. You don’t totally overcome your fears. Firefighters tell you if you aren’t scared, then get out of the job. But you learn to control your fears. You learn to trust your crew and trust your equipment. I was just certain that the rope was gonna break when we were repelling off this tower, I turned to my instructor and said, ‘There’s no way I can do this.’ He said, ‘Yes, you can, just look in my eyes and trust me. I promise you, you’re gonna make it.’ It works.”

TRAVOLTA:
“I’m the only person Joaquin ever wanted an autograph from as a child. His mother worked at NBC and I guess she knew someone at Paramount and they got a photo for him from Urban Cowboy, and he never asked for another one after that. I was it. He told me that after we finished working together. But I already have a natural parental feeling toward him anyway. He’s a very vulnerable guy, it’s hard not to.”

PHOENIX on Travolta:
“For me, it helps that I have a great deal of respect for him as an actor. I think he’s one of the few people who is a movie star character actor. I don’t know anyone else who has achieved that. John has done so many different unique roles. You always feel like there is a real person there, it’s not just an actor doing something.”

TRAVOLTA on what it takes to rush into a burning building when everyone else is rushing out:
“I asked several [firefighters]. They don’t have a choice; it’s not in them. They couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t go in when they could have, and that’s really the answer to that, and there’s a kind of Human Being that is like that, and it’s interesting because I think that each of these actors [who play the firemen] have a feel of that in them, they have a humanity about them.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

Visit the official Ladder 49 site
Images above © Touchstone Pictures
Feature © 2004 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #649, October 2004 cover

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