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Battles, Wounds and Terror

Apr 7, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Fierce World War II battles in the Pacific, told from the point of view of a decorated Marine sergeant who went on to become an acclaimed biographer, and an inside-the-Oval-Office look at Washington’s response to the 9/11 terror attacks are the latest projects-both for cable-from the pen of Lionel Chetwynd, the Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated screenwriter.
Goodbye Darkness: Memoirs of the Pacific War, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated best-selling memoir by historian and biographer William Manchester, which chronicles his experiences as a U.S. Marine during World War II and his recollections of battle in the Pacific theater, is being turned into a three-hour original telefilm for USA Network by Mr. Chetwynd, who will also executive produce the picture.
Mr. Chetwynd, best known for his tales of war, his political engagement and his access to the corridors of power, also has written DC 9/11, an original movie for Showtime starring actor Timothy Bottoms as President George W. Bush.
This is not the first time that Mr. Bottoms has portrayed President Bush. He played him for laughs in Comedy Central’s short-lived That’s My Bush, a sitcom from the creators of South Park.
DC 9/11 is a far different take on the current occupant of the Oval Office. “It’s a view of those [post-9/11] events looking inside out from the White House,” Mr. Chetwynd said. “It’s based on firsthand interviews I did with the president [and] with all of the principals,” among them White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, political strategist and close adviser Karl Rove and senior Pentagon officials. “I was given unprecedented access,” Mr. Chetwynd said.
Mr. Chetwynd has known Mr. Bush since before he became president and, like other observers, he was struck by the change in him post-9/11. “The man who greeted me when I walked into the Oval Office was a markedly different man than the man I had known,” he said.
The feature-length docudrama, directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith (Happy Face Murders), is scheduled to air on Showtime this fall. Also expected to be in the cast are George Takei (Star Trek), playing Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, and Penny Johnson (24), playing National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. A network spokeswoman declined to confirm casting or other details of the shoot. Production of DC 9/11 was set to begin this week under tight security at a location that the network asked to remain undisclosed.
Mr. Chetwynd described Mr. Manchester, the author of American Caesar, a biography of General Douglas MacArthur, and Death of a President, about the assassination of President John Kennedy, among other books, as “a genuine hero.”
Darkness is the true story of Mr. Manchester’s World War II experiences in the Pacific. Mr. Manchester had been wounded and was on his way home when he heard that his platoon was being sent back into the fighting, Mr. Chetwynd said. “But this was a true band of brothers. He went AWOL and got himself back on the ship to rejoin his platoon and lead them into yet another battle, where he got a serious wound. … It’s a remarkable story.”
The movie will follow the platoon from boot camp through the island-hopping war in the Pacific. “It’s incredibly topical,” Mr. Chetwynd said. “It’s the story of young kids and how they become a family, a unit.”
Darkness is targeted for 2004, Mr. Chetwynd said. He will executive produce with Frank von Zerneck. Previously, Mr. Chetwynd and Mr. von Zerneck collaborated on To Heal a Nation, the story of the Vietnam Memorial, and Miracle on Ice, the story of the Olympic Gold Medal-winning U.S. hockey team.
Mr. Chetwynd serves on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. His credits include Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents, Varian’s War, Ruby Ridge: An American Tragedy and The Man Who Captured Eichmann.