About The Production
Few who are old enough to have lived through the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis can forget the feelings of fear and anxiety that accompanied the reports of a nuclear showdown between the world's super-powers. While the Soviet Union no longer exists and the Cold War has ended, the proliferation of nuclear weapons -- and the number of nations that possess them continue to be the greatest threat to the world. And the unimaginable is still possible.
But during October of 1962 the danger was never more real. Had there been a full-scale attack, there would have been hundreds of millions of casualties. Nuclear fallout would have led to the decay of the Northern Hemisphere, and there would have been catastrophic contamination of the global atmosphere and water supply. The Cuban Missile Crisis posed an unparalleled threat to humanity and it provoked a test of leadership unlike any other.
On October 16th, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy presented to President Kennedy a series of U-2 spy plane photos revealing that the Soviets had installed medium-range ballistic missiles on the island of Cuba — offensive nuclear weapons that could hit major U.S. cities in mere minutes.
Kennedy and his advisers were stunned. Prior to detection, the Soviet leadership had denied placing offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba. Discovery of the weapons turned the Cold War standoff into a nuclear confrontation.
When the President announced the situation to the nation on October 22, the reverberations were instantaneous. Within hours, supermarkets in the U.S. ran out of everyday supplies such as drinking water, churches were filled, and just about everywhere, citizens prepared for the worst.
Although he was just a boy of 16 in Australia at the time, director Roger Donaldson remembers those frightening two weeks in detail.
I kept a diary during those times and I wrote candidly about the missile crisis, basically about whether or not there was going to be a tomorrow, whether or not I should even bother to do my homework," recalls Donaldson. "It had a huge impact on me, this feeling that maybe the world could end."
Decades later, Donaldson, who had worked with Kevin Costner on the political thriller No Way Out, remained fascinated by this terrifying moment in history — not just by the enormous stakes and danger, but by the intricate personal and political machinations that turned the crisis around. When he was approached with the script for Thirteen
Days he immediately recognized the elements of a classic suspense-thriller, albeit one that took place in real life. '1 saw the Cuban Missile Crisis not just as a chapter in history, but as a great story -- the ultimate cinematic political thriller with the fate of the world in the balance," explains Donaldson. "It's a story of intense human drama surrounding a situation in which the stakes couldn't be any higher. I realized as I read the script that most of us really don't know how close we came and what happened on the front lines — in the White House, the cockpits of spy planes or on the decks of the aircraft carriers enforcing the blockade. That's where the real tension lies — in how the decisions were made, and how these young men handled the toughest dilemma anyone could face."
But how do you recapture those days and effectively tell the heroic story of men and women, whose actions that October resonate to this very day.
It's obviously not possible to recreate every important moment that transpired during those two weeks in a two-hour film. The challenge of the filmmakers was to find a way to dramatize a story that explores the heart, soul, scope and danger of the crisis.
Screenwriter David Self pored through the vast bo
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