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LADDER 49

Into The Fire
In the wake of the sacrifices and tragedies of 9/11, Americans have never been more acutely aware of the honorable and heroic men and women who serve as firefighters in every community. And yet, few people really know the essence of their everyday lives. Firehouses are private places, the walls of which are rarely breached by outsiders. Nor is much known about the lives behind firemen: the children, wives, families and friends who stand by them as they take on one of the modern world's most dangerous, demanding and essential professions.

For this reason, producer Casey Silver wanted to approach the subject of firefighters in a way that had never been done before cinematically. Silver envisioned a film that would explore in a stark, candid style the strong traditions, intense pressures, tight bonds of friendship, innate sense of duty, need for family love and ability to face heartbreak that hold firemen together on a daily basis.

"I wanted to make a firefighting movie in an unsentimental, honest way that would celebrate the dignity and nobility of these guys,” Silver states. "I was thinking of a film that would, at its core, be about characters and human emotions, but at the same time would capture the dramatic spectacle and suspense of firefighting.”

He continues: "So with these ingredients in mind, I brought the idea to screenwriter Lewis Colick. I told Lewis I wanted to explore firefighters from an entirely new angle, not from the usual thriller or adventure perspective, but instead taking a very truthful, no-holdsbarred view into their world. I asked him to go as far into the firefighters' reality as possible and to focus on their families — not just as the wives who simply kiss their men goodbye, but as a central part of their lives, ambitions and motivation. The idea was to give a real sense of these two powerful families that sustain firefighters — their brothers on the job and their wives and children at home.”

Colick, whose previous work includes the civil rights drama "Ghosts of Mississippi” and the cop thriller "Unlawful Entry,” began by doing extensive research into the everyday lives of urban firemen as well as firemen's wives, interviewing dozens about every aspect of their experience — from their wildest stories to their most closely held fears. He was overwhelmed by the emotional nature of what he learned but the biggest challenge lay in searching for the best way to turn all he learned into one man's story.

At last, Colick came up with an unconventional narrative structure which would allow him to address the multiple themes he uncovered: he wove a kind of tapestry around the attempted rescue of a typically devoted, happily married, fire rescue veteran named Jack Morrison. "With Jack, I wanted to create a guy who would be symbolic of a certain kind of fireman I got to know — a good-hearted family man who loves his friends, loves his wife, but, when that bell rings, is ready to risk it all, no matter what, to save somebody he doesn't even know,” says Colick. The screenwriter continues: "Creating Jack gave me a chance to reveal what a fireman's life is really like. Because a lot of it is just waiting around for a fire, playing games, pulling pranks, shooting the breeze, but then it's punctuated by these highly dramatic events that can change other people's lives and affect you forever. I thought having Jack look back on his life would give us a chance to tell a lot of the great stories I heard about of life-altering fires and near-miraculous rescues. It was also a chance to have him look back at why he became a fireman in the first place, what it means to him, and most of all, how he has managed to juxtapose the incredible risk of a deadly job with his family-centered personal life.”

As he wrote, Colick continued to meet with workin

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