The actors who portray passengers on board "United 93" encountered loved ones of their real-life counterparts for the first time Tuesday night as the controversial movie kicked off the Tribeca Film Festival at the Ziegfeld Theatre.
Cheyenne Jackson shared an embrace with Alice Hoagland, whose son Mark Bingham perished aboard the United Airlines jet when it crashed near Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001.
"She hugged me and she said 'I loved your performance. It was beautiful and it broke my heart,'" said Jackson, who plays Bingham and who was also the star of last season's Broadway musical "All Shook Up."
"I was really anxious to know what she would say about it ... Anything else doesn't really matter."
At the same time, stage veteran Chip Zien ("Falsettos") was preparing to meet Meredith Rothenberg, whose husband, Mark, was a first class passenger aboard Flight 93 and who was thought to be the first passenger killed when the hijacking started. Zien had spoken to Meredith Rothenberg by phone after taking on the part.
"I don't know what I'm going to say to her," Zien said. "I've worried about it all day."
Real-life United Airlines pilot J.J. Johnson, who plays slain Capt. Jason Dahl, said he sought the role out of respect for Dahl, "an above average pilot who was friendly and popular and a real hero."
Johnson, who flies the Kennedy Airport-to-Tokyo route for the airline, recalled approaching his bosses at the airline after he was offered the job.
"They were a little bit tepid about me doing it," he said. "They told me, 'You're on your own here. Make sure you don't make us look bad or do anything that jeopardizes your career.'"
The film festival supporters at the opening, most of whom chose to take a back seat to the family members sharing stories with the media, included Marcia Gay Harden, Tom Selleck, Tony Bennett, Josh Lucas, Frank Langella and festival co-founders Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal.
Director Paul Greengrass, who also helmed the politically sensitive "Bloody Sunday," said the burdens associated with making the movie were unprecedented.
"There was the fact that one day I would show this film to these families and they would hold me accountable ... and there was the fact that one day this film would be seen in New York City, a city I first came to in 1974," Greengrass said. "This is a film that audiences are going to hold a candle to. They're going to want to know that it's a serious film and that it's got some purpose."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times