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DVD Preview: Fireman Drama Has Plenty of Fuel for DVD

7 Oct, 2004 By: Kurt Indvik

One thing everyone on the cast of Touchstone Pictures' Ladder 49 agrees on is that the making of this fireman-honoring epic bonded them like family, complete with a truckload of memories.

This could prove beneficial to DVD aficionados when the film, which debuted theatrically last weekend, hits DVD shelves. The extras lineup could include on-set pranks akin to those in the film, a making-of documentary deconstructing the fiery action scenes, or cast interviews about how close they got to their real-life counterparts and each other through the oft-grueling training.

The film tells the tale of a Baltimore firefighter (Joaquin Phoenix) trapped in a warehouse inferno as he reflects on the past decade.

One thing the DVD won't have, according to director Jay Russell (My Dog Skip), is any alternate endings, because he's so proud of the film's original conclusion and its connection to the movie's meaning.

“If we ever got that call while we were filming that said, ‘Why don't you shoot two or three different endings?,' I was getting on the next plane home,” Russell said. “I wanted to accurately portray the technical side of firefighting, and, even more importantly, I wanted to get into the emotion of what families go through. There is the ending, and that's all there ever was going to be. And that's all there is.”

Russell said one extra that might show up on the disc centers on an exploratory “Sept. 11” sequence that was written and shot, but never included in the final cut of the movie.“It was a very tasteful and quite beautiful scene,” Russell said. “I'm debating on whether I will include it on the DVD or not.”

Behind-the-scenes views of a firefighter's day could provide another goldmine for extra features.

“We shot a lot more stuff about life at the firehouse that, because of time considerations, didn't make it into the movie,” Russell said.

However, one scene that would have scored huge points will definitely not appear, because there were no cameras around. Stars Phoenix and Balthazar Getty hung around a Baltimore station house while their real-life counterparts rushed off on a call. An undercover cop, mistaking the actors as real firefighters, requested help with a forcible entry. Getty and Phoenix threw themselves at the door — for nearly four minutes.

“We looked like a bunch of girls banging on the door,” Getty said. “Finally, we got the door open and one cop looked at us and said, ‘Good thing there wasn't a fire in there. They'd all be dead.’

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