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The Hulu series ‘The Looming Tower’ follows FBI agent Ali Soufan as he struggles to prevent an Al Qaeda attack on U.S. soil. The real Soufan says watching French film star Tahar Rahim portray him on television was kind of weird but potentially worth it: if people can learn the history of 9/11, perhaps it won’t be repeated. Soufan and Lawrence Wright, author of the book on which the Hulu series is based, talk about the challenges of dramatizing the complex story of the run-up to 9/11. And Soufan offers his blunt take on Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent charm offensive in Hollywood.

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Matthew Belloni, Hollywood Reporter (@THRMattBelloni)

Lawrence Wright and Ali Soufan on ‘The Looming Tower’ 21 MIN, 8 SEC

The Hulu series 'The Looming Tower' traces events leading up to 9/11, with a focus on the FBI’s attempts to track down Al Qaeda terrorists before they could strike on American soil. The story depicts the CIA as repeatedly refusing to to share critical information with the Bureau, frustrating efforts that might have prevented the attack that altered the course of history.

Based on the book of the same name by journalist Lawrence Wright, Hulu's 'The Looming Tower' begins just before the 1998 Al Qaeda bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. 

In the series we see young, Lebanese-born Ali Soufan--played by French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim--joining the FBI as a special agent around that time. When he joins, he's one of only 8 agents in a force of 10,000 who speaks Arabic.

Our guests today are the real Ali Soufan and Lawrence Wright. Wright is one of the co-creators of the Hulu series, along with Alex Gibney and Dan Futterman. Soufan serves as a consultant and producer on 'The Looming Tower.'

Wright has seen his books adapted before--Kim Masters was a talking head in Alex Gibney’s Scientology documentary based on his book ‘Going Clear.’

In the case of 'The Looming Tower,' Wright says there was a time when he doubted it could ever be dramatized on a screen large or small. They tell us why they were hesitant to adapt it at first, and what changed recently that made them feel it was time to go ahead.

Plus, Soufan talks about the strange experience of watching himself portrayed by French film star Tahar Rahim, and how he got an initially hesitant Rahim to take the role in the first place.

And both men offer their perspectives--and a warning--about Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent courting of Hollywood honchos.

Lawrence Wright, author, screenwriter, staff writer New Yorker (@lawrence_wright)
Ali Soufan, Soufan Group, producer (@Ali_H_Soufan)


Kim Masters

Kaitlin Parker

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