Robert Mailer Anderson takes on Hollywood with ‘Windows on the World’
Robert Mailer Anderson has a problem.
He has made a film that is smart, topical and unexpected, loaded with all the elements Hollywood should want — from the distinguished cast and dramatic plot twists to the killer soundtrack. But Hollywood doesn’t want it.
Anderson, the 50-year-old native San Franciscan who gained notoriety with his 2001 novel “Boonville,” spent more than a decade producing and co-writing the film “Windows on the World” with his cousin Zack Anderson.
Starring Edward James Olmos (FX’s “Mayans MC”) and Ryan Guzman (Fox’s TV series “9-1-1”) — and directed by the former’s son, Michael D. Olmos — the film is a gripping story of a man’s search for his father, an undocumented Mexican immigrant working at the Windows on the World restaurant on the top floor of the World Trade Center during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“They have a hard time because he doesn’t exist in America,” Anderson said during a recent visit to the podcast studio at The Chronicle. “They assume that he’s dead until the mother, who’s a little bit of an unreliable narrator at this point due to trauma, swears that she sees him getting out of the building alive on news footage. So the youngest son takes his savings and crosses the border to look for someone who’s either dead or doesn’t want to be found.”
“Windows on the World” has been shown at festivals in Austin, Los Angeles and Boston, and it drew a standing ovation at a screening in Sedona, Ariz. It may be set in the not-too-distant past, but its themes of immigration and identity and what makes an American are more relevant now than ever.