Jeff Daniels Talks 'Looming Tower,' Recalls Gift He Received From Real Ali Soufan

"He's the number one critic because he knew John [O’Neill]. He was very kind. He said some nice things," Daniels said of the real Soufan.

For Jeff Daniels, when the script for Hulu’s The Looming Tower came across his desk, he was “stunned” and knew he had to be a part of it.

He sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for a game of “First, Best, Last, Worst” and explained what drew him to the role of John O’Neill, the FBI’s leading expert on Al Qaeda before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and what fellow agent Ali Soufan had to say about his performance.

“When I was first approached about The Looming Tower, I was stunned because I had no idea this had happened. I was completely unaware of the story behind what led to 9/11,” he said. “I had no idea who John O’Neill, was and when I read it, it seemed like not only something that was going to be tricky to pull off as an actor but something you would want to be associated with having done.”

While Daniels didn’t get the chance to meet the late O’Neill, he did receive the best compliment from Soufan, O’Neill’s former partner.

“John O’Neill is no longer with us, but Ali knew him very, very well, and Ali saw the first couple episodes. He’s the number one critic because he knew John,” Daniels said. “He was very kind. He said some nice things, but he also gave me a pin from John O’Neill’s memorial and he said, ‘John would want you to have this.’ That meant a lot.”