Joshua Rich
October 06, 2006 AT 04:00 AM EDT

When it debuted in the U.S. this August, World Trade Center was hailed as sensitive and staunchly patriotic — a big surprise considering it was directed by Mssr. Oliver Stone. Now the 9/11 drama has defied expectations again: It’s a hit overseas. In the movie’s first three weeks of international release, WTC has earned a substantial $22.4 million, putting it on pace to pass United 93‘s $41.6 million foreign take. How did such a flag-waving film win over countries like France and Germany, where flag-waving (or, at least, American flag-waving) is hardly in vogue these days? For one, WTC stars Nicolas Cage, an A-lister with a proven global track record (his Yankee-centric action flick National Treasure, for example, earned $174.4 million overseas). And with a budget more than four times that of United 93, Paramount was able to send its director — with some of the cops depicted in the film — on a globe-trotting promotional tour. ”There was always skepticism about how it would do outside the U.S.,” says Paramount’s Rob Moore. As such, the studio tested WTC overseas for months prior to its opening. ”And when [the foreign media] got the chance to meet the real guys,” adds Moore, ”it helped turn around places that are critical of the U.S.”

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