As indicated in the Netflix Worth movie, the true story confirms that Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci in the film), then 65, was at home in his downtown Manhattan apartment. "I knew in that fraction of a second it was a twin-engine jet going full-throttle. I ran out onto the balcony which faced north – and it was dead silent," he told Fox News. "I stepped back through the sliding glass door, and all I heard was 'Ka-boom!' Then someone on the street said, 'Oh my God, a plane has gone into the World Trade Center,' and I yelled back, 'Are you kidding me? My wife works there!'"
As for attorney Ken Feinberg (played by Michael Keaton), he was teaching a class at the University of Pennsylvania around the time that the first plane hit the World Trade Center. He viewed the aftermath on a TV in a common area. He then boarded a train from Philadelphia to Wilmington, and passengers with handheld radios relayed the news of the South Tower and the Pentagon. Unlike what's seen in the Netflix movie, Feinberg was nowhere near the Pentagon and could not see smoke billowing from the structure from his train window.
As stated on the official U.S. government website for the fund, "The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund ("VCF") was created to provide compensation for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes." Washington attorney Ken Feinberg was appointed to be the Special Master of the fund.
The fund had to be continually extended and revised in large part due to first responders developing cancer and respiratory diseases from having breathed in toxins in and around Ground Zero in Manhattan, including carcinogenic materials like asbestos, as well as dioxins. -Fox News
Like in the movie, Washington lawyer Ken Feinberg, who had been appointed Special Master of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, had to try to answer the question, "What is a life worth?" He had to figure out what to pay each 9/11 family by estimating how much money each victim would have made in a full lifetime. Victims and families were also compensated for pain and suffering, in addition to other monetary damages. Once a family accepted Feinberg's offer, they were not allowed to appeal.
Many families were upset at the concept of putting dollar values on the lives of loved ones. After all, as asked by the movie, "How do you put a value on lives lost?" Complicating matters more was the fact that many of the victims were wealthy financial professionals, and their families felt that they were being under-compensated. Others argued that all human lives should be valued equally, as opposed to trying to project what each victim would have earned in their lifetime. Attorney Ken Feinberg discusses his compensation strategy and its challenges in his book What is Life Worth?, which inspired the Michael Keaton movie. -ABC News
Yes. Like in the film, the Worth movie true story verifies that participating in the 9/11 fund also meant that the family could not sue the airlines involved in the attacks or other entities that could potentially be held accountable (Feinberg reasoned that it wouldn't take long for the airlines to be bankrupted by the lawsuits). This angered many 9/11 families who saw the rule as a way to protect the interests of the airlines. It's true that airline lobbyists pushed for the protection, arguing that if the airlines went bankrupt, it would disrupt both the economy and stateside travel. -ABC News
In an interview with NBC Detroit, Michael Keaton said that a version of this did happen to Ken Feinberg in real life and the confrontation was indeed something he was not prepared for. It helped Ken to realize that he could not just deal with the fund in legal terms, but had to do a better job empathizing with the families involved.
Yes. Feinberg's love of classical music and opera is true to real life, as is his enormous CD collection and custom-built music room. He often spends Saturday afternoons there listening to the live radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. -The Washington Post
No. It's easy to assume from watching the Netflix movie that Camille Biros (Amy Ryan) is a lawyer who is Feinberg's partner at the firm. However, the true story behind Worth reveals that Biros was actually the law firm's administrator. Though she was seen as an equal partner by 2017, that wasn't the case in 2001 (New York Times). The movie seems to make her Feinberg's equal so that she carries more weight as the moral voice that keeps him in check.
In the months after he lost his wife Katherine in the North Tower on September 11, 2001, Wolf learned that approximately 2,200 men and 600 women had died in the World Trade Center attacks. Recognizing the imbalance of men who died, he realized that hundreds of widows would be left to care for and financially support their families. "Who is left over? The women. What are the women going to be doing? Taking care of the family, that is their priority. The kids," Wolf told Fox News. "They aren't going to be focusing on the financial aspect of things." This is what prompted Wolf to fight to fix the problems with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).
No. Lee Quinn is a fictional character created to represent those who argued that the families of victims who were higher earners should be given more compensation. In real life, officials from the financial firm Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods made similar arguments on behalf of the families of the 67 employees from the firm who were killed when United Flight 175 struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center. -What is Life Worth book
There have been a total of four incarnations of the fund, with the first, VCF1, lasting from 2001 until 2004. While it had no monetary limit, there was a two-year limit to apply.
In 2011, the Zadroga Act reopened the fund, expanded the eligibility requirements, imposed new filing deadlines, and capped the funding at $4.2 billion. Such restrictions soon became a problem, especially for victims suffering from cancer, which has a gestation period and can take years to reveal itself, as was the case with many of the first responders who'd worked at Ground Zero. This second incarnation of the fund was authorized to operate until October 2016.
However, in 2015, the Zadroga Act was reauthorized with an extended filing deadline of December 18, 2020. The funding for the September 11th Victim Fund was also increased to $7.375 billion. This was the fund's third incarnation.
With the fund approaching its 2020 deadline, celebrity Jon Stewart, who'd spent years fighting for the victims and their families, gave an impassioned speech before Congress in 2019, demanding that Congress do its job and indefinitely extend the fund. In July 2019, President Trump signed into law the "Never Forget the Heroes" bill, which extended the deadline to October 1, 2090 and "appropriates such funds as may be necessary to pay all eligible claims." This was the fourth and final version of the fund. -VCF.gov
As of 2019, over 51,000 9/11 victims or the families of victims have applied to the fund, with over $5.5 billion being paid. -Fox News
While some of the stories shared by the victims' families in the movie are composites and not directly based on any specific 9/11 victim's family, others were taken directly from actual 9/11 families. Not only is Stanley Tucci's character, widower Charles Wolf, a real person, Laura Benanti's character, Karen Donato (the widow of a fallen firefighter) is also based on a real-life individual. That is not her actual name, and Feinberg never revealed the truth about her husband to her in real life. His wife told him, "Don't you dare tell her!" Instead, Feinberg decided to cut a check to both the fallen firefighter's grieving widow (and her three children) as well as to his mistress (and her two children). It appears that the firefighter's widow accepted the money in real life. -DukeEthics
Yes. In exploring the Worth true story, we discovered that Feinberg has found himself on the actuarial end of numerous tragedies over the years, including the shootings at Virginia Tech (2007), Sandy Hook Elementary (2012), Aurora (2012), Orlando (2016), and the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh (2018). He also worked on calculating compensation for victims of the Boston Bombing (2013) and the BP oil spill (2010). Other cases he's worked on include victims of Agent Orange, asbestos, bad car ignitions, bad breast implants, abuse in the Catholic Church, Penn State, and Boeing 737s. Feinberg has even argued the value of the Zapruder Tape (the home movie of JFK's assassination).