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Jason Clarke Talks 'Zero Dark Thirty,' Terrence Malick & Where He Was When He Heard Osama Bin Laden Was Dead

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist January 8, 2013 at 4:52PM

This weekend, the 2012 movie that has generated as much critical praise as controversy, will finally be unleashed on the masses in wide release – Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty." A white-knuckle account of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, it's a surprisingly human tale, focusing on a cluster of dedicated operatives (led by Jessica Chastain's note-perfect portrayal of CIA agent Maya) who brought down the architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. One of those operatives is played by Jason Clarke, as man as skilled at the art of "advanced interrogation techniques" (aka the torture scenes that have gotten people so riled up) as he is in greasing the wheels of an informant by buying him an expensive sports car in the middle of the night.
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Zero Dark Thirty, Jason Clarke
"Working with Terrence Malick is hilarious. You get 20 pages of dialogue, this extraordinarily in-depth dialogue, But Terry's not after anything that's ordained or set up. He's creating an environment where he just wants to capture something that's alive."
Where were you when you heard Osama had been killed?

I was in Australia. I had wrapped "The Great Gatsby." I had gone to see my friend who's a doctor and he goes out and does country visits. And I was sitting in a car and he was tending to this old lady who had an accident. It came on the radio. I turned it up. I had missed the speech and all that. I was sitting to this stuff for a while listening to it and it was like, "Oh my god." It was a profound moment, especially when you sit there and consider it. It had gone down not long before and here it was, bouncing around the world, and somebody was dead.

You also recently worked with Terrence Malick. What was that like?
Well, I did two Malick films. I did "Knight of Cups" and "The Green Blade Rises" [which Malick produced].  "Knight of Cups" is the one with Christian Bale. Look, 'Green Blade' Terrence had been working on that for a while, like twenty years. And A.J. Edwards, who directed it, shoots all the second unit stuff for Terry's films and edits them. It's about Abe Lincoln as a 9-year-old and his father and his two mothers, because his mother died when he was very young. What fascinated him and what fascinates me is how a little boy in the middle nowhere, who was barefoot with nothing and a stern puritanical father, became the leader that he did. The education, the moral gravitas, and the leadership of this kid… and you find out. It comes from your roots.

And what was "Knight of Cups" like?
It was just hilarious! Well Terry is a guy where you get 20 pages of dialogue, this extraordinarily in-depth dialogue, and then you'll learn it and try and shoot it. But Terry's not after anything that's ordained or set up. He's creating an environment where he just wants to capture something that's alive.

Are you in it enough that you can't be cut out of it?
You never know with Terrence Malick. I remember when I told Jess, she said, "Just so you know, you might not end up in the film." There were so many people coming in and out and he's out there doing his thing. There's a craziness and a wonderfulness and a freedom but he's got great motives and aspirations. He's interested in pursuing things.  

Zero Dark Thirty, Jason Clarke

And you're in "White House Down."
Yep. I've got two broken ribs to show for it. I'm the guy who rushes in and takes over the White House. It was so fun. I love Roland Emmerich. He does those films like no one else. We had a ball. I get a knock-down, drag-out, ugly-ugly-ugly fight with Channing Tatum. It really hurt. And Channing is a lovely guy. He's been brought up well, he works his ass off. I just saw "Magic Mike." The dude can dance, man! He can dance! I had no idea. When we were working he was getting ready for a wrestling film so he was really in shape. I'd send the stunt guy in to wear him out a little bit. But man, he can move.

Did you get to use any of your training on "White House Down"?
A little bit. It's there and it helps. But it's a completely different film. Roland's style and movement; you're going there to be entertained in a serious way. It's big and it goes bigger and it keeps going. I got to drive a Cadillac into the pool of the White House.

"Zero Dark Thirty" is in wide release this weekend.

This article is related to: Jason Clarke, Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow, Jessica Chastain, Terrence Malick, Interviews, Interviews


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