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Kathryn Bigelow Talks "Torture" Controversy, Her First "Failed" 'Hunt For Osama Bin Laden' Film & More About 'Zero Dark Thirty'

The Playlist By Rodrigo Perez | The Playlist December 27, 2012 at 4:31PM

Here's the rundown. Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," her follow-up to the Oscar-winning Best Picture "The Hurt Locker" depicts an eight year hunt for Osama Bin Landen (our review calls it "one of the best of the year," and "an intense and dense" national security procedural). Bigelow and her screenwriter Mark Boal, also an investigative journalist, received flak earlier this year and were the target of controversy when accusations flew that the CIA gave them special access to classified documents regarding the Bin Laden hunt. Boal said earlier this year that the picture was not vetted by the CIA and that seems to be the case, as Acting CIA Director Michael Morell recently criticized the film in a letter to his employees stating the film takes too many liberties with the truth while still claiming to be historically accurate. Marketing is one thing, but as we've said ourselves: the movie is not a documentary.
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Zero Dark Thirty Kathryn Bigelow skip crop

One of our favorite tweets of the week comes from Playlist contributor James Rocchi. It should speak for itself.

In case it doesn't, here's the rundown: Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," her follow-up to the Oscar-winning Best Picture "The Hurt Locker" depicts the eight-year hunt for Osama Bin Laden (our review calls it "one of the best of the year," and "an intense and dense" national security procedural). Bigelow and her screenwriter Mark Boal, also an investigative journalist, received flak earlier this year and were the target of controversy when accusations flew that the CIA gave them special access to classified documents regarding the Bin Laden hunt. Boal said earlier this year that the picture was not vetted by the CIA, and that seems to be the case as Acting CIA Director Michael Morell recently criticized the film in a letter to his employees, stating the film takes too many liberties with the truth while still claiming to be historically accurate. Making matters worse are those pundits that have jumped on the bandwagon and dubbed the film "pro-torture" because those tactics were among those used to assist in the capture and killing of Bin Laden (that kind of logic is pretty hilarious, frankly). During the press day for "Zero Dark Thirty" earlier this month, Bigelow herself addressed the "pro-torture" claims, and discussed other aspects of getting the movie made. Here are five highlights:

Bigelow said the torture/interrogation sequences had to be included because they're "part of the history."
"There's no question that methodology is controversial but there was no debate about whether or not to include it in the movie because it's part of the history," she said. "That's an element we were working with. It was a question of working with the material and finding the right tone and balance. And also exploring other methodologies. Over the course of the decade many different approaches were utilized. Throughout that decade you see all the permutations and surveillance that were utilized. And the rest is history. It was all about finding the right balance."

Bigelow and Mark Boal were originally working on another Bin Laden movie that got scrapped in 2011 when the al Qaeda leader was captured and killed.
"Originally, we were working on a different project, still about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden but about the failed hunt in 2001. This took place in December of 2001. And while Mark was working on the screenplay, quite far along, [Bin Laden was killed] and we realized, after some soul searching, it would be a little bit difficult to make a movie about the failed hunt for Osama bin Laden after the whole world knew that he had been killed," she explained. "After much debate, we pivoted. And Mark, being an investigative journalist, set about to report the current story of 2011 as history revealed itself."

This article is related to: Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow


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