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Bigelow and Boal Talk 'Zero Dark Thirty' with EW -- Accurately Recreating Bin Laden's Capture & Protecting Real-Life Identities

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood November 23, 2012 at 1:32PM

One possible Oscar contender that has kept the media in the dark until recently is Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," which tracks the hunt for Osama bin Laden. EW sat down with Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal (the two also collaborated on Bigelow's Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker"). Highlights below.
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Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty"
Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty"

One possible Oscar contender that has kept the media in the dark until recently is Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," which tracks the hunt for Osama bin Laden. EW sat down with Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal (the two also collaborated on Bigelow's Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker"). Highlights below.

Studios have had a hard time over the last decade luring audiences to films oriented toward 9/11 and the war that resulted from it. But with the recent smash ratings of NatGeo's "SEAL Team Six," could "Zero Dark Thirty" have box office appeal? Check out the most recent trailer for the film here.

On restaging Bin Laden's capture:

“It’s a very accurate, we hope, rendition of how the SEALs entered, what they did on each floor,” says Boal. “Kathryn spent a lot of time trying to make sure all of that was correct, down to who was on what step when, how they went around a corner.”

And on recreating the house in Abbottobad:

“We built [a real house],” says Bigelow. “You would naturally consider building each floor on a different stage in North Hollywood or something. But it was as close to the exact dimensions of the real building as possible. Those environments were at times extremely cramped, extremely hot and airless. But the thing that was so uncanny was, you definitely felt the presence of the people whose house this was, even though of course we were in Jordan, not Abbottobad. It had been so faithfully recreated that it almost brought them to life in a very eerie, strange way. You’re spending a month in this place, day and night. It was unnerving. On May 1 [2012, the one-year anniversary of bin Laden's killing] we were shooting. It was only a year prior that the real raid happened.”

On depicting real-life characters while also protecting their identities:

“All of the characters in the film are based on real people,” says Boal. “But we went to great lengths to make sure that their identities wouldn’t be in any way jeopardized by the film. We made sure not to cast actors who bore physical resemblances to the people [they played]. And also not to put things in the film that would allow anybody to draw a dotted line. Because, look, a lot of these people are still working. We take protecting those people very seriously.”

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


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.