‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Steps Into the Line of Fire, Answers Critics

Jessica Chastain says new disclosures about her "Zero Dark Thirty" character show that the movie got it right; Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal say it's "preposterous" to call their film pro-torture

The real-life CIA agent who served as the model for Jessica Chastain's character in "Zero Dark Thirty" is now receiving attention for being combative, temperamental and difficult to work with — but rather than being embarrassed by or concerned about the revelations, Chastain and the filmmakers welcome them.

"I think it's great that information is coming out about her," Chastain told TheWrap after the film's premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Monday night. "For so long I haven't been able to say anything about her, and now I can finally talk about her a little."

Getty ImagesAnd as for the contentions in the Washington Post story that the unnamed woman, still an active agent, is "not Miss Congeniality," as one former associate said — well, that's pretty much exactly what is suggested by Kathryn Bigelow's acclaimed movie, which was written by Mark Boal after extensive research.

Also read: 'Zero Dark Thirty' Heroine's Real-Life Inspiration Under Scrutiny

"I was talking to Kathryn this afternoon, and she said, 'Everything in the story sounds just like our character,'" said Chastain (left, with Bigelow) during a post-premiere party at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland. 

In the film, Chastain's character is a driven agent with virtually no social life who is abrasive to colleagues during her relentless decade-long quest to locate Osama bin Laden. She is also foul-mouthed on occasion, browbeating and even blackmailing colleagues and superiors into doing things her way.

The Post's headline reads, "In 'Zero Dark Thirty,' she's the hero; in real life, CIA agent's career is more complicated." But in the film, in fact, her career is presented as being very complicated indeed.

As the film enjoyed a triumphant premiere at the Dolby, where it's reasonable to expect that Bigelow, Boal and Chastain will be returning for the Oscars in two months time, "Zero Dark Thirty" was also picking up some criticism over its brutal scenes of CIA-administered torture, which begin the movie.  

On the Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan – who hasn't seen the movie – asked if Bigelow was a "torture apologist," and wrote, "[I]f it portrays torture as integral to the killing of Osama bin Laden, it is a lie … If it lies to promote the efficacy of torture, it has a very real agenda. And that is a defense of barbarism as entertainment, and as the law of the land."

In an interview with TheWrap on Monday, Bigelow and Boal disputed the contention that their film showed torture as leading to the death of bin Laden.

"This movie has been and will continue to be put in political boxes," said Boal. "Before we even wrote it, some people said it was an Obama campaign commercial, which was preposterous. And now it's pro-torture, which is preposterous.

"We're trying to present a long, 10-year intelligence hunt, of which the harsh interrogation program is the most controversial aspect. And it's just misreading the film to say that it shows torture leading to the information about bin Laden. If you actually watch the movie, the detainee doesn't say anything when he's waterboarded. He gives them some information that's new to them over the civilized setting of a lunch — and they go back to the research room and all that information is already there."

Added Bigelow, "Do I wish [torture] was not part of that history? Yes. But it was."

TheWrap will have more of the conversation with Bigelow and Boal in the next issue of OscarWrap, and online.