Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal said in an interview to air tonight on ABC’s Nightline that no classified documents were used in the making of Zero Dark Thirty, which details the Navy SEAL mission that killed Osama bin Laden. The pair told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz that claims they received top-secret help from the Obama administration on the details of the raid came down to partisan politics. “I certainly did a lot of homework, but I never asked for classified materials; to my knowledge, I never received any”, Boal said. “And I think as far as the controversy goes, you know, how can I put this — it was an election year. It was surreal and bizarre to have … I mean there were major players in the Republican Party characterizing the script and the movie before I had written a word, and I found that just really baffling”.
Boal did tell Nightline that he spoke to people with intimate knowledge of the Navy SEAL mission, including some in the military and the CIA, but that their identities are shielded in the film. “They were proud of what they had done, but they had more or less resigned themselves to the fact that what they had done is not something they could talk about publicly,” he said. “But one of the things a movie allows people to do is talk in a way that is a little bit freer because they know that movies can change the way people look, [and] that I don’t have quite the same standards of having to reveal sources as I would if I was, let’s say, running a front-page piece in the New York Times.”
Bigelow and Boal had been working on a film about the unsuccessful hunt for bin Laden but changed direction when the terrorist leader was killed on May 1, 2011. Sony Pictures picked up the movie later that month, before the script was completed. The NYT’s Maureen Dowd wrote a column in early August 2011 reporting that the film was getting “top-level access to the most classified mission in history” from the Obama White House. Soon afterward, GOP congressmen began asking for an investigation. Zero Dark Thirty’s release was pushed back until after the Presidential election; it now comes out December 19.
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- Martha Raddatz