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Category: Kathryn Bigelow

Documents provide new insight into Kathryn Bigelow's Bin Laden movie

May 23, 2012 |  5:05 pm

Bigelow

The release of hundreds of pages of government documents Tuesday has fanned a simmering controversy in Washington over how much access the White House, the CIA and the Pentagon granted director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal for their upcoming movie on the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

But in Hollywood, the documents raise eyebrows for a different reason: They provide insight into how the Oscar-winning filmmakers behind "The Hurt Locker" are attempting to craft their secrecy-shrouded movie, which already had been in the works before the dramatic raid in Pakistan last May in which Bin Laden died.

The emails and meeting transcripts obtained by the watchdog group Judicial Watch reveal that the filmmakers got access to a Navy SEAL who was involved in orchestrating the raid, and toured "the Vault," a CIA building where planning for the operation took place.

The documents also show how the filmmakers are attempting to construct a narrative of the years leading up to Bin Laden’s death, including debates among CIA and White House officials and rehearsals of the maneuver in the final weeks of preparation.

“Part of the challenge for us is to capture how difficult this was because there is a version of it that in hindsight, it just looks like it fell into place,” Boal told Department of Defense officials at a meeting last July, according to a transcript. “That is why I just wanted to ask you hypothetically about what could have happened wrong, because it makes it more dramatic when it all goes right.”

The access Bigelow and Boal have had to CIA, DOD and other government officials is not unheard of for Hollywood productions. “Battleship” director Peter Berg embedded for a month with Navy SEALs in western Iraq as research for his upcoming SEAL film “Lone Survivor,” and filmmaker Lionel Chetwynd was granted an hour with President Bush for a 2003 movie he wrote for Showtime, “DC 9/11: Time of Crisis.”

Bigelow's untitled movie -- which is sometimes referred to by the name of its production company, Zero Dark Thirty -- commenced production in India and Jordan this spring, with a cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt and Jessica Chastain. 

Controversy over the project first surfaced last August, when Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to the CIA and the DOD asking for an investigation into whether the White House had granted the filmmakers access to classified information that could prove useful to America's enemies.

The records publicized by Judicial Watch this week reignited the debate, but representatives for Sony Pictures, Bigelow and Boal declined to comment on them, merely reiterating the statement they issued last August:

“Our upcoming film project about the decade long pursuit of Bin Laden has been in the works for many years and integrates the collective efforts of three administrations, including those of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, as well as the cooperative strategies and implementation by the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency,” the statement said. “Indeed, the dangerous work of finding the world’s most wanted man was carried out by individuals in the military and intelligence communities who put their lives at risk for the greater good without regard for political affiliation. This was an American triumph, both heroic, and non-partisan and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise.”

The movie is scheduled to open Dec. 19.

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-- Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo: Director Kathryn Bigelow and director of photography Barry Ackroyd on the set of "The Hurt Locker" Credit: Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment


Congressman calls for probe of Bigelow's Bin Laden movie

August 10, 2011 |  4:33 pm

Bigelow 
Director Kathryn Bigelow hasn't yet called "action" on her movie about the capture of Osama bin Laden, but the project is already stirring up controversy. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to the CIA and the Department of Defense on Tuesday asking for an investigation into whether the White House has granted Bigelow and Sony Pictures access to confidential information for the project.

"I’m very concerned that any sensitive information could be disclosed in a movie," King said in a phone interview. "The procedures and operations that we used in this raid are very likely what we'll use in other raids. There’s no way a director would know what could be tipping off the enemy."

King also seems to be concerned about the possible political ramifications of the film, which is scheduled to arrive in theaters in October 2012.

"The fact that the movie is going to be released three weeks before election day, the people at the CIA told me they had no idea that this was the plan," he added. "They were never told it was gonna come out so close to election day."

King said he had spoken to members of the CIA who confirmed that the agency is working with the filmmakers. "There’s a division in the agency," King said. "Some wanted to cooperate, some didn’t."

In a press briefing Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged the filmmakers have been in touch with the administration but called King's claims that Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal had gotten access to confidential information "ridiculous."

"When people, including you, in this room, are working on articles, books, documentaries or movies that involve the president, ask to speak to administration officials, we do our best to accommodate them to make sure the facts are correct," Carney said. "That is hardly a novel approach to the media. We do not discuss classified information. And I would hope that as we face the continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie."

Bigelow and  Boal, who both won Oscars for their 2009 Iraq war movie "The Hurt Locker," also responded to King in a statement issued through Sony Pictures.

“Our upcoming film project about the decade-long pursuit of Bin Laden has been in the works for many years and integrates the collective efforts of three administrations, including those of Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, as well as the cooperative strategies and implementation by the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. Indeed, the dangerous work of finding the world’s most wanted man was carried out by individuals in the military and intelligence communities who put their lives at risk for the greater good without regard for political affiliation. This was an American triumph, both heroic and nonpartisan, and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise.”

Bigelow's movie, once known as "Kill Bin Laden," is currently untitled.

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 -- Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo: Kathryn Bigelow. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times


Could 'Kill Bin Laden' affect the 2012 presidential election?

July 29, 2011 |  9:45 am

Binla
The debt-ceiling crisis may still be on the minds of voters when they head to the polls to choose a president 15 months from now. But on Thursday Sony threw a more subtle monkey wrench into the contest when it announced that it would release "Kill Bin Laden," Kathryn Bigelow's movie starring Joel Edgerton about the American efforts to kill the terrorist leader, on Oct. 12, 2012.

Whether purposeful or merely convenient, the choice has the potential to shade what will already be a fraught moment. The film will come out just 25 days before Americans head to the polls to elect a president -- meaning that "Kill Bin Laden," which reunites Bigelow with her "Hurt Locker" screenwriter Mark Boal, will likely still be in both movie theaters and in the cultural conversation when we next choose a leader.

On its face, and no doubt in the formulation of studio marketers, "Bin Laden" is a movie that sits above politics, an ideology-free "thriller" about a dangerous mission undertaken by strong-stomached heroes. But even though we don't yet know the still-gestating film’s level of political explicitness, it's impossible to separate many of the Navy SEAL moments from a real-world storyline. "Kill Bin Laden," which began life as a tale about the 2002 mission in the caves of Tora Bora, now will doubtless get a happy coda with the terrorist leader's assassination in May. That means that the film could overlap with not one but two political periods.

The original mission was carried out by a team sent by President George W. Bush that failed to capture the Al Qaeda leader in the months after Sept. 11, 2001. The second, of course, was the result of a strike force authorized by President Obama that successfully targeted the terrorist mastermind. In an election that is shaping up to be a test of Obama's effectiveness at home and abroad, Bigelow and Boal's movie will offer all kinds of cinematic reminders of real world questions that we’ll already be grappling with.

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Bin Laden movie: Sony Pictures acquires film for winter 2012

May 24, 2011 | 11:09 pm

Bigelow "The Hurt Locker" team of director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have found a home for their new film centered on the mission that ultimately captured and killed Osama bin Laden. Sony Pictures has acquired the U.S. distribution rights to the movie, which will begin filming late this summer. The studio intends to release the movie in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Bigelow and Boal, who walked away from the 2010 Academy Awards with seven Oscars for their film on an elite Army bomb squad in Iraq, have been working the Bin Laden project since 2008 and plan to include the recent events of the last month into the film. Australian actor Joel Edgerton is negotiating to play one of the Navy SEALS involved in the mission.

Says Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, "With the death of Osama bin Laden, this film could not be more relevant. Kathryn and Mark have an outstanding perspective on the team that was hunting the most wanted man in the world."

Bigelow and Boal will produce the project with Annapurna Pictures' Megan Ellison and executive producer Greg Shapiro ("The Hurt Locker").

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--Nicole Sperling

Photo credit: Kathryn Bigelow on location for "The Hurt Locker"/Summit Entertainment


How should Hollywood react to the killing of Osama bin Laden?

May 2, 2011 |  8:31 pm

Binladen
The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of a U.S. strike force makes for some captivating storytelling, and throughout Hollywood on Monday, discussions reverberated  about how to turn the news into a captivating movie.

As we report in a story in Tuesday's Times, the movie business is in a bind. Executives and filmmakers sense an opportunity -- the Bin Laden killing is one of the few post-9/11 military tales with a satisfying conclusion for American audiences. But it's also tough to make a story suspenseful when everyone on the planet knows how it ends.

Some saw a big commercial play in the Bin Laden strike, so long as any potential film avoids, well, darkness or nuance (darkness and nuance being that things that may have doomed the box-office fortunes of a host of Iraq and Afghanistan war movies). “You need a big star and a lot of action, something the audience can cheer for,” said one longtime studio marketing executive. Call it the U-S-A version of the film, and one that a Sylvester Stallone could adapt, with only some liberties, for the upcoming "Expendables" sequel.

Another action movie in the works that might be ripe for a Bin Laden plot element: Tony Scott's film based on TV's “24.” Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer of course is a shrewd and lethal government counter-terrorism agent whose storylines often parallel current events. Fans already seemed to be sending Scott a message on Sunday night: Shortly after President Obama announced Bin Laden had been killed, “Jack Bauer” was a trending topic on Twitter.

But others in Hollywood, including Bryan Singer, who directed “Valkyrie” — the 2008 Tom Cruise movie about an elite group conspiring to kill Hitler — said they saw in the Bin Laden saga a chance for something more detail- and character-driven.

"I could see a kind of ‘All the President’s Men,’ where we track moments of intelligence and how agents followed the trail,” he said. “Just because we know how the story ends doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting or exciting.”

Perhaps the most interesting case is a planned movie from Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow, the writer-director team behind "The Hurt Locker." Based on a book about the search for Bin Laden in Tora Bora after 9/11 (a manhunt with a rather different feel and finish), their untitled film will get, according to one person familiar with it, "new context" and a new ending in the wake of Sunday's news.

If their film was at a studio, Sunday's news may have well got the project hung up in committee, as executives debated how and whether to tackle the subject. But because it's being financed independently (by Larry Ellison's daughter Megan Ellison), it could still shoot as early as this summer. (There's plenty on the line, and not just culturally; according to one studio executive who heard the pitch, it's budgeted between $20-$25 million.)

From Israeli-raid  tale “Raid on Entebbe” to Somalian drama “Black Hawk Down” to  “Valkyrie,” Hollywood has a long history of movies about targeted military strikes on villains. Already a number of pundits -- CBS' Lara Logan, to name one -- are willing to make the connection between the Bin Laden death and the film world, comparing the strike to "Black Hawk Down" and others. We'll soon see if American audiences are willing to make the connection too.

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Osama bin Laden. Credit: Rahimullah Yousafzai / Associated Press

 


Kathryn Bigelow turned down 'Spider-Man,' and other Oscar-winner project tidbits

March 9, 2010 | 12:12 pm

Those who enjoyed watching Jeff Bridges woo his way through the Oscars or Christoph Waltz waterboard another metaphor during his acceptance speech will see a lot more of both actors in the coming months -- they each have big movies coming out in December ("Green Hornet" for Waltz and "True Grit" and "Tron Legacy" for Bridges).

BigelFor the rest the Oscar class of 2010, we may have to wait awhile. Sandra Bullock is taking her time deciding on a new project -- she's contemplating a legal comedy called "Bobbie Sue" that once had Cameron Diaz involved, but she has made no firm decisions. She in all likelihood won't have a movie coming out in 2010 (of course, she could not have a movie in 2011 either and still be considered prolific after her output this year).

On the "Precious" side, Geoffrey Fletcher is said by people who know him to want to go back to directing (which is how he began his career). He has a handful of possible movies he's contemplating but is on nothing that's ready to go. Mo'Nique is pretty much going to stick with the talk-show thing for the time being; she's got no film projects lined up. (For a photo gallery of the winners and what they are -- or aren't doing -- next, please visit The Envelope's collection here.)

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit comes out of "The Hurt Locker" camp, where sources say that Kathryn Bigelow was offered the Spider-Man reboot but turned it down. The mind dances at how she would have put her stamp on the franchise and how her version might look different from Marc Webb's (cue easy Sandman joke, and maybe tense web-dismantling scenes).

Instead her next project will likely be her reteaming with Mark Boal on "Triple Frontier." The Paramount film is an adventure story set on the border of several South American counties. Boal is still working on the script, and judging by the early word, it is kind of a Spanish-language variation, of a sort, on their previous collaboration. So a movie we should perhaps dub "Taquilla de Dolor."

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Kathryn Bigelow at the Oscars. Credit: Gabriel Bouys/AFP


Envelope Directors Roundtable: Kathryn Bigelow on casting 'The Hurt Locker'

February 12, 2010 |  8:00 am

When you're making an intimate character study, how do you find just the right performer? Perhaps even more pressing when you're Kathryn Bigelow making "The Hurt Locker," how do you approach your producers and tell them you're hiring a relative unknown like Jeremy Renner to star in your picture?

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Envelope Directors Roundtable: Tailoring roles to specific actors

February 10, 2010 |  8:00 am

Casting can sometimes influence directors who write their own scripts. For Jason Reitman, he lets the movie take shape as he writes but soon recognizes when an actor is right for the part, which then in turn influences the character's development. For Quentin Tarantino, at least with "Inglourious Basterds," he "didn't have a clue who I was going to cast."

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Envelope Directors Roundtable: The importance of the audition

February 9, 2010 |  8:00 am

So how important is the auditioning process in the making of a film? It depends on whom you ask. James Cameron certainly has a different approach than Lee Daniels, for instance.

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Sandra Bullock, Kathryn Bigelow and others riff on a day of Oscar

February 2, 2010 |  6:08 pm

It’s been one of those days when the calls keep coming in from Oscar nominees – producers, directors, performers (although more from actresses than actors, curiously). We’ve been collecting them all day – from how Sandra Bullock really felt about “The Blind Side” when she first heard about the film to the advice Tom Hanks gave Gabourey Sidibe. A few choicer statements:

Bu Kathryn Bigelow on, essentially, enough with the female-director talk: "I long personally for the day when that modifier [women director] is a moot point. I anticipate that day will come. I think we’re close. If 'The Hurt Locker' or the attention that it’s getting can make the impossible seem possible to somebody, it’s pretty overwhelming and gratifying. At least we’re heading in the right direction."

Sandra Bullock on why  "Blind Side" was so resonant: "I have no idea. No one wanted to make the film. We made the film for a little amount of money.  [When I was first approached] I didn’t see it. I didn’t know how to make it my own. That’s why I kept saying no. The reason there’s this monumental chord that’s been struck is because of John Lee Hancock. He knew the story he wanted to tell. He wanted to tell a story of a mother and son."

And producer Andrew Kosove on Bullock: "Sandra] or Meryl Streep will win best actress. The problem with best actress is that you can give it to Meryl Streep every year. She’s the best actress in the world. It’s like Tiger Woods in a golf tournament — eventually someone else has to be allowed to win."

"Up" writer-director Pete Docter has been nominated four times – but it still gives him butterflies:  "I’ve been to the Oscars before. It’s always a little nerve-racking. Half your brain is going. 'I can’t  believe I’m here. I'm just a geeky kid who likes to draw cartoons, and here I am among the Hollywood elite.' And then there's the other part, the pit in your stomach hoping against hope that you can win."

Gabourey Sidibe on what it’s like to be nominated for an Oscar in her first feature: "I think it’s a crazy world we live in. Anything is possible in America. And possibly Canada too…. The best advice came from Tom Hanks. He told me [award season] is a series of silly parties. And that I should get comfortable shoes. He was right. I do need them."

Vera Farmiga on whether actors in "Avatar" or performances in other motion-capture pictures deserve Oscar recognition. "I’d actually have to study a process or be a part of a film like that and [see] how much more is embellished computer-wise. I don’t see why not. I think it’s legitimate performance. I don’t discredit it in any way because it’s translated by a computer."

-- Steven Zeitchik, Chris Lee, Rachel Abramowitz and Amy Kaufman


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