Film News

Ed Asner, Martin Sheen, and the CIA Turn Their Backs on Jessica Chastain and Zero Dark Thirty

Hollywood elites are lining up to support an Oscar no-vote for the film while the CIA claims bad journalism.

Jessica Chastain
Jessica Chastain
(© Tristan Fuge)

Jessica Chastain (The Heiress) won a Golden Globe last weekend and Ed Asner probably isn’t happy about it.

Chastain received the Best Actress honor for her role in Zero Dark Thirty, a military drama directed by Kathryn Bigelow which follows the hunt for Osama bin Laden — and depicts the torture of detainees as a common strategy for obtaining information. The film is nominated for five Oscars (including one for Chastain). But many Hollywood heavy hitters, as well as United States government officials, would like to exclude the controversial film from the Academy vote.

According to The New York Times, Ed Asner, former president of the Screen Actors Guild, and fellow actor Martin Sheen plan to lend their names to a letter written by actor David Clennon, asking members of the Academy not to vote for the film as a matter of conscience. “I would like to condemn the movie” for portraying torture as effective in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Asner told The New York Times. In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, he elaborated: “One of the brightest female directors in the business is in danger of becoming part of the system.”

Government officials took issue with the film for an entirely different reason: Former CIA Agent Lindsay Moran told The Hollywood Reporter, that the film revealed too many details about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. “It contains a lot of disturbing scenes of detainees being tortured,” she said. Agent Moran also noted the irony of keeping the information about Bin Laden’s capture classified while these filmmakers had “unprecedented access” to the CIA and security information. Senators Dianne Feinstein and John McCain have called for an investigation into the filmmakers’ access.

At last week’s New York Film Critics Circle awards ceremony, Kathryn Bigelow responded to the criticism. “Depiction is not endorsement,” she said. “[A]nd if it was, no artist could ever portray inhumane practices.”

Chastain defended Bigelow in her acceptance speech Sunday at the Golden Globes. “You’ve done more for women in cinema than you take credit for,” she said of her director. “[By allowing] your character to disobey the conventions of Hollywood.”

Many of the entertainment industry’s vocal Twitter pundits such as Bret Easton Ellis and Michael Moore have also come out in support of (or against) Bigelow, Chastain, and the film:

But regardless of whether or not she ends up in the good graces of the Academy, Chastain, at least, will always have supporters on Broadway.