Bin Laden, the Movie

By Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker - December 11, 2012

Kathryn Bigelow paid a visit to the 9/11 Memorial, in downtown Manhattan, last week. It was twenty days since she had finished the final edits on “Zero Dark Thirty,” a nearly two-and-a-half-hour movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden, and two weeks before the film’s opening. The events that the movie dramatizes took place only nineteen months ago. “There’s no distance,’’ she said, running her fingers over the names of victims inscribed in bronze.* “What we were attempting is almost a journalistic approach to film.’’

Bigelow, a tall, striking woman who was dressed in black, also directed “The Hurt Locker,” about an American bomb-disposal unit in Iraq, while the war was still going on. (She said that when she was trying to raise money for that movie “one guy said, ‘I like it, but could you set it in the United States?’ ”) On May 1, 2011, when President Obama announced that bin Laden had been killed in a raid by Navy SEALs, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Bigelow was already deep into making a movie about him—about how he’d got away. After she heard the news, she and the screenwriter, Mark Boal, decided to scrap the movie in progress and make one about the raid itself. She said, “I am motivated by the difficult.” For the next year and a half, she shuttled between locations in Jordan, India, and London, eager to finish the movie while the raid was fresh in the minds of Americans. Asked what she did other than work during this period, she laughed: “Nothing, nothing, nothing.”

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