Real-Life 'Zero Dark Thirty' CIA Agent Under Fire in Washington (Report)
The woman, who served as the basis for Jessica Chastain's character in the Kathryn Bigelow film, sparked backlash with an angry "reply all" e-mail.
In searching for a story spine for their new film about the United States' decadelong hunt for al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal discovered a CIA agent who helped lead the charge, from early in the war in Afghanistan to the night bin Laden was caught. In Zero Dark Thirty, she is named Maya and played by Jessica Chastain, who is earning plenty of plaudits for her performance.
The real agent is having more difficulties.
The Washington Post reports that the agent, who has gone unidentified in public because she is still active in the Pentagon, is receiving blowback for her work at the CIA. After receiving the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, she reportedly was outraged to find that other agents also received honors, even if they were lesser distinctions.
"She hit 'reply all' to the e-mail that announced the winners," a former CIA official told the Post. Her message to her colleagues was that "You guys tried to obstruct me. You fought me. Only I deserve the award."
In the film, Maya is depicted as pushing back against top officials' reluctance to follow certain leads; she grows obsessive and single-minded, and it is on her gut instinct that the raid that catches bin Laden is conducted.
The agent was denied a promotion as well, costing her a $16,000 raise.
Not everyone is happy with the treatment, however.
"Do you know how many CIA officers are jerks?" an official asked the Post, rhetorically. "If that was a disqualifier, the whole National Clandestine Service would be gone."
The agent, the Post reports, did meet with Boal and Bigelow, though they have not confirmed that. For her part, Chastain never met with her and knew little about her.
"Maya’s an amazing woman but because she’s an undercover CIA agent, she can’t take credit and get credit for the sacrifices she made and the work she did," the actress told The Hollywood Reporter. "The beautiful thing for me is making this movie in a way is giving her credit. It’s like saying thank you to this individual, and she can watch the movie and know her story’s been told."