Kathryn Bigelow Defends 'Zero Dark Thirty' on 'Colbert' (Video)

The Oscar-winning director, who declined to appear on the show weeks ago, said that she welcomed new intelligence that could rewrite the history her film depicts.
Comedy Central

Kathryn Bigelow finally appeared on The Colbert Report on Tuesday night, ready to defend her critically acclaimed and controversy-beleaguered new film Zero Dark Thirty.

In hosting the Oscar-winning filmmaker, Stephen Colbert dropped much of his satirical, faux-conservative show personality to better engage on the issues of torture and intelligence-gathering, which began swirling around the film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden long before it even hit theaters (where, in its first weekend of wide release, it won the box office).

"Torture is reprehensible. It's a very controversial issue. It's been debated since 2000, and it's going to continue to be debated, and I would call this movie the first draft of history, the first rough cut," Bigelow said.

STORY: Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal Fire Back at 'Zero Dark Thirty' Investigation and Torture Debate

Colbert, employing the it-would-be-funny-if-it-weren't-true bomb, pointed out the importance of images on screen.

"Americans don’t read books," he said. "And this depiction of the torture, the investigation, the catching of bin Laden, is going to be our record, just as surely as Jim Caviezel died for our sins," referring to the actor's role as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ.

"First of all, it's a movie. It's accurate in the way a movie can be accurate. It's ten years compressed into two-and-a-half hours, and there are many, many tactics utilized," she responded, addressing concerns that the film depicts torture as key to finding bin Laden. "There's electronic surveillance, track and trace, good old boots on the ground, sleuthing. And, in fact, the key piece of information that enabled us to find the compound in Abbotobad was in the files all along, since 2001."

Not including the torture, she said, would have been "whitewashing history ... We wanted to tell the story respectfully and honestly."

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That statement follows an op-ed she wrote for the Los Angeles Times last week in which she called herself a pacifist who rejected torture but had to tell its story.

"Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement," she wrote. "If it was, no artist would be able to paint inhumane practices, no author could write about them, and no filmmaker could delve into the thorny subjects of our time."

Things got sensitive when Colbert prodded about the film's sources and accuracy, asking if she thought the information they were given by government sources was framed to make torture seem effective.

"I think it's a fair assessment of the events of those times," Bigelow responded. "Will there be more information that comes to light once the Senate report is declassified? I welcome that information."

As she's said before, Bigelow stated she stands behind the movie and wouldn't change a thing.

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