Sony's Amy Pascal Strongly Defends 'Zero Dark Thirty' Against Charges It Justifies Torture

Zero Dark Thirty Jessica Chastain Night - H 2013
Jonathan Olley/Columbia Pictures

Her statement comes in response to Academy member David Clennon's accusations that the movie "makes heroes of Americans who commit the crime of torture."

In her strongest statement yet in support of Zero Dark Thirty, defending the film against charges that it justifies terrorism, Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal said Friday, “Zero Dark Thirty does not advocate torture. To not include that part of history would have been irresponsible and inaccurate. We fully support Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal and stand behind this extraordinary movie. We are outraged that any responsible member of the Academy would use their voting status in AMPAS as a platform to advance their own political agenda.”

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Pascal’s statement came in response to an opinion piece posted Jan. 9 on the website by David Clennon, an actor who is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “I'm a member of Hollywood's Motion Picture Academy. At the risk of being expelled for disclosing my intentions, I will not be voting forZero Dark Thirty - in any Academy Awards category,” Clennon wrote.

On Friday, Clennon took part in a demonstration in front of the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles to protest conditions in Guantanamo, organized by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace and other human rights organizations. In a statement to media outlets soliciting their coverage of the event, Clennon said, “I firmly believe that the film Zero Dark Thirty promotes the acceptance of the crime of torture, as a legitimate weapon in America's so-called War on Terror. In that belief, following my conscience, I will not vote for Zero Dark Thirty in any category… I cannot vote for a film that makes heroes of Americans who commit the crime of torture."

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In response to his remarks, Pascal also said, “We are outraged that any responsible member of the Academy would use their voting status in AMPAS as a platform to advance their own political agenda. This film should be judged free of partisanship. To punish an artist's right of expression is abhorrent.  This community, more than any other, should know how reprehensible that is. While we fully respect everyone’s right to express their opinion, this activity is really an affront to the Academy and artistic creative freedom. This attempt to censure one of the great films of our time should be opposed. As Kathryn Bigelow so appropriately said earlier this week , ‘depiction is not endorsement, and if it was, no artist could ever portray inhumane practices; no author could ever write about them; and no filmmaker could ever delve into the knotty subjects of our time.’  We believe members of the Academy will judge the film on its true merits and will tune out the wrongful and misdirected rhetoric."

Zero Dark Thirty has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture, although, in what many regarded as a major snub, its director Kathryn Bigelow did not receive a nomination for best director.

The Academy had no comment on Clennon's statement, athough it does not appear to be in violation of any Academy rules. The Academy's campaign regulations do state that "anyone directly associated with an eligible film" may not attempt "to promote a particular film or achievement by casting a negative or derogatory light on a competing film or achievement."  But since Clennon isn't promoting one of Zero's competitors, that rule doesn't apply here.

When the Academy does send out its final ballots, it annually urges its members not to disclose how they plan to vote to others, but that recommendation isn't something that the Academy has ever attempted to enforce.