'Zero Dark Thirty' Premieres in Oscars' Shadow

Thirty Dark Zero Premiere Chastain Boal - P 2012
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Thirty Dark Zero Premiere Chastain Boal - P 2012

Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal join star Jessica Chastain at the Dolby Theatre as the star shuttles from coast to coast on a publicity blitz: "I'll sleep when I retire."

Sony illuminated Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s controversial and already award-winning follow-up to The Hurt Locker that tackles the hunt for Osama bin Laden, with a classy premiere and afterparty that positions the drama for the awards season.

In a not-so-subtle underscoring of the movie's status as an Oscar contender, the premiere was held at the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards, with an afterparty in a tastefully decorated Ray Dolby Ballroom -- the location of the Governor’s Ball.

Not everyone was ready to talk awards. Star Jessica Chastain, back on the statuette circuit after last year’s campaign for DreamWorks’ The Help, was operating on scant hours of sleep as she bounces back and forth between coasts for screenings, receptions and publicity appearances. (She arrived in L.A. Monday, left for New York Tuesday morning and will be back in L.A. later in the week.)

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“I’ll sleep when I retire,” Chastain said, who moments earlier was powwowing with Bigelow and Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal.

Chastain plays an analyst named Maya in the movie but conceded that, despite the movie’s strong nod to authenticity, the name was fictionalized and that she have never met the real CIA operative.

“It would have been too dangerous to meet her,” she said.

The movie opens with the much-discussed torture scenes, including waterboarding. Jason Clarke, the Australian actor playing the man conducting the interrogations, said “the scenes were as tough to shoot as they are to watch,” though he declined to say whether torture was an effective way to extract information.

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Boal, meanwhile, denied the movie had any agenda: “We wanted to tell a good story and show the things done in the name of national security, some of which was exciting and some of which was ugly."

The movie doesn’t have as high-wattage of a cast as other high-profile December movie openings, and the premiere didn’t attract a lot of celebrities or boldface names outside the pic’s immediate circle.

Phillip Noyce and Jason Reitman were spotted, but one person who did cause eagle-eyed guests to do double-takes was Nick Nolte, who quietly sat on the outskirts of the party.

“As Kurt Vonnegut would say, ‘It’s disturbing,' " Nolte said of the movie. "If he saw a movie and the audience was disturbed, it was good."