If creating the script for a film that has been discussed at the highest levels of the Pentagon, the CIA, the White House is a stressful enterprise, it is one writer Mark Boal carries with surprisingly light hands. Is he being disingenuous? You decide.
"It's what screen writers do all the time.," he tells me in London on the eve of the premiere of the film charting the tracking and capture of Osama Bin Laden. "I don't see how it's different from writing A Beautiful Mind - or any other film about a real person."
Possibly because of the very emotive subject of the debate around the tactics involved, the torture scenes depicted, the question of who knew what about Bin Laden's whereabouts in the months leading up to his capture in Pakistan - in a sequence quite stark and startlingly beautiful under Kathryn Bigelow's assured direction?
"Our intention was to tell a story," Boal explains emphatically. "I could write a controversial movie if I wanted to, I think I would know how to do that. Here, it just so happens that the underlying issues that the story addresses aren't resolved.
"They're being debated at the highest levels of the US government, between the US Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA, so there's no way to tell this story without people picking sides, that's the nature of the beast.
"The only other option would be for us to say, let's not tell stories that touch on topics that still hit raw nerves. That's the opposite of our intention. Which was to delve into topical subjects because we thought that was a valid thing for us to do. The fact that it's being discussed doesn't mitigate that in my mind."
He's right in that the contents of Zero Dark Thirty were being discussed long before Bigelow shouted 'Action'. And as Boal points out, "A small percentage of that discussion has been about the movie, a large percentage of it was about pre-existing political conversation that the movie is useful for."
Despite his assertion that "I didn't make the movie to try to influence the debate in the commentating classes of this culture," he's certainly proved his impartisanship by cheesing so many people off from different sides of the political fence. He agrees with a grin, "The green party haven't weighed in, I don't know what happened to them."
So, how is Boal, with or without his longtime frequent collaborator Bigelow, planning to follow this up? I would say 'recover' but he doesn't seem to need any recovery time...
"I think I want to do a wildly inaccurate movie about money and politics."
No doubt Washington will be watching.
'Zero Dark Thirty' is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now. Watch our exclusive clip below...
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