Sony Co-Chairman Amy Pascal today responded strongly in the negative to accusations from AMPAS member David Clennon that the Oscar nominated Zero Dark Thirty promotes the acceptance of torture. Clennon said Friday that he would not be voting for the Kathryn Bigelow directed film because it “makes heroes of Americans who commit the crime of torture.” Zero Dark Thirty is up for five Academy Awards this year including Best Picture. Speaking at an anti-torture protest in downtown LA on Friday, the actor also urged other Academy voters to follow his lead. The Emmy-winning Clennon played ad executive Miles Drentel on TV series thirtysomething back in the late 1980s. He has also appeared in more recent years on shows like NCIS and Weeds and as a Senator in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar. Here is Amy Pascal’s statement:
“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. 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.”
The controversial depiction of torture in Zero Dark Thirty has attracted attention from Washington DC too. In December, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz) and Carl Levin (D-Mich) wrote Sony Pictures’ Michael Lynton claiming the film was “grossly inaccurate” on the use of torture and similar techniques to acquiring informantion about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. On January 2, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it would review CIA records of contact officials may have had with Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal. In letters written in December and released on January 3rd, the same trio of Senators asked Acting CIA Director Michael Morell if “the filmmakers could have been misled by information they were provided by the CIA” in regards to the role torture actually played in getting intelligence that lead to locating bin Laden. Bigelow herself touched on the subject at Zero Dark Thirty’s DC premiere on January 8. “We had no agenda in making this film and were not trying to generate controversy. Quite the contrary. Mark and I wanted to present the story as we understood it, based on the extraordinary research that Mark did,” she said. Bigelow was snubbed for a nomination for Best Director by the Academy this year even though the film itself was honored in several categories and Boal got a Best Original Screenplay nomination.