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Kathryn Bigelow Made a Pretty Feminist Zero Dark Thirty Speech Last Night

Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal pose for photos at the Newseum during the
Kathryn Bigelow. Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images

With so much of the Zero Dark Thirty talk focusing on the torture debate, we’re not hearing enough about what an incredible story it is for women. So, please, read this excerpt from Kathryn Bigelow’s speech at the National Board of Review Awards last night, and maybe get inspired.

“I stand here, and I’m a woman, and the film is obviously about a woman, but if you can somehow extract me from the conversation — because I’m not in any way referring to myself — but this movie is a real tribute to three or four very, very strong women. It started with [producer] Megan Ellison, who had the courage to say, ‘Fine! There’s no script, but I believe in the filmmakers.’ And she believed in the artists. There’s kind of incredible strength and confidence you get from someone who just believes in you. You kind of go, “Oh my God,” and you have to do good on that promise. It’s an incredible feedback loop of confidence and support, and confidence and support, and it was a real honor to have her confidence early on … After the raid, the movie changed radically, and she didn’t hesitate. ‘Okay, it’s a different movie.’ Still no script, but she was in there, backing our play.

And then we visited another incredibly intrepid, brave, courageous woman, Amy Pascal. I remember sitting there with her over lunch and a series of espressos and saying, ‘I’m sure there will be Navy Seals in this movie and maybe they’ll wear flip-flops. Something like that. Not sure. We’re still developing the story, crafting the story,’ and again, she was right there with us. The support was palpable. And I think for any artist, that’s a lifeline, that’s oxygen. You can’t live without it. And then as Mark [Boal] was doing his research in Washington and he realized there was a woman at the center of the hunt. There were actually many women, many incredible men and women at the center of this operation, the movie, because it’s ten years … we had to composite characters, we had to compress time, we had to stretch and warp a little bit of the details, otherwise it would have been a ten-year-long movie — but there was this incredibly strong, tenacious, dedicated, actually two women that we portray in this movie at the heart of this operation. And that was another thing.

So now you have these four extraordinary women, and this extraordinary historical moment, and dovetail it together, and then Jessica Chastain. So finding a woman who could play somebody as tenacious as Maya, as dedicated and courageous and brilliant and vulnerable as Maya, who was willing to make the sacrifices it took to achieve what she achieved, I can’t imagine of course anyone else playing this part. So it was this incredible confluence of fate and will that brought all these women together, and again, I’m not in any way conflating this story with myself, I just want to give you a little bit of background and say thank you — thank you to the women in this room, thank you to the women and men in this room, to the strong women that are kind of the unsung heroes certainly of this story, and perhaps, in a way, the industry.”

Bigelow Made a Feminist ZDT Speech Last Night