FIRST LOOK: Obama not in 'Zero Dark Thirty' thriller about hunt for Osama bin Laden -- EXCLUSIVE

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Mark Strong (‘Kick Ass,’ ‘Robin Hood’) stands watch at his CIA command post.
(Photo: Jonathan Olley)

Distributor Columbia Pictures was sensitive to the criticism that the film might be viewed as an effort to remind the public about Obama’s decision to authorize the strike, and decided last fall to move the film’s debut from October to December, well after the upcoming election.

Still, the project continues to draw fire. U.S. Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and the right-wing watchdog group Judicial Watch, have questioned whether the administration allowed the filmmakers to receive access to classified documents while researching their story.

Asked about these investigations into their work, Bigelow wrote via email, “Respectfully, no comment.” Similarly, Boal refuses to disclose any information about who may or may not have provided information as he researched his screenplay. “I’m going to protect my sources,” he says. (Asked if he interviewed Obama, Boal utters a somewhat irritated laugh and says, “Next.”)

Boal and Bigelow were planning a movie about the hunt for bin Laden long before he was ever located. The two had a finished script about the 2001 siege in the mountains of Tora Bora along the Afghan border, where bin Laden was believed to be hiding before escaping without a trace, and were just about to begin shooting when the raid came in May 2011.

“The minute we heard the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed, what we had been working on became history,” Bigelow writes. “As interesting a story as that would have been to tell, the news re-directed our entire efforts. It changed the movie idea forever.”

Boal said he tossed out his original script entirely and started from scratch.But a lot of the homework I’d done for the first script and a lot of the contacts I made, carried over,” he added. “The years I had spent talking to military and intelligence operators involved in counterterrorism was helpful in both projects. Some of the sourcing I had developed long, long ago continued to be helpful for this version.”

Of course, talking about that research is something he doesn’t want to do.

Click to see the trailer!

CONTINUED: Kyle Chandler as the CIA’s top rep in Pakistan”

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