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Chastain "proud" of "Zero Dark Thirty"

ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Just three months ago, "Zero Dark Thirty" looked like a strong contender for the movie industry's biggest prize. But when the Oscar for Best Picture is handed out on Sunday, the thriller about the decade-long U.S. hunt for, and 2011 killing of, Osama bin Laden is unlikely to get its name engraved on the coveted gold statuette. After a fierce campaign over the movie's depiction of torture that started in Washington and extended to human rights groups, "Zero Dark Thirty" went from front-runner to also-ran at the Academy Awards. Despite winning early honors from influential critics in New York, Washington, Boston and Chicago, pundits say the failure of "Zero Dark Thirty" to win traction in Hollywood may have as much to do with its style as the heated debate it has provoked. Jessica Chastain, who plays a feisty CIA agent in the movie told Reuters she was "proud" to have been in the movie. Early signs of trouble for "Zero Dark Thirty" came in mid-December when U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein, John McCain and Carl Levin sent a letter to movie studio Sony Pictures. They called the film "grossly inaccurate and misleading" for suggesting torture helped the United States track the al Qaeda leader to a compound in Pakistan. Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal said repeatedly that the film shows a variety of intelligence methods, not all of which produced results. Three weeks later, Bigelow was omitted from the Oscar's Best Director shortlist, chosen by about 5,800 movie industry professionals who make up the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Bigelow was only one of four big directors to be snubbed, and "Zero Dark Thirty" received five Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture. But Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan was among those who pointed the finger at Washington. Despite the furor and small protests by human rights activists at some awards ceremonies, "Zero Dark Thirty" has won stellar reviews and reaped more than $100 million at the worldwide box office, most of it in North America. Yet "Zero Dark Thirty" has picked up just one major prize in the Hollywood guild awards for directors, actors, producers and writers that are considered a predictor of Oscar success. Boal won the Writers Guild of America trophy for Best Original Screenplay last weekend, and is a strong contender for the Oscar in that category on Sunday.

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