Director Kathryn Bigelow’s long-awaited follow-up to her Oscar-winning drama The Hurt Locker finally comes to us later this year in the form of Zero Dark Thirty. The film documents the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, culminating in the Navy’s now-famous SEAL Team Six operation. Given the touchy subject matter, the production was shrouded in secrecy. The full cast wasn’t confirmed for months and those filming scenes abroad had to do so without revealing where or when they would be shooting.
With the recent release of the teaser trailer and a fairly long, revealing interview with Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal covering the film’s more controversial aspects, we figured all the pic’s secrets had been unveiled. Not so, as just yesterday it was announced that James Gandolfini has a top-secret role in the film as current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Hit the jump for more.
Per EW, who also released the first image of Gandolfini in character, the Sopranos actor plays Panetta—one of the highest-ranking government figures in the film. Much of Zero Dark Thirty focuses on the hunt for bin Laden from an intelligence point of view, and Panetta was the head of the CIA when bin Laden was found and killed.
This is an excellent addition to an already impressive cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Chris Pratt, and Joel Edgerton, and I can’t wait to see the events unfold onscreen when the pic hits theaters (it landed on our most anticipated list for the fall). Zero Dark Thirty opens on December 19th. Check out the image of Gandolfini in character below.