What you see above is James Gandolfini as he will appear in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, in which he plays current-Secretary of State Leon Panetta. This is the highest-ranking actual government official that will be represented in the film as, in an effort to divide the film by politics as much as possible, the President and most of the cabinet will not be shown (probably a wise narrative choice anyway). In May of 2011 Panetta was still serving as director of the CIA, and thus oversaw the development of intelligence and the operation that found and assassinated Osama Bin Laden, moving into the Secretary of State position a mere month later.
The production has kept a wrap on this particular role and casting for some time. Panetta is a storied political figure having served in the House from the late 70s, and as Clinton’s Chief of Staff in the late 90s. He’s also been the most vocal commentator about the Bin Laden raid in the administration since it occurred.
While the cast has been known for some time, photo source EW also has the best description of how the roles have shaken out I’ve yet seen.
Gandolfini joins a long list of actors co-starring in Zero Dark Thirty, among them The Tree of Life‘s Jessica Chastain as a key CIA analyst involved in the hunt for bin Laden, brothers Joel and Nash Edgerton as members of SEAL Team Six, and Kyle Chandler and Mark Strong as CIA officials. Other cast members include Brotherhood’s Jason Clarke, Lost‘s Harold Perrineau, Edgar Ramirez (who played the eponymous terrorist in the epic Carlos), Jennifer Ehle (1995′s mini-series Pride and Prejudice), and The League‘s Mark Duplass.
Check out the mysterious teaser for the film if you’ve never seen it (I still can’t get over how much it sounds like Aaron Paul screaming, “When was the last time you saw Bin Laden?!” ) and keep your eyes peeled for more stills and another trailer soon.