18 January 2013 4:06 PM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Playing a ruthless CIA operative in Zero Dark Thirty has given Jason Clarke the biggest and most controversial role of his career. Hermione Hoby asks him to explain himself

The nastiest, hardest and most disturbing scenes you'll see this year are probably those that open Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow's dogged and unremittingly tense account of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden. The film begins with a half-dead detainee being beaten, waterboarded, sexually humiliated and, finally, locked in a tiny box. The actor playing the perpetrator – the CIA's man on the ground in Islamabad – is Jason Clarke, an affable Australian who today is sharp-suited, lean, clean-shaven and picking at sliced strawberries in a plush Manhattan hotel suite.

It's a huge role for Clarke, his biggest to date, and his performance – one moment heartily brutish, the next bluff and likable – is an excellent foil to Jessica Chastain's taut anxiety. »

- Hermione Hoby

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