Kathryn Bigelow: An Interview With the Historic Oscar Winner

Kathryn Bigelow on her Oscar-winning Iraq war drama, The Hurt Locker.

Kathryn Bigelow on the set of her film "The Hurt Locker," which was shot in Jordan.
Photograph: Photo by: Jonathan Olley

What I think was so astounding to me when Mark [Boal] came back and began to download his experience, was the fact that these men walked toward what probably the rest of the global population would run from. And since it’s a volunteer military, they’ve chosen to do that. These are individuals who can disarm a nuclear bomb. In other words, they’re of a particularly high IQ. And, it’s a very specialized job; not only do they have a high IQ, but they can make highly detailed assessments and judgments on a particular IED [improvised explosive device] in front of them and then make a multitude of decisions very quickly, under extreme pressure. It’s just incredible.

Still, it was kind of sad, for me as a viewer at least, to see someone like Sergeant James so addicted to danger.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the writing of Chris Hedges. He wrote War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. [The film opens with a quote from Hedges: “War is a drug.”] He talks about how for some individuals, the battlefield provides a kind of allure or attraction. And I think that there’s a survival mechanism that kicks in when you’re disarming bombs. Basically, you can’t sustain the degree of fear that one would naturally extend to that situation for that extended period of time. The cortisone in your system alone—you would deconstruct. It’s the price of heroism. They’re saving lives.

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